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How To Set Goals That Stick

Susan L. Reid

What do you think about when the word goal comes up in conversation?

  1. Do you cringe and snort thinking to yourself “right, goals . . . whatever. What’s the point of making them if I won’t keep them?”

  2. Or, do your eyes light up as you tick off a long list of goals for the New Year that will be impossible to complete?

No matter if you have an optimistic or pessimistic outlook about your small business goals for this New Year, both outlooks have something in common and it is this: Unless you know how to set goals properly, you will fail to complete them.

Picture of goal postSo let’s start by defining exactly what a goal is: A goal is something that is meaningful, powerful, and transformative. A goal is something that will change your life, your business, your career, or your family in some meaningful way.
A goal is fierce!
  • A goal is clearly defined
  • A goal is very specific
  • A goal has an action plan and time line for completion
To be an accomplished goal setter, you must become a fearsome time manager by:
  • Setting priorities
  • Completing tasks on time
  • Eliminating distractions

In other words, those who manage their time, manage their world.

Three Parts To Setting Goals That Stick

1. Activate Intentions

The key to getting your business goals to stick is to activate your intentions. That means to put down on a piece of paper what your goals are, and then to take one action on each goal immediately.

Seven Steps For Successful Activation
    • Identify your goal, very clearly and specifically. Identify no more than 3-5 business goals to focus on. Be concrete. Put your business goal into words and be as precise about it as you can be.
    • Think critically about whether or not this is actually a business goal that you want to accomplish this year. Make sure you know why this goal is meaningful.
    • Thinking creatively about how to accomplish your goals. Think outside the box. Stretch the boundaries of possibilities. Engage others to brainstorm and ‘creategize’ with you. Think really far out. Consider outlandish and bazaar solutions.
    • Next, identify your plan of action and create strategic action steps that will lead to goal completion.
    • Then, and this is all so energetically important: schedule and take your first action step either now, or within the next five days. This one step will set the activation energy in motion. Since what we focus on happens, it is important to schedule and take a first step to create momentum immediately.
    • Evaluate your activity and measure success every step along the way.
    • Reward success.

2. Eliminate Distractions

Distractions are the worst enemy of time management, and are the number one reason why goals fail. When we allow distractions to take our time and attention away from our goals, the result is frustration, leading to feelings of being overwhelmed, to thoughts of not being able to do something, to failure. Be fierce about your goals and guard them with your time.

Top 10 Business Distracters
    • E-mail. If you are business owner, you have a lot of e-mail coming into your inbox every day. However, very little e-mail that comes in each day actually has to be answered immediately. Find an effective way to deal with e-mail and you will add hours to your day.
    • Co-workers. Decide when and how you will deal with co-worker questions and issues.
    • Surfing the net. The internet is addictive, making it so easy to get distracted, loose track of time, and zone out. Control your surfing.
    • Day-dreaming.
    • Unsupportive people. As a business owner, it is important to surround yourself with people who are supportive, possibility thinkers who know the value and importance of time. Anyone else is a time vampire.
    • Well-intended advice. Listen, if you must. Though be aware that well-intended advice often reflects more about the other person’s agenda than your own concrete action plan. Keep perspective.
    • Interruptions.
    • Excuses.
    • Not being able to say no. If you are a business owner, the buck stops with you. If you don’t say no to distractions that will take you off task, then who will? Exercise you right. Just say no, or, if you want to soften it a bit, say later.
    • The little voice inside your head telling you it can’t be done. Shut that voice up!

3. Fearsome Focus

Picture of Power of an Hour book coverDave Lakhani, speaker, trainer, and author of the Power Of An Hour has come up with a fearsome focus strategy that works. In his book, he suggests focusing for an hour at a time on a specific action step of one of your business goals, no more, no less. He recommends that you block out time each day for this fearsome focus hour, and that you divide that focus time into 45 minutes fearsome focus, and 15 minutes doing something else. Below is a summary of his strategy. For a more complete explanation, read his book:

    • Define exactly what you are going to focus on and complete it before moving on to something else. No multi-tasking during fearsome focus.
    • Write down action steps for what you intent to accomplish in your 45-minute fearsome focus time.
    • Surround yourself with all the tools you need to get the job done before you begin.
    • Don't allow distractions.
    • Launch into your project with gusto.
    • Evaluate success along the way by reviewing steps, then immediately re-engage in fearsome focus.
    • If distracted, instantly dismiss distraction and re-engage.
    • Complete all action steps.
    • Acknowledge completion and relax.
    • Remain in fearsome focus for 45 minutes, and then do something different for 15 minutes. After an hour, move on to something else.

Picture of a solution signThat’s it folks. These are the steps to take if you want to set goals that stick. All you need to do is activate, eliminate, and focus. Keep in mind, though, that it is ridiculous to spend time focusing on something you don’t intend to do. That’s a failed goal in the making. Instead, if you find that a goal no longer serves you, replace or revise it with one that does.

10 Bonus Tips For Success
  • Remember, 3 - 5 major goals and NO MORE!
  • Print and post your goals as a daily reminder.
  • Add or change steps as necessary.
  • Review your goals weekly.
  • Have fun and diagram your goal in a creative way. Use a mind map, flow-chart, or, crayons.
  • Make sure you have a start-date and end-state for your goals. Decide how many hours a week you will devote to your goal.
  • Find a fun way to hold yourself accountable.
  • Chart your progress with weekly reviews and progress notes in a goal journal.
  • Make sure that your reward for completion is as big as your goal.
  • Success is all about energetic alignment to a desired outcome.

Happy goal setting!

Copyright © 2007 by Susan L. Reid

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR E-ZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this blurb with it:

Copyright ©2007 by Susan L. Reid, DMA

Susan L Reid, DMA, Small Business Start Up Coach, Consultant & Accidental Pren-her™ is the author of Discovering Your Inner Samurai: The Entrepreneurial Woman's Journey to Business Success. Known for taking the fear out of starting up businesses, Susan provides value, inspiration and direction to entrepreneurial women starting up and launching small businesses. 

To get your copy of Discovering Your Inner Samurai: The Entrepreneurial Woman's Journey to Business Success, go to WME Books or visit For ideas and start up tips, sign-up for our free e-Zine for entrepreneurial women called LAUNCH YOU! We are blogging at:

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