It's the same every year… Millions and millions of people worldwide set out their New Year resolutions at the end of December.
Of course, on a personal front it’s always something like "lose weight” or “make more money". But for budding entrepreneurs resolutions usually sound something like “start that business I have been talking about" or, if the business is already off the ground, "get that startup of mine really moving".
The only problem is that regardless of whether they are personal or business resolutions, they are usually a distant memory come the second week of January.
Why do so many people fail to stick to New Year’s resolutions?
Usually it’s a cross between being overambitious and not planning carefully enough. Putting some thought into what you want to achieve on the business front will definitely pay off as far as ticking off your resolutions are concerned. But how you feel about what you are doing is obviously very important, too.
So, how do you do it? How do you make sure that the promises you make to yourself turn into actions that help you fulfill your business goals?
Remember the 7 Ps
If it’s good enough for the U.S. Marines and the British Army, it’s good enough for you.
Basically, “Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance”.
The bottom line is this – the more planning you do, the better your chances of success.
Revise your business plan – again!
Of course, you have a business plan which offers a mission statement, and even a vision statement, and outlines the steps you are going to take to get there. The likelihood is it also offers milestones – points you need to get to and when you need to get to them?
So why do you keep missing these milestones?
Like with personal resolutions, people are overly optimistic. People plan to lose 40 lbs by the end of February and to do this they plan to go to the gym every day. Likewise in business. Especially if you are starting something from scratch, people have a tendency to overestimate what they can achieve.
This year, get SMART – review your plan and make it doable.
Set SMART objectives
You have probably heard of this before, but just because it’s something that has been around for a while, doesn’t mean that it isn’t relevant.
SMART objectives mean you put a bit of thought into exactly what you want to achieve.
There are many variations on what SMART means – here’s mine:
Instead of making a plan to “get more customers” detail exactly how many customers you hope to acquire. Rather than just planning to send out an advertising flier in the mail in a bid to achieve the goal, get specific. By stating you will send 500 letters over a period of 10 weeks gives you a better idea of the resources you will need to be able to achieve the goal.
The more finitely you define your goal, the more chance you have of being able to see how far towards achieving it you are. If by sending 500 letters you achieve only 1 new customer, then you have to revise you goal, or perhaps even the entire plan.
If you are a one-man operation then fine, but if there are other people involved, get their input. If you aren’t going to be the person responsible for sending out those letters, get the input and agreement of the person whose responsibility it will be.
There is no point writing up a plan that suggests that you are going to send out 500 letters if the person responsible for doing it doesn’t believe it is possible. If a goal isn’t realistic, it can’t be achieved.
Time-bound… and this is where things come unstuck
You might have the best project management software in the world, but how long something will take to achieve is usually a best guess. Regardless of whether you are a one-man show or part of a team, anything can get in the way, which means constantly revising your time frame to the point that it can become meaningless - and ultimately demotivating.
Perhaps your plan shouldn’t focus on time.
Write a plan that doesn’t focus on time? What does that even mean?
Your goal is to setup a business – that’s your goal.
Achieving that goal is dependent on performing a range of interdependent tasks – some tasks can’t be started until another task has been completed. Very often it doesn’t matter when something is done, but whether it is done or not.
If continually revising time frames is making you feel like you are failing, where you can get rid of time frames, do so.
Write a plan that covers absolutely EVERY task that is going to be required to complete a goal
If you breakdown sending out an advertising mail shot it’s a bewildering array of tiny, tiny little things that need doing. Getting envelopes, buying stamps, sticking stamps to envelopes, going to the post office to send the letters, etc. etc.
It really is commonsense but think of it this way – if you make your list as finite as possible, everything you check off on the list, is a step towards your goal.
It might be that today you can’t manage to do anything other than lick stamps and stick them to an envelope, but when you check that off, it proves that no matter how slowly you are doing it, YOU ARE HEADING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION.
Of course, I am not suggesting abandoning putting a time frame on a plan entirely – there may be external factors that require something to be done at a certain time – but if you focus on the fact that you have achieved something today, however minor, then you are more likely to remain motivated to do the next thing in the list and ultimately complete the entire list.
Don’t rely on tools
I love gadgets, I love software…. When I visit Google Play it’s the “Productivity” apps I like to look at. There are so many of them, and in my experience, you can invest too much in such solutions. For some they may help, but it doesn’t really matter if a team member is 37% through a task if you can’t do your next task until he or she has finished what they are doing.
Do you really need so much tracking?
Simple is best – and Google keeps it simple…Google Tasks is the only real planning tools I use these days.
Part of Gmail, you can add your goals and add that finite list of tasks I was talking about – you can go as deep as you want to go:
And that’s it… If you want to you can send a Task List to a colleague by email, but you can’t share a Google Tasks list with teammates… and that’s fine by me!