5 Tips to More Effective Goal Setting

Goal setting is one of the most critical annual activities for business leaders and entrepreneurs, but also for professionals looking to grow their careers. While many people set annual goals and are well versed in the SMART Goal Framework, goal setting often fails to achieve the desired results due to a lack of alignment between long-term goals and day-to-day task lists as well as a lack of accountability to ensure we do the things we say we are going to do.

With that in mind, below are 5 tips to setting better and more audacious goals as well as ensuring you blow through them on a regular basis:

1. Set a Goal Anchor

One of the keys to successful goal setting is defining a goal anchor: a specific goal or metric to which all other goals connect. The obvious anchor goal for business owners is revenue, given you can measure it easily and also build “proxy” or “helper” goals like marketing and business development activities that connect with the revenue goal.

A goal anchor is also one that acts as a focusing statement each day and allows you to easily assess whether or not what you are working on today (e.g. what’s on your todo list) is going to yield your long-term goals. For example, you can ask yourself “Is the set of tasks I am focused on in the next 30 days going to help me achieve my goal of creating a $5 million dollar business in 3 years?” Or, “Is what I am about to do today going to help me achieve my revenue goals?”

Beyond revenue targets, additional anchor goals could include a specific number of deals or orders, customer count, or employee headcount. You might also consider lifestyle-oriented anchor goals such as an ideal number of work hours per week or the number of planned vacation days over the course of the year. The key is to have a specific goal that connects to your proxy goals and to use it as a tool to evaluate whether or not the items on your day-to-day task list are advancing you in the right direction.

2.  Create Goal Alignment

Another critical step related to setting a goal anchor is creating alignment between short, medium, and long-term goals. So many times I see people fall down due to a lack of a connection between longer-term goals and where they spend their time every day.

So how do you ensure goal alignment?

The first step is to define your short, medium, and long-term time horizons. For me, anything beyond 3 years becomes fuzzy and lacks sufficient definition to be actionable, so 3 years is my long-term time horizon. For short and medium term goals, I use 3 months and 1 year, respectively.

The next step is to define goal categories that are relevant in the short, medium, and long term. My goal categories are business development, marketing, content creation, network, and learning.

Finally, set goals within each category for each time frame. For example, a 3-year business development goal might be to build your client base from 10 to 50 where your short-term goal could be focused on a target number of meetings and building a pipeline of leads.

Once your goals are set, compare the goals within a category over each of the 3 time periods to see if the growth is realistic and they are specific enough to drive action. Further, look at your goals across categories to ensure that they connect (e.g. your marketing activities will help drive your business development goals).

3.  Build in Some Extra Motivation

Often times, I find that people get lost after setting aggressive long-term goals and forget why they set them in the first place. For example, your goal may be to build your business to a point where you are able take month-long vacations in Summer or to be able to spend time in the afternoon with your children. Or perhaps you want to live a life without constraints and not worry about how much money is in the bank account.

As you move along the path to achieving those bigger, longer-term goals, be sure to find things that motivate and reward you along the journey. For example, if your goal is month-long Summer vacations, commit to taking a luxurious 3-day weekend after closing your next big deal. Or if you seek a life without financial constraints, buy that new car you have been secretly yearning for after achieving a challenging upcoming milestone. Finding things that motivate you and remind you why you are working hard to achieve those goals is critical. But so is rewarding yourself for achievements along the way.

4.   Sign-Up for Sprint Goals

One of the tips I find most helpful in achieving goals is the adoption of month-long sprint goals that provide an extra dose of motivation given their short-term nature. In addition, they help me take a laser focus on closing any gaps between where I am and where I need to be by the end of the year. Further, goals change throughout the year, yet we don’t typically re-assess our yearly goals more often than annually (and surely not more than quarterly). Use sprint goals to align with your shifting objectives and to create momentum into the next year (when you’ll have had time to update your goals).

 5.  Find an Accountability Partner

Most people lack an unlimited supply of discipline and motivation and can benefit from an external accountability mechanism. Hiring a coach is a great way to ensure accountability to your goals as well your underlying plan to achieve them, but also look for people who share similar goals as well as challenges. For example, if ramping up your business development efforts (especially if it’s the dreaded cold call) is your key focus area for the next few months, align yourself with a like minded business owner or even a sales executive whose primary responsibility is to sell. Try committing to bi-weekly calls where you share your successes, help one another overcome stumbling blocks, cheer one another along, and ensure accountability to commitments. Try it--you’ll be surprised how much external accountability and support can turbo-charge your success.

Good luck and please share your successes with setting and achieving your goals in the comments below.

If you would like to learn how Group Sixty can help you set and achieve goals for your business and career, sign-up for a 30-minute complimentary coaching session.