As our calendar year hurtles to a close, attention naturally turns toward our hopes, dreams, goals and plans for the new year.
But just as you need to periodically stop, rest and regroup when climbing a mountain, it’s beneficial to regularly slow down and appreciate your progress when ascending the peaks of success. December is the perfect time to do this.
Here are five questions to consider as you catch your breath and take stock of how far you’ve come:
#1 What progress did you make toward your goals?
Which ones did you hit? Which ones did you miss? If you missed them, what progress did you make?
You may want to assess things like your list size, number of products or events rolled out, funnels created, clients signed, affiliate and/or joint venture partners landed, revenue earned, profit produced and more.
As you dissect your progress, try to ferret out the causes of your successes – and of your “failures.” What worked, and what didn’t? Notice any patterns that appeared. For example, perhaps you noticed a trend of starting projects strongly, getting distracted, and ultimately missing your target. Or perhaps you noticed that when you were enthusiastic and emotionally connected to the “why” behind your goal, you were far more likely to succeed.
#2 What successes did you experience?
Achieving a goal, of course, falls into this category. But you experienced other successes, too.
Did you take a risk and try something new? Did you overcome a particularly challenging situation? Did you say yes to an opportunity that you didn’t anticipate at the start of the year? Were you brave in facing something about yourself that you’ve tried to keep hidden?
There’s a lot of gold here – particularly if you didn’t achieve all of your goals and you’re beating yourself up for it.
Some of my successes this year included learning to fully unplug on vacation and being open to feedback around what services to offer, even though it didn’t look like what I had planned. The results: Happy family and a mind-boggling good fourth quarter.
#3 Where do you want to be 12 months from now?
Start by describing in glorious detail what you want your life to look and feel like. Start with your business life, but also include all aspects of your personal life, such as relationships, health and leisure time.
#4 How will you get from here to there?
Once your vision is set, identify the specific goals that need to be achieved to create the reality you want.
For example, if I set the intention of reducing the number of hours I work each week, I might need to add to my team so there are more people to whom I can delegate. Or I might determine that I need to increase sales of online products so I can be more selective in taking on copywriting clients.
With goals set, it becomes time to create action plans: What specific steps need to happen to achieve a specific outcome?
Conventional wisdom dictates that you make goals time-bound and include pertinent milestones in your goals. For example, if marketing a seminar being held May 1, you should set milestones for action steps such as getting the event web site set up, recording a promotional video, finalizing your content and the myriad other steps that go into successfully filling event seats.
However, I’ve run across a few business-building experts who claim that time-bound goals backfire. As one recently explained to me, high achievers tend to set huge – and sometimes unrealistic – goals. When we don’t hit the goals, it destroys self-confidence and can inject self-doubt, anxiety and even fear into the process.
Instead of goals, these experts say, we should set intentions – statements about what we want, but releasing our expectation of when the goal will come to fruition. From there, trust your intuition to guide you to what action steps need your attention next.
My advice? See which approach resonates the most with you. The happy medium I’m toying with this year is deadlines for my action steps with intentions for when the big goal.
#5 What will you focus on for the next sprint?
A sprint is a limited period of intense activity. I’ve experienced this in a variety of ways over the years … writing 100 articles in 100 days for Ezinearticles.com, a site-building “challenge” where the instructor mapped out action steps to take every day for 9 weeks, and the crush of copywriting projects that naturally blossom at the start of the near year and the beginning of fall each year.
Set up a sprint that works for you. Perhaps it’s a sprint to achieve a certain goal, such as launching a new event. Perhaps you view each month or even each week as a sprint. Regardless of the timeline, identify the things you’ll give your intense focus to – and then dive in.
December is a busy month, and you no doubt have a bevy of pressing to-do items begging for your attention. But investing even 60 minutes in this process will pay off. You’ll gain insights into how to more effectively execute your plans in the coming year, better anticipate potential pitfalls that could derail your success, and end your year with appreciation, confidence and excitement.\