On today’s episode, we’re talking about goals—setting them, working on them, tracking them, achieving them. Goal-setting can be tough, and I think part of that is the words we use. For example, New Year’s resolutions are essentially goals, but about 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail by February.
We’re all eager in January to jump on those resolutions, but then we get bored, or we forget or life gets too busy and gets in the way.
Goal-setting can happen at any time. You can wait for that feeling to hit you that you want to work toward some new things, or you can be proactive throughout the year.
To get started, I recommend setting only a few big goals at a time. Otherwise, you fall into that New Year’s resolutions trap again. First, start by setting one to three goals for your business. Your goals should be specific so that you can later tie them to step-by-step goals and habits to implement. Saying you want to grow your business is not a specific goal. On the personal side, wanting to become a better runner or get in shape are not specific goals.
To set goals for your business, take a few hours or even a day to focus on what you want for your freelance business. This is deep work. Turn off the phone and social media notifications. Better yet, set your computer aside and use pen and paper. Physically writing when you’re brainstorming helps spark your creativity and solidify your ideas.
And make it fun. This year—although I admitted to myself that I wasn’t going to use the actual calendar in a planner—I bought a planner for inspiration and brainstorming. I bought the Alter planner, which was made just for freelancers.
Once you have evaluated some potential goals, you need to set goals that are actually doable, attainable and specific enough that you know how to get started on them.
Use the SMART technique:
When you have a couple of goals that meet all the criteria in the SMART formula, you need to put an actual plan in place to work on those goals. James Clear, author of “Atomic Habits,” says: “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”
That means if you don’t put a system and habits in place for each of your goals, they’ll just be goals with no structure or plan. You need to create a step-by-step plan for how to achieve each of these goals.
Start with one of your goals and begin to write down all the “to do” items you need to make that happen. Then, begin to think of a structure—and the habits you need—to get that to-do list accomplished.
Part of the SMART goal formula is to develop a goal that is measurable. Tracking and measuring your goal is critical to that goal’s success, but this is often an area we struggle in. As you set up your systems and habits, include a process for how and when you will measure that goal. I use an Excel spreadsheet to track my financial goals and keep that sheet open all the time on my laptop.
There are also dozens of apps that will track things, so a phone app might be the best option for you and your goals.
Track your goals regularly, maybe weekly or monthly. But then do a more intensive check-in and measuring of your goal each quarter to make sure that goal is still working for you. Even if you don’t hit your goal, you’ll likely get closer than if you had no goal at all. Or, you might realize you need to adjust your goal at some point throughout the year, and that’s OK.
Biz Bite: Create a ta-da list
The Bookshelf: “Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder” by Caroline Fraser
Episode #3 of Deliberate Freelancer: Host a Solo Business Retreat
Episode #13 of Deliberate Freelancer: How to Set Better Goals for Your Business, with Andrena Sawyer
Episode #23 of Deliberate Freelancer: Five Questions to Evaluate and Diversify Your Services
Episode #26 of Deliberate Freelancer: Delegate, Automate and Terminate to Improve Your Business
Episode #40 of Deliberate Freelancer: Reflect, Analyze and Plan Now for the New Year