Setting (and Achieving) Daily Goals like a Genius – Part 1

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on October 05, 2010 in: Project Management, Tips in 10, Tools & Resources

Setting and achieving goals is a challenge for anyone – it doesn’t matter whether you’re an entrepreneur or a mom or a college student… or anything else. Our lives are busy (and they’re getting busier, it seems) and we’re bombarded with stuff to do all the time.

Part of what makes this process difficult is that we don’t know what is actually important to do and what isn’t important to do. (Many people realize this issue when they start to think about delegating, which is a topic we covered in a previous Tips In Ten). In fact, I’ve coached people who show me their to-do list and say to me, “Heather, I try to prioritize the work in my life as 1, 2, 3, etc… but it ALL seems to be priority 1!!!”.

On top of that is the ongoing challenge of all entrepreneurs to find balance between work and the rest of life (which might include parenting, volunteering, and so on).

So in this issue of Tips In Ten, we’ll cover “part 1” of how to set and achieve your daily goals: Figuring out what’s important to do.

The truth is, there are a lot of things to do but only some things that are important to do. But it all SEEMS important.

One way that you can help to separate what is important to do and what only seems important to do is to use a system I have augmented from Stephen R. Covey (the 7 Habits guy). One of his “habits” is called “First Things First” and it’s a system to help you figure out what’s REALLY important in life.

I’ll give him credit, of course, for the idea. I really like starting with roles first then moving to the goals that are based on each role. It really helps to make sure that there is balance in your life. However, if you are a big Covey fan, you should know that I’ve dramatically augmented his plan in order to accommodate the business owner’s lifestyle which (in my opinion) should include more space devoted for clients.

Here’s how my augmented First Things First plan works:

First, before you even bother thinking about your to-do’s, think first about who you are. What are your roles in life? Chances are that you’ll make a list which includes:

  • Business owner – you own a business.
  • Parent – you have children
  • Spouse – you have a spouse
  • Child – you are a child (in fact, you probably keep meaning to call your mother, right?)
  • Friend – they keep you sane

There might be more. Covey also suggests that you include a “role” for yourself in order to make sure you take time out for yourself. (I tend to list myself twice – once as “student” and once as “me” for non-educational activities).

Now here is where I depart from Covey even more: As a business owner, I list my business but I also list some of the critical business relationships that I have with key customers and as the publisher of a newsletter and as a partner for JV projects I work on.

Okay, so you have this list of roles. What now?

Every Thursday or Friday, in preparation for the week to come, list your goals and then write down the things you want to do that would enrich those relationships. Be specific! For your spouse, it might be “Go on a date”. For your kids it might “Take them to the park”. For client XYZ it might be “deliver their project”. For your business it might be “implement new Twitter marketing plan”.

You might have a lot of stuff in your to-do’s; in fact, you might have even more now that you’re including your spouse and your parents and other aspects in your life… but at least you’re dividing it up based on the roles in your life. So, rather than one big list, you’ll end up with a dozen small lists.

Now that you have listed all these goals, look at each one and break them down into individual parts. So implementing your Twitter marketing plan from the example earlier might actually be 4 smaller goals like “Open Twitter account”, “Download TweetDeck”, “set up columns”, “Tweet 5 times on day 1”. (Note: Breaking down your goals into more granular goals might take longer than 10 minutes when you do this the first time, but once you’ve done it once and if you do it regularly, it really does just take 10 minutes).

So now you have an even bigger list of goals! This might seem stressful to you but I promise you that it’s better. That’s because a big cause of procrastination is not knowing where to start. So, by breaking your goals down into smaller goals, you’re helping to eliminate that.

Okay, you have a dozen lists of tiny goals. That’s great! You’re now ready to make it work for you: With this list, determine how long each goal will take and then determine if any of them have a deadline.

So, let’s say that you want your Twitter marketing plan deadline for the 23rd. Obviously, all the related goals need to take place before the 23rd. Your list might look like this:

  • Open Twitter account. Duration: 5 minutes. Due on the 20th.
  • Set up TweetDeck columns. Duration: 5 minutes. Due on the 22nd.
  • Tweet 5 times on day 1. Duration: 10 minutes. Due on 23rd.

Now you have a dozen lists of tiny goals and they all have durations (and, if appropriate, deadlines… although it doesn’t hurt to put deadlines on all of them).

Now it’s time to start scheduling!

First, place your deadlines into your calendar (obviously along with other things like meetings or picking up the kids from school or whatever).

Second, add in a mix of other goals from each of your roles wherever you have free space. (You might put a check mark beside each goal once it’s scheduled or you might color code your goals and look later to make sure that there is a good balance of color variation in your schedule).

Third, find those tiny spaces that aren’t filled and include items that fit the available duration. For example, perhaps you have fifteen minutes between two telephone conferences. In the past, you’d just waste the time on Facebook but now you know that you have 15 minutes and you can look at your schedule. Perhaps you can spend the time ordering flowers your spouse (Role: Spouse, Goal: Order flowers. Duration 5 minutes. No due date) and then following through on two of the Twitter marketing tasks (Role: Business owner. Goal: Open Twitter account. Duration: 5 minutes. Due on the 20th. Download TweetDeck. Duration: 5 minutes. Due on the 21st.)
By now, you should have a calendar that includes the important elements of your life all addressed in some kind of balance.

In the next issue we’ll talk about how to make your goals even easier to achieve and I’ll provide you with a few extra tips to make your scheduling and goal execution even more stress-free.

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