‘Tis the season for making New Years resolutions…
… then, for 92% of us, promptly breaking them.
In fact, according to a 2013 Forbes article, 75% of those who make a New Years resolution don’t even last a week!
I’m not sure about you, but I’d like to be in that 8% this year, so I’ve been doing quite a bit of research on habits – breaking old habits, forming new habits and making sure those new ones “stick”.
Here are a few tips I’ve picked up on setting goals you can stick to. I hope they’ll help you, too!
Make it Simple
If your list of resolutions is as long as your Christmas wish-list was, then you’re setting yourself up to fail. It’s great that you want to make so many positive changes in your life in 2016, but taking on too many at once will only lead to disappointment. Multitasking is a farce – pick one thing, make it a part of your habitual routine, then move on to the next item on your list.
Example: Instead of saying you want to blog more often, rebrand, overhaul your website, learn off-camera-flash and finally implement that amazing sales process you heard about (I couldn’t resist), pick one of them (clearly, I recommend the sales process) and learn it inside and out. If it’s an ongoing thing (like blogging more often), make it a part of your weekly routine (“it’s Wednesday at 10am. This is the time I write a new blog post, no excuses.”) before you move on to the next project.
Choosing too many things will feel exhilarating while you’re thinking about how awesome you’re going to be in 365 days. But in 7 days, you’ll already feel burned out and your new goals will feel insurmountable.
Pick one, own it, then move on.
Make it Short Term
Continuing down the same path as making it simple, turn your goals into short-term sprints rather than a year-long marathon.
But what does that mean?
Instead of saying, “I’m going to start doing In-Person Sales this year”, set smaller goals with shorter timelines that will help you take that big goal and break it into manageable chunks (I recommend 3-month sprints). So that may look something like this, instead:
- I’m going to enroll in Salesographer (what, too heavy-handed? :))
- I’m going to finish the course by April 1st, 2016
- I’ll start to implement what I’ve learned on April 1st and double my sales average by July 1st.
- On July 1st, I’ll do my 1-on-1 with Chris to see if there is anything I can be doing better or if there are any course-corrections I need in my sales process.
- I’ll work the new suggestions into my workflow from July 1st to October 1st, with a goal of doubling my new sales average.
- I’ll take my well-oiled machine of a sales process into the busy Fall portrait seasons from October until December.
- When things slow down in December and January, I’ll revisit my pricing, packages and process to see if anything needs to change for my 2017 sessions.
Not only does this make everything more manageable by giving you one piece of the puzzle to work with at a time, it also helps to keep you from procrastinating.
If you have one big, undefined goal (“start doing in-person sales”), it’s easy to start off well, then put off doing the work until later because “I have all year”.
Breaking your big goal up into 3-month sprints gives you a finite amount of time to finish the mini-project before you need to move on to the next piece of the puzzle. And now you can focus on one small task at a time and break that up into weeks, then those week tasks up into daily to-do’s.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Point is: big, squishy goal with no checkpoints along they way = boooo. Small, well-defined mini-goals each quarter that make up the larger goal = yay!
Make it Quantifiable
You can’t know if you’ve accomplished a goal if you don’t have a way of measuring whether you’ve accomplished that goal.
“Huh??” – Everyone who just read that last sentence
- “Get better at selling my work” is squishy. Without some sort of metric to measure, you don’t know how to tell if you’ve gotten better.But “Double my average sale.” is far less squishy. Even better though is to give it a metric by which it can be measured as well as a deadline.So, “Double my average sale by April 1st.” is a fantastic, well-defined goal.
- “Make my website better” vs. “Optimize my website to bring in 10% more leads.”
- “Blog more often” vs. “publish one 1,200 word blog post on Tuesday of each week.”
Do you see how much more actionable the well-defined goals are? You can easily take them and break them up into well-defined to-do’s.
They give you a starting point from which to research and test. “Make my website better” is way too broad and it gives you no hints about what you can do to actually accomplish the goal. “Optimize my website to bring in 10% more leads” gives you places to start.
With this kind of goal, you know you should do some Googling on website optimization, user experience, conversion rate optimization, best user interface practices and best practices for acquiring leads.
Actionable goals FTW!
Make Yourself Believe
This one feels a bit too kitten-poster for me to really dig in to, but I’ll leave it at this…
I’m not much of a “if you believe it, you can achieve it” kind of guy. Too touchy-feely for me (I’m more of a “if you believe it, good for you, now get your ass to work” kind of guy).
I do, however, firmly believe that if you don’t think you’re equipped to accomplish a goal (or that you can’t learn what you need to), then your chances are pretty terrible that you’ll see that goal to completion.
Do the work and you’ll see your willpower to continue doing the work increase. As your willpower increases, so will your ability to do the work.
It’s like the circle of life, but with fewer baby lions held up in the air.
Make Daily Progress
This one is a byproduct of making quantifiable goals and breaking them up into smaller, quarterly goals.
But we can do better than that.
Our goal above about starting In-Person Sales can be broken down much further.
Let’s look at just one of those quarterly sprints:
“I’m going to finish the Salesographer course by April 1st” becomes:
- January – Units 1 -4
- February – Units 5-8
- March – Review, Q&A, Plan, Build Processes
- April 1st – Gooooooooo!!
… which then becomes:
- Week 1 – Unit 1
- Week 2 – Unit 2
- Week 3 – Unit 3
- Week 4 – Unit 4
… which then becomes:
- Week 1 – Unit 1
- Monday – Read Unit 1
- Tuesday – Watch Unit 1 videos
- Wednesday – Download Unit 1 Resources and send any Unit 1 questions to Chris and Adrienne in an email
- Thursday – Attack the Unit 1 Action Items
- Friday – Wrap up Unit 1 Action Items and summarize the main points of the unit in my own words to confirm I have a solid grasp on the content.
And so on until you have something to do each day of the quarter that gets you one step closer to your goal.
Setting goals and actionable tasks in this way gives you at least one thing to do each day that directly contributes to the greater goal for the period (which, in turn, contributes to the greater goal for the year).
Take that, 92%.
Make it a Habit
There are about a thousand-million things you can do to help build long-term habits, but let’s go with the lowest-hanging fruit here – one of the easiest things to do that will help you build good, sticky goals.
Don’t Break the Chain
- Get yourself a nice, big wall calendar with every day of the year on it (I made one for me, you can grab it for free right here.)
- Get a fat red marker.
- Each day you complete your task from above, make a big, red, oh-so-fulfilling X on the calendar for that day.
- Don’t break the chain (meaning: keep going. Don’t let a day go by without a red X).
- Your sole job at that point is to not break the chain. Do your work, make your X, don’t break the chain.
Sounds too simple, right? Well, if it’s good enough for Jerry Seinfeld, it’s good enough for me.
Make Yourself Accountable
Want to take a big, bold step toward accomplishing your goal for the year?
Tell someone about it. Give them all the details. Give them the metrics you’re using and tell them what you’re going to do and when you’re going to finish it.
Better yet, join a group of people with a similar goal, then help hold them accountable. Start a weekly or monthly Google hangout and talk about what you’ve accomplished and what you will accomplish by the next hangout. Write them all down. Hold each other accountable.
Or put some money where your mouth is. Take the leap and commit to something with your money. Throwing money away hurts. It makes slacking off much more tangible.
So, commit. Put some money down. Tell everyone you know what you plan to accomplish. Then get to work.
- Choose one major goal, finish it (or make it a habit), before moving on to the next goal. Multitasking is a fairy tale. Focus on one target and blow it out of the water before setting your sights on a new target.
- Don’t set a yearly goal, set quarterly goals. Even better, set quarterly goals that build upon each other to equal your one big yearly goal. This is much more manageable and helps keep you from procrastinating since you have an actual finish-by date.
- Friends don’t let friends make squishy goals. Set concrete, quantifiable goals with due dates.
- Believe in yourself. Then get the eff to work.
- You should be able to easily point to a task every single day that marches you one step closer to achieving your goal for the quarter. Big, sweeping changes are crap. It’s the day-to-day grind, the blocks placed one on top of the other that will build your business into something you can be proud of. And you’ll be a lot more proud of it when you’ve worked your ass off for it.
- Don’t break the chain!
- Spread the word far and wide about the things you’ll accomplish in the coming year. Find others who want to accomplish the same things. Help them and they’ll help you. Put some money on the table, then make sure you didn’t waste that money.
Wow, you made it all the way to the end of this post! Since you’re here, why not leave a comment with one of your goals for 2016 and how you plan to accomplish it? Or blow off work, design an inspirational cat poster, then post a link to it in the comments. The choice is yours.