In my interview on Sas Petherick’s Courage & Spice podcast, I talked about how my usual planning and goal-setting process involves a big new notebook that is put on the shelf in January and never looked at again. And judging by the messages I continue to get from listeners of the episode, I’m not alone in that cycle of behaviour.
I touched on this a little in last week’s post when I spoke about posting schedules, but I wanted to go more in detail about sticking to plans more generally. We’ve been talking a lot about goal setting the last couple of weeks, but what good are these goals, and the time we take to make them, if they sit on a shelf for the rest of the year?
In this post I’m going to show you a few tricks that have helped me stay on track with my goals and keep really focused on what I’m doing and why.
Keep things out in the open
For me, I need to keep my goals and plans out in the open where I can see them. That was the problem with the notebook on the shelf – it wasn’t a part of my day to day existence so it continued to slip from my mind. I’ve found that I need things directly in front of my eyes in order to action them, which is why I often prefer desk pads and lists to planners (because apparently opening a cover is too much for me).
This year I’ve got myself a wall calendar because I wanted to see at a glance how my months were panning out and plan my launches on this scale rather than on a little laptop screen. I also am putting together a chalkboard of my goals (inspired by this episode of Being Boss) so that I have what I’m aiming to achieve literally written on the wall where I can see it every day.
If you don’t have a huge amount of wall space to devote to your goals, then keep a smaller version of a chalkboard somewhere you’ll see it every day – stick a post it note on the fridge or have a list next to your bed. Make a graphic of your goals and make it your desktop image, or keep a file open of your progress that you make a habit to dip into every day.
For many of us, the issue we have with sticking to our goals is that the process of making them becomes some sort of sacred act – we sit quietly and scribe them into a fresh notebook and then gently put it away somewhere safe. Actually, we need to take the precious-ness out of goal setting, make it messy and evolving, in order to have them as a useable target. Most crucially, we need to make them a part of our daily lives in order to have any chance of achieving them.
Create a track and reward system
Of course, having your goals and plans in front of you is just the first step – you need to be actively working on them too. The way I’ve found best to do this is by creating a tracker for my key metrics (essentially clients and opportunities) to make sure I’m making progress on my goals. How you design your tracker is down to you and how your mind works – I like a progress bar and tick list combination, but you may like a graph, an image or something my poor un-visual mind can’t even imagine.
Make it a habit to work on your tracker – you may want to spend half a day updating it at the end of each month, or update it as you go along every day. But most importantly, learn and flex according to what the tracker is telling you. If you had a slump in client enquiries one month, why do you think that happened and what can you do to get back on track? If you’re a few pounds short of your income goal for the month, which invoices can you chase or emails can you send to reach it?
And finally, incorporate rewards into your tracker. None of us pat ourselves on the back enough, and we tend to be more stick than carrot when it comes to motivating ourselves. Add rewards into your goal tracking and it will not only be motivational, but generally make your life nicer too! Perhaps when you get to the half way point of your income goal then you have an afternoon off. When you book x amount of clients you go out for dinner, or when you’ve completed your least favourite task you can go for a nice walk. Sprinkle little treats through your work process, because we should be the best boss we’ve ever had, right?!
Lean into what works for YOU
I believe that a lot of the reasons why we don’t always achieve our goals is because we use methods and processes that aren’t right for us. We’re trying to fit our square peg into someone else’s round hole of should dos, so it’s no wonder we don’t make it to achieving what we wanted to achieve.
Every blog post you read and podcast you listen to will tell you the secret for organisation and working towards your goals – it’s calendars, it’s lists, it’s apps like Asana or a certain downloadable worksheet. The fact is, when it comes to something as personal as goals, we need to use a personal method to achieve them.
Yes, we like to be told what to do and how to do it, but think about all the work process advice you’ve listened to – how much of it did you actually stick at? I’ve been a magpie when it comes to organising my plans and goals, but nothing was sticking. So in the end I felt my way to a system that worked for me, I followed what felt right. And that ended up being a messy set of grids and a list to plan out my content – it may not be pretty, it may not be Instagrammable, but it’s the only editorial calendar I’ve ever stuck to.
So rather than follow the should dos, start to pay attention to how your brain is wanting to work this out, and lean further into that. Don’t fight against the way your brain works because you’ll never win. If it’s digital, go digital; if it’s analogue then pick up your pens. If it’s a gross Excel spreadsheet rather than a pretty bullet journal, then sadly so be it.
Most of us need outside pressure to really get something done, but the amount of accountability you need depends on how you’re motivated and the scale of the project. It may be enough for you to write down a goal and be held accountable to that. But for others of us, we need real outside human accountability.
This can take several forms. You can rope in a friend or online business bestie to check in with youevery couple of weeks and make sure you’re on track and still working on your goal. Perhaps talking about your project to your audience (for example, if you’re planning to launch a podcast) works for you – you feel accountable to your audience and you’re also doing the pre-launch marketing at the same time.
If your goal is pretty huge and you’re feeling like you may not commit to it, then working with someone professionally would be my recommendation. That was exactly the position I was in before I hired a coach – I knew I wanted to leave my job, but I didn’t know what I was going to do nor really believed I would do it. Investing financially in a coach was my way of committing to my goal; I’d paid money towards it so I’d better well do it. And having a running mate, someone to give advice, homework and to talk things through with was definitely what got me to the position of leaving my job in 6 months.
How are you going to stick to those goals?
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