We all know that setting goals is important, but few of us do it the right way. And unfortunately, it prevents us from reaching our goals. That’s frustrating.

There are a lot of ways we self-sabotage: We over-complicate our goals. We create too many of them. We’re unrealistic. We’re too detailed. We’re wasting our time. We know this. I know this. I was doing all of these things, which means I was doing my goal-setting wrong too.

So about 10 years ago, I changed my approach, and the results have been significant. I’m now setting goals and actually achieving them. Here’s what I do.

For starters, I have two types of goals: quarter and annual. I set the quarter goals at the beginning of each quarter and the annual goals at the beginning of the year. My mindset is: What do I want to happen this quarter, and what do I want to happen by the end of the year? At the end of the period, I just want to go down the list, check off what’s been done and move the ones not accomplished to a new list for the next period. It’s as simple as that.

I keep my goals in my calendar. Maybe you just use Google or Outlook. I use a customer relationship management system (CRM). It makes no difference. What matters is that I log these goals into the notes of an activity (a task or even an appointment), and then I schedule the activity not for the end of my goal period but for the middle. So, for example, if I have goals that I want to achieve by March 31st (the end of our first calendar quarter), I list them all in the notes of a “task” that I schedule for February 15th, or approximately half-way through the quarter. For my annual goals, I schedule the task for every four months.

My goals aren’t a contest, a game or some kind of feat. They’re simply just stuff that I want to make sure gets done during that time period. So I schedule them mid-way through the time period to check on myself and make sure I’m not only on track but that I’m not forgetting any.

So what kind of goals do I schedule? Simple ones that are reasonable and that can be quantifiably achieved. Here are some of my goals for the second quarter of 2021:

  • Send three email campaigns.
  • Make sure Megan gets certified on the new product we’re selling.
  • Publish an article on the Hartford’s Small Biz Ahead (check!).
  • Close five new CRM projects.
  • Keep weight under 150 pounds.

Yes, that’s right, I even include personal goals because for a small business owner, goal setting doesn’t end with one’s business.

When the quarter ends, I can literally go through each of these goals and tick off whether they’ve been achieved. They’re easily measured. They’re either done or they’re not. My goals for the year are pretty similar, just on a bigger scale. I ask my employees to do the exact same, and then I review with them each quarter.

Here’s a fact: I oftentimes don’t accomplish my goals. Neither do my employees. There’s no wringing of hands. We just figure out why, and then we re-set for the next period. We’re not wizards, and we can’t predict the future. Sometimes things happen that get in the way. But at least we know what we want to do, even if it can’t get done that quarter or even that year.

It doesn’t need to be complicated. Goals are just a list of stuff to get done. When I wasn’t achieving my goals, I realized that I had been over-complicating my goal setting. I was creating these lofty, unquantifiable and oftentimes unreachable goals like “improve my company’s branding” or “increase sales 110%” or “grow more hair.” I soon came to the realization that goals are really nothing more than tasks. I’m just making a to-do list of stuff I want to make sure gets done at the end of a quarter or by the year. That’s it!

So here’s how to fix your goal-setting process, ready? Consider your goals as just tasks. Make them quantifiable and reasonable. Don’t over-do it but establish them for a quarter and for the year. Keep a check on them, but don’t kill yourself if you’re not getting them all done. Remember that this is just a to-do list. So what happens why you don’t do everything on your to-do list? You move those open items to the next to-do list, and ultimately they will get done.

That’s how you fix this problem. That’s how you move forward. That’s how you reach your goals.

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