Small Business Sunday: Setting Real Goals

Usually I talk about tools that people can use to work more efficiently in their small businesses. Today I’m going to talk about an organizational strategy I’ve developed that you can use with a number of different tools. Today I wanted to talk about solving a problem that many small business owners have – lots of goal but not real timeline or process for which you plan to complete those goals.

It can happen, and does happen to all of us. Life is busy and before you know it you have an endless to-do list that your knocking things off of whenever you can. The problem is – without tying your to-do list to dates you might not be setting real goals, instead you may just be building a wishlist.

So how can you set real goals that actually get done?

I’ve developed a new technique for doing this that anyone can do using a number of different software tools or even just a piece of paper. In my case, like the cloud-based geek that I am, I use BasecampHQ to manage my to-do lists on a per-project basis. So let’s say you have a master to-do list, all the things you want to get done on a certain project – it might look something like this:

basecamphq_todoThe problem is that many people stop with the to-do list. They feel that once they have an action item on a list, it’s going to get done. It may get done, however getting something done 6-months after you planned to is hardly an achievement. So here’s what I do that’s helped me get things done. I go just one step further, it doesn’t take long but it does make all the difference in the world.

Once I have my to-do list I take all of these goals and assign dates to them. I’ll try to be generous, if I think something will take one week, I’ll give it two weeks, the point is every single item on my to-do list is assigned to a date. Soon it becomes automatic, every time you think of a new to-do item you’ll start thinking about how long it will take to complete and you’ll immediately assign a completion date to it.

So what happens if you miss your completion date? Don’t panic, it’s okay, just move the task out, but whatever you do don’t just let it sit back in the past in your calendar. Move it forward, set another date, and focus on hitting that goal.

While this may seem like a really simple process it’s amazing how many businesses don’t do this and instead live with long to-do lists that slowly get chopped-away over time. If you want to set real goals for your business you need to not only know the goal, but when and how you are going to complete it.

So if you’re feeling overwhelmed and thinking that you can’t get anything done, give this technique a try and start setting real goals!

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Dimester September 26, 2011, 6:21 am

    I am looking into using the new trello.com online collaboration tool. A person can create a board for each project with cards and lists. It is free which is a good thing. It is a Fog Creek software product.

    Reply
    • Morgan September 26, 2011, 10:55 am

      @Dimester – I’ve used Trello.com before as well, it is also a great service!

      Reply

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