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Setting Honest Business Goals (5 tips)

Whether you’re an employee or a business owner, it’s important to have goals. A year is a long time, but life is short. In order for you to get to where you’re going—wherever that may be—you need a game plan. But not just any game plan: a game plan you can commit to. Setting yearly goals is a great way to do that.

Typically, I review my past year’s goals at the beginning of December to see how I’ve done. Then I work on new ones throughout the month. On January 1st, I’m ready to commit to my goals and go live. If you haven’t gotten that far yet, don’t fret. I have some quick tips on making goal setting easy and relevant.

Tip #1: Be honest.

This might sound like a no-brainer, but set goals that you actually want to achieve. Don’t jot down “Get a VP job” just because it’s what people in your position typically do next. Jot it down if it’s really what you want. If you want to do something else—like start a business or take a year off to spend time with the kids—then put that. Be true.

Tip #2: Keep it short.

You’re not writing a novel here. You’re setting goals. Keep your list to five to ten items. I think ten is bit on the high side. For me, five is just right. I like a small, manageable list because I can glance at it throughout the year to see how I’m doing, and get myself going if need be. Don’t forget: maintaining motivation is a big factor when it comes to reaching goals.

Tip #3: Write them down

Keeping goals in your head is cheating. It’s easy to change things in your mind to make your life easier. Writing them down—and even better, showing them to someone—is a better way to stand firm. I went to far as to tape my goals to my office wall. There’s no escaping them if you do that.

Tip #4: Keep things ambitious, but realistic

People like to talk tough about stretch goals, pushing yourself, etc. It’s a great idea to have a couple of really tough goals, but you also should have some that have a fairly realistic chance of happening. I like to call these “feel good” goals. The idea is that you want to be ambitious, but you don’t want to end the year with nothing in the bag, because that’s depressing.

Tip #5: Be adaptable

2014 was a year of change for me. In January thought my business would go one way. As the year went on, I realized it would have to go another way. In the process, two of my goals became “not applicable.” When this happens, you have to adapt. That can mean replacing your goals entirely, or tweaking them so that they’re in line with your new reality.

Set your goals soon if you haven’t done so already. The longer you wait, the more likely you are to chicken out.

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