They say hard work is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. I have definitely found this to be true! Here are some key strategies for setting and reaching both personal and professional goals.
Goal setting and achieving can be a tricky subject to tackle. How do you narrow down just how you achieved a goal? Especially one that may have had ups and down, taken years, and lots of hard work? Well you start at the beginning. Achieving goals starts with setting them, and that means setting them thoughtfully. I have achieved some goals that felt tumultuous at the beginning, but with these strategies I was able to break them down and tackle them step-by-step.
A Little About Me
I started my own cleaning company, Clean My Space, right out of university. I learned invaluable information while I was in school; the foremost was the importance of hard work. It’s all about the grind. That may sound like a cliché, but I felt the metaphor come to life when I was scrubbing floors and windows to make my company profitable. (I did all the cleaning myself at first, and it took a lot of hard work to build a good reputation.) So for me, it was all about the scrub. After Clean My Space I founded my YouTube channel, my microfiber cloth company Maker’s Clean, I wrote a book… I have achieved a lot of goals. My point is, goal setting is certainly crucial, but beyond goal setting you won’t get anywhere unless you work as hard as possible. It’s all about the scrub.
Defining The Goal
When setting your goals, it is first important to make sure the goal you are setting is right for you. Start by assessing and reflecting, ask yourself these questions:
- What is the goal you want to achieve?
- Does it align with your values?
- Does the goal excite you? If you aren’t positively motivated towards the end goal it’s going to be very difficult to get yourself there. On your worst days, and you will have them, you are still trudging the road toward that goal, so you better really like it.
- Reflect by thinking about goals you may have set in the past. Were they similar goals to this that you gave up on?
- What adjustments will you need to make to this goal to achieve it? If there is a goal you did achieve, what helped you get there?
A good way to test the answers to some of these questions is to imagine explaining your goal to a family member or friend. What explanation would you give? Does it sound logical? From their point of view, is it answering all of the questions above in a positive way?
It can be hard to asses a goal logically, but it is incredibly important. If you are having trouble determining want you really want, try making vision board. This is also a great strategy to keep motivated. All you need is scissors, glue and some magazines. They are real, they work, and they are for more than material things.
Set the Goal – be SMART
Once you have determined that the goal is worth achieving, and really worth it, you want to set the goal in a clear definable manner. You have probably heard of SMART goals, which stands for:
The theory behind SMART goals was developed by Edwin A Locke and other researchers at the University of Columbia in the 60s. This isn’t just something spouted by motivational speakers. It has scientific basis, and has been studied in depth. Their studies found a very clear and positive correlation between goal setting and performance. SMART uses their specific findings about how to set defined goals in order to improve performance.
Set as specific goals as possible. Vague goals do not give you enough direction, and are going to make it harder to set goals along way. When it comes to business, don’t just say like “I want to grow my business”. What do you really want – to increase sales? Cut costs? Get specific.
An important aspect of being specific is setting goals you can measure. This is helpful because it means you will clearly know when you have reached that goal, and then you can celebrate! If your goal is to, say, keep your house tidier –how will you measure that? What about setting the goal to clean your house every Sunday for the next 6 weeks, and then track that.
Make sure you actually can achieve your goal. If you go overboard with your goal and don’t achieve it, you’ll feel even worse about yourself and reluctant to keep working towards it. Be realistic
Is this goal going to bring you closer to your dream? Don’t waste time working towards easy or irrelevant goals. Be honest with yourself, where you want to go, and what will help you get there.
This is an important aspect of the measurable goal. You need to set a deadline. It’s an important aspect of Locke’s research – he found that as time becomes more limited, efficiency increases. If you feel the deadline approaching you will work harder towards your goal.
Make a Plan
Now that you have set your goal, make a plan towards it. One way to create a plan is to break down your larger goal into micro goals. Use the SMART strategy to plan all of these as well, and that way you can focus on smaller tasks without getting lost in the bigger picture.
One year. This is my plan a head time. That might sound short to those who are married to the five-year plan, however I found from experience that the world changes a great deal in five years, and more often than not things happen that you couldn’t have planned for. I have my larger goals in mind, but for specifics I stick to one year and then plan out goals within it. Work on the small scale, for success on the large scale.
If you don’t achieve a goal, it’s up to you to bounce back. You can’t get down on yourself about not achieving a goal. You set it, you know it is important to you, and so not achieving it is enough punishment. Don’t beat yourself up.
Instead go back to assess and reflect. Why didn’t you achieve it? Narrow down the obstacles you faced so that they are very clear, and then asses how to fix them. Was it the goal itself? Was it unattainable? Did you miss time deadlines you should have followed? Asses, revaluate and then set a new goal, this time with those problems in mind. Learn from your mistakes and get back on the horse.
If you are struggling for motivation, try affirmations. This is where you say out loud to yourself “yes I can” “yes I will” or whatever phrase you need help believing in. Say them every morning in the mirror or before a big meeting. They are proven to work and are a small way you can motivate yourself, and bounce back.
My main advice is to put in the work. A goal without a plan is a dream. Once you set your goals, meet people, ask for help, put a plan together and execute it. People who make things happen don’t just wish them to happen, they go out and pound pavement and make things work. The people I know who achieve goals aren’t smarter, luckier or began with more than anyone else. They just worked harder and believed they could achieve.
I’ve owned my cleaning biz for 2 years. What advice do you have for a young small business on setting realistic short term goals?
Have a big picture strategic plan in place – take a day off to do this, you will feel like a new person, and then make micro goals to fix it. If you have high turnover but you want to increase staff numbers, what do you need to do to get there? Then, make a SMART plan.
What’s one business challenge you faced and how did you overcome it?
One challenge I faced was making a bad-hiring decision. We have 3 months to let someone go, and despite best efforts things were not working out. I let the person go and afterward, I reassessed where I went wrong and learned from that experience. It is very frustrating and upsetting, but you always have to look at yourself and see what you can do differently, and use it as a learning opportunity. Never, ever blame others.
How do you measure success? Any advice on how to keep motivated even when things don’t go as planned/desired?
Each year, or increment sooner as needed, I look at the goals I set to see where I am at. At our service co, we do this weekly – we measure KPIs, and talk about what is working, what isn’t, and what needs to change to reach our goals. Chad and I reassess our goals every 6 months to see where we are.
When things don’t go as planned, you can either react like a cruise ship or a sailboat. Cruise ships crash into icebergs, sailboats can turn on a dime. Unless you’re a huge corporation you can change your strategy if you need to fairly easily.
Ask people important to you for strength during your tough times. Just ask them to listen, to motivate you. Meet other like-minded entrepreneurs. I find I can speak freely and honestly with my entrepreneurial friends. They get it on a very deep level and there’s no judgement.
What advice do you have for someone who is interested in being an entrepreneur? Where do you start?
Research and a business plan! An idea is great, I have about 20 a day. But if you want to make a business out of it, that’s a whole other beast. Start with planning and research. Then, execute. No matter how scared you are.