My Dad used to tell me that if, on the first day of his career, a mason saw all of the bricks he would lay in a lifetime looming before him, he would never pick up his first brick.
Our goals can sometimes feel the same way. Bill Gates says, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” In my experience, there are three core reasons why so many of us overestimate what we can do in one year.
#1 – We aren’t honest about where we are REALLY starting.
We think about where we wish we were more than where we honestly are, specifically in terms of our team and our time.
#2 – We forget to take off our red capes.
As entrepreneurs, business owners, leaders, we are typically bold and feel we can do a heck of a lot – and we aren’t wrong. But, when we are making annual plans for our business, we have to realize that there is a limit to what we can do (both personally and as an organization) without undue strain.
We wear our superhero capes with full justification but we have to take them off when we are setting goals and making plans to achieve those goals. It is critically important to be ultra realistic about what you can and actually are willing to do to move towards your stated objective within the scope of a year, without forgetting that business operations have to continue alongside this initiative.
You don’t want to plan to achieve a goal that will put critically important parts of your life (like your marriage or your relationship with your kids) or your business (like your infrastructure or your people) at risk of implosion. Because, you know as well as I do that if it is already strained in your plan, it’s going to be exponentially more strained in real life.
#3 – We don’t keep our goals fresh.
When we set our goals, we all have the best of intentions that we are going to work to achieve them but people rarely keep the intensity with which they created their goals present in their daily lives.
Nine times out of ten, our plans get usurped by the tyranny of the urgent. That client who keeps calling us, or that tenacious sales rep from the manufacturer we’re considering, or that needy employee who is going through a crisis at home captures our attention and we forget about the work that’s required to reach our goals.
As I’ve said in the past, it is not the big sweeping decisions that make or break our ability to achieve, it’s the daily commitment. In order to accomplish our goals, we have to be diligent about working on them regularly.
But how do you do that? How do you actually achieve those big complex goals?
It’s a simple answer that takes dedication to enact: one step at a time.
You have to have more than a general idea of how you will accomplish what you’re intending. The more goals you have and/or the more complex the goals, the more of a game-plan you need. Look at where you are and look at where you need to go and then plot out all of the steps that will be required to get you from here to there.
Backwards engineer the steps from where you want to land to where you are today.
What will it take, specifically, for you to get where you want to go? Will it take more process, more people, more financial resources? Make a plan to achieve each component. Break it down into as small of steps as you feel you can handle and then dedicate the time on your calendar to get those things done.
If you don’t put it on your calendar and if you do not plan a monthly check-in with yourself to see how you’re progressing, the odds will not be in your favor.
One last tip I’ll leave you with before I go and slay my own goals is this.
You can probably break down the steps towards your goal into smaller steps than you’re thinking. Getting one small action item – even 5, 10 or 15 minutes worth – done on a daily basis will get you exponentially further than waiting until you have a big chunk of time to get a lot of progress made.
Do less but do it better and more consistently.