By Tiffany Robinson

The end of the year is a time to reflect back on all that you’ve done over the past 12 months and to become excited for the next year to come. I talked about reflecting on the past year in my last article (The Value of A Pitfall), where I unintentionally admitted to being human by not quite reaching all of the goals I said I would LAST January. (I think I wrote 4 articles last year…. Which is really close to 1 article every month. Go, Me!)

So here we are. It’s January again. We have 12 whole months ahead of us in a nice new clean slate – the slate we wait for every single year.

In our personal worlds… it’s the time to make every single unattainable goal we can dream of to make ourselves feel horrible by February when we have already given up on them. (New Year’s Resolutions anyone?)

In our professional worlds… the same exact thing happens. Only, in this world we each have someone holding us to those goals, which makes it much more difficult to give up and the stakes are much higher when we do.

So how can we ensure that next December we aren’t feeling awful about our performance, or worse… being forced to look for a new job? (Whoa, there’s a lofty goal for next year)

Grab two coffees and a calendar. Let’s figure out your NEEDS, WANTS, & MOTIVATIONS, and make a strategic plan!

NEEDS:

After you’ve taken that hard look at last year, determine which of those items will NEED to be accomplished this year. NEEDs are just what they sound like. They are the “not fun” parts of your job that you NEED to do in order maintain your business/role/company… whatever. NEEDs also tend to push other work out of the way, preventing you from reaching all of the lofty goals that you set for yourself. In other words, “Ya gotta do them… so ya better make a plan for them.”

You NEED to pay rent. In order to pay rent you NEED to sell XX amount of product each month. Figure out what that number is and write it down. Does your current business plan support making that amount each month? What would you need to change in order to make it happen? Is that change realistic? Write out the steps that you would need to take each month to make that goal a reality.

You NEED to stay in compliance with global/federal/state standards. In order to do that, you NEED to take preventative measures and address certain issues each month. What are those tasks? How long do they take? Were you able to meet that goal last year? If yes, awesome! If no, what changes will help you reach it this year? ARE THOSE CHANGES REALISTIC? What would it take to MAKE those changes realistic?

Each business is different, but each business has NEEDS. And if you don’t set out a plan to accomplish those NEEDS, you will never be able to achieve the goals that you WANT. Ensuring you have ample time, money and resources to complete all of your NEEDS will drastically reduce the amount of stress you have throughout the year.

There, boring part done.

WANTS:

Once you have all of your NEEDS firmly planted on your timeline, look at the time that is left over and start in on your WANTS.

WANTs are all of the “Wouldn’t it be awesome if…” statements that you make all year long. These are the lofty goals that you never quite seem to reach. So how do you reach them all?

Well here’s the crazy trick… you don’t.

A good strategic plan isn’t necessarily accomplished in one year, and it doesn’t try to tackle everything at once. Remember the pitfall of 15.71% quality effort on your workload? Well, that’s how you get there. Accepting that you can’t accomplish everything is actually the first step to accomplishing something.

Start by listing out all of the MANY MANY WANTs you are sure to have, and prioritize them. Then take a look at why your top priorities weren’t achieved last year. Was it because you focused your attention on some of those goals that were nearer to the bottom of the list (adding that shopping cart to a website when you didn’t know how to code, perhaps?) Could you have delegated any of it to an outside source? (Ahem… web designer?) Or was it because all of the goals at the top of your list were so massive and non-descript that they were unattainable? (How does one become a CEO?). Could you break those massive goals down into smaller ones to make them attainable? (Step one to becoming a CEO, learn how accomplish a goal.)

The answer to each of these questions becomes your plan of attack for this year.

In my case, after I carried out all of the work associated with my NEEDS each month, I didn’t actually have time left over to write an article. So I pushed it off to the next month – “I’ll just write 2 next month.” Well If I couldn’t even write one this month, there was NO WAY I was writing two the next month, resulting in two random articles at the beginning of the year (go beginning of year motivation!) Then I scrambled to write 2 more articles at the end of the year, just so I had the delusion that I worked toward my goal all year long. Which clearly I didn’t.

It is time to reassess that goal.

The first question is “what was my actual goal”? Should my goal really have been to write one article per month? Or was the goal actually “to become a writer that consistently produces relevant articles for their professional community” all along?

I’ll tell you it was the latter, and with that version of this goal, I can look at the remaining time I have left over and create a new goal: One article per quarter that is relevant to my professional community. If I want to stretch it, I can add a bonus article. But that’s it. That’s what last year’s calendar says I can handle, so that’s what I’ll do this year, only this year the extra time I allow myself to be consistent will actually help me reach my goal (I am my biggest supporter, after all). If I do it, then next year Me, Myself and I can talk about upping the ante to bi-monthly.

Now the question is, “Can I write one article every 3 months?” Most likely – as long as I can carry that beginning-of-year motivation through to December.

MOTIVATIONS:

Motivations are a part of goal setting that are often, if not always, overlooked. What is the goal of reaching your goal? In other words, why are you putting yourself through all of this in the first place?!

Motivation is different for every single person on this planet, and the motivations of whoever is involved in your timeline need to be considered and addressed if you want to reach your goals.

  1. Say your goal out loud to the world.

It’s very hard to go back on something you say you’ll do after you’ve already told everyone and their mothers that you would do it. It’s called accountability, and we all need someone or something to help us with that. Write your goals and timelines down and send them out. Tape it to your wall, email it to a co-worker, hand it to your boss, post it online (confidentiality rules permitting, of course). With everyone else checking in on you, eager to see your progress, you’ll be motivated to stay on top of it yourself. Which brings us to…

  1. Don’t forget to check in with yourself!

Saying the goal out loud to others is a way to keep you accountable, but is not a way to manage how you are keeping yourself on track. The real progress check needs to happen inside your head. Be kind to yourself, but don’t fear being objective and truthful. Weekly or monthly check-ins with yourself helps keep your goals on track and allows you to make adjustments before it’s too late.

Each Monday I perform a mini-reflection of the previous week and ask myself, what happened, when, why? It helps me plan the next week and determine what adjustments I need to make to my schedule to ensure I can be on track for reaching my goal.

It also gives me a chance to drink my coffee and think.

For instance, last Tuesday was stressful, so I decided to go shopping online… For 5 hours. Was that the best use of my time? What do I have to do this week to make up for that decision? I’ll tell you…

  1. Embrace the Failure.

Look, it’s 12 whole months. 365 loooong days. That’s (pulls out a calculator) 2080 potential standard work hours for you to become distracted, make a bad decision, and fail. And guess what? You will. A LOT.

When making your strategic plan for the year, build in time to fail. We don’t know everything, we don’t have the right answer to every problem, and sometimes we just need some permission to make a bad decision! If your timeline doesn’t leave room to fail, then your failures are GOING to screw with your timeline.

Now, you can choose to crawl under a blanket and go catatonic, or perhaps just abandon your strategic plan and go on the traditional rogue survival mission until next January. Or you can accept that failure is going to happen, give yourself leeway to figure out what happened, when and why, then absorb the lesson, grab another coffee and move on. And when you do…

  1. Have mini dance parties!

Something good happened each week. Whether you accomplished something you NEED to do, or made progress toward something you WANT to do, or learned something awesome from an epic failure… CELEBRATE! Honestly, in order to keep myself motivated to stay on track, I need to do this WAY more than once a week, but I am an instant gratification kinda girl.

Now don’t you feel good about next year? With actual attainable goals, and strategic plans that leave a little wiggle room, by next December you’ll be a mini dance party champion!

(Or, you know, however you celebrate success…!)

A wise man (my dad) once told me that with “enough time, money, and resources, anything is possible. But take any one of those away, and nothing is.” There’s a chance he may have stolen that line from someone else…

A good strategic plan looks at all the failures of last year and turns them into opportunities for this year, and it gives you a step by step way of doing it that you know you can accomplish!

Ooh! Want to hear a trick to staying on track toward your goals every single day? (I’m looking at you, last Tuesday’s Amazon shopping spree.)

My goal is to share that with you next quarter.   See what I did here?

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