Creating a business plan for the new year always makes me feel like a fortune teller who forgot her crystal ball at home.
While everyone is trimming their holiday tree and taking advantage of killer Cyber Monday deals, I spend the last months of every year trying to predict what the next year will bring. And to be honest, it doesn’t always work.
Even though it’s hard to nail down how online entrepreneurship will evolve in a year’s time, I know it’s better to go in with a list of goals than to walk around aimlessly until they reveal themselves (which never seems to happen).
Why set intentions if we don’t know what the year will look like?
Setting goals helps us build self-discipline, keeping us accountable to our bigger vision of what we want our blogs and businesses to become. Goals keep us motivated as we combat complacency and prioritize our own professional growth.
Let’s take a deeper look into how we set and achieve goals so we can make each year our best, most profitable one yet.
How to set goals and achieve them
“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
How many times have you heard this Benjamin Franklin quote? Probably enough times to make your eyes instinctively roll, but there’s some truth behind it.
People who write down their goals are 42% more likely to achieve their aspirations than someone who doesn’t. Why is there such a huge difference?
If you don’t write down your goals, they often feel out of reach so you don’t put effort into trying to accomplish the “impossible”. Without goals, you may have a lack of clarity in what you desire for the future, so your aspirations have nothing grounding them in reality.
Goal setting is crucial to improving your personal and professional development. Without goals, you have no benchmarks to strive for. When you create concrete and measurable goals, they become powerful motivators to help you reach the next level of your blog or freelance business.
How do you go about setting goals that prepare you for success? I’ve got five tips that hold me accountable to my goals throughout the year that may help you, too. My hope is that you’ll walk away from this article feeling like you have the tools to set goals you can actually achieve. Let’s dive right in.
Set goals in 90 day increments
Anyone else feel overwhelmed when trying to create a yearly business plan? I’m right with you. It’s hard to predict exactly what you want the next year to look like, especially with how quickly online entrepreneurship changes.
Instead, I recommend setting goals in 90 day increments. This helps you create a quarterly theme around what you want to accomplish without getting too far ahead of yourself.
For 2017, I set my 90 day goal themes around a specific word, which became the focus of the corresponding quarter. Here’s a peek into how I blocked off my year:
- Q1: Launch – In the first quarter, I focused on relaunching my brand, updating my messaging, and creating a new website.
- Q2: Consistency – Now that my rebrand was live, I focused the next quarter on attracting ongoing copywriting clients and creating consistent content for marketing my freelance business.
- Q3: Vitality – During this quarter, I spent more time investing in my financial education and other areas of my personal development that would help me succeed in business.
- Q4: Expansion – Radical business growth led to centering my last quarter around increasing my pricing, updating my processes, and clarifying what expansion would look like for the following year.
Setting goals within each 90 day increment felt less scary and more doable after creating themes for each quarter. It created a natural cadence for what I wanted to accomplish that year, giving me enough wiggle room to shift and evolve my goals if I needed to.
Break your main goal into smaller tasks
While it’s important to set bigger picture goals, they’ll feel too lofty if you don’t break them down into smaller steps. Setting broad goals like growing an email list or launching an eBook will be hard to reach if you don’t have an action plan.
One awesome way to get specific with your email list goals is to use List Goal. It's a free browser extension for Chrome and Firefox that lets you set goals for multiple email lists and track your progress in real time every time you open a new browser tab – that's pretty often for most of us. There is also a simple visual dashboard with other email marketing metrics you should keep an eye on.
Once you’ve decided on a main goal, it’s time to determine the step-by-step process you’ll take in order to reach it. Let’s use the example of launching an online course, a shared goal among many of our loyal readers. (Psst, we have a whole Tradecraft issue dedicated to courses!)
While creating a course may seem daunting at first, it becomes much easier to accomplish once you break down all the materials you need to create. First, you’ll want to start by breaking down the main goal into separate stages: Preparation, Creation, Launch, Promotion.
Now that we understand what stages go into a successful course, what specifically goes into the Creation stage? You’ll probably start by crafting a course outline, followed by recording the course videos and choosing the right course hosting platform.
You’ll continue assigning tasks to each stage until you have a complete view of everything that goes into an online course launch. You can use the same goal setting strategy for launching other offerings within your business.
Schedule enough time to cross off each task
This means working on your time management. Once you’ve created a list of smaller tasks that need to be done, it’s time to cross off each task.
It’s best to order each task from highest priority to lowest priority while determining which materials need to be created first.
Try to assign an estimated time you think it’ll take to complete each task. Creating an online course outline may take a few hours whereas recording course videos may take a few days over the weekend.
It’s a good idea to slightly overestimate your time frame when you schedule each task. It’s better to have more time in your schedule to work on your offering than not enough time, which could cause you to stress out or abandon the project altogether.
Be realistic about how much you can achieve with your current schedule
One of the biggest mistakes creators make is setting big goals for their blog growth that are extremely difficult to reach within their current schedules. If you are building a side hustle in addition to a 9-5 day job or while parenting, your schedule will look different than someone who is working on their blog and business full-time.
When I first started to turn my blog into a business, I spread myself way too thin. I saw other infopreneurs in my field creating an insane amount of regular content on different platforms and felt like I needed to do the same.
The problem with overcommitting to several projects is you start to sacrifice the quality of your work to increase the quantity. It’s difficult to take a step back, but it’s important to assess how much time and energy you have to really dedicate to your side hustle.
A good place to start is by writing down your normal weekly routine. Block off time you spend at work, other activities and groups, shopping and running errands, and beyond.
Once you have all of your “must do”s written down, you can fit your goals within the empty spaces of time. Do they fit within your schedule? Look at your calendar to see what’s practical and adjust where you can. You’d be surprised how much you can get done even in an hour block of time.
Determine what success looks like for each goal
As you’re striving to reach your big goal, how do you know when you’ve successfully hit it? In marketing speak, we call this your KPI, which stands for key performance indicator. This refers to any measurable goal that’s integral to the success of your business.
While KPIs are often translated into specific metrics, like increasing your subscribers by 30% this year or decreasing your bounce rate by 40% next quarter, you can also determine what success looks like from qualitative perspective.
Here are some examples of what success could look like within the goals you set:
- Goal: Spending more time with your family on the weekends without worrying about small tasks. Success: Hiring a virtual assistant to help with admin and bookkeeping tasks with income you generate from one consulting call/month.
- Goal: Using sales revenue generated from passive income products to pay off student loans. Success: Consistent $500/month in passive income that is projected to increase by $200 every quarter.
- Goal: Saving up “fun money” for your honeymoon vacation at the end of the year. Success: Creating a business plan with multiple income streams and combine earnings for travel spending.
There's no wrong or right way to view success. That's why it's important to define what success looks like for you so you can tap into what motivates you. Let those values drive your goals.
Along with deciding what success looks like, you’ll want to record what the purpose is behind each goal. Remembering the “why” behind each goal will motivate you as you work to achieve it. Without a purpose, you may forget why you created a new offering or worked to create the action plan.
The purpose can also be rooted in your personal goals outside of business. This will help your work feel more personal, increasing your dedication to see it through.
Get started with goal setting with our monthly goal planner!
You don’t need any fancy systems or expensive tools to start setting goals. All you need is a simple spreadsheet! We have an easy-to-use goal setting template for you to download and input your tasks into.
To get your planner, click the link below and head to “File”>>”Make a copy” to save your own editable template.