When I was younger I would make lists of what I wanted to do and then lists of how I was going to do them. I was always jotting down ideas and used to drive my mum mad when she threw something away that I thought was important (sorry Mum)!
At a young age my lists and my ideas were really only wishes. I never had a plan to make them into something I could achieve.
I have also always been a natural planner – something I have embraced as I have grown older. During my student days I would often spend as long on the essay plan as I did on writing the essay – I have a BA and MA in Modern History, so I have written an awful lot of essays in my time. I learnt that spending time on my plan meant that I could write the essay more succinctly and with more intention. No rambling, no getting myself confused in an argument. As I wrote I came back to my plan every time to make sure I was moving in the right direction.
For my business I take a similar approach. The difference is that when I was a student and only had to worry about essays (and more fun stuff). I had much fewer plates spinning. As my life has got busier and more stressful with the addition of children, a house, an ex husband etc. the number of plates I am spinning has grown. Without my plan and making sure that I am sticking to it my thoughts and actions are more muddled so I achieve less. Taking a step back and looking back at my plan, like I used to do with my essays, I can refocus and move forward again.
Every January I take some time out of my personal and business life to look at my ideas, look at what I want to achieve and then I try and shape them into something tangible. If it’s just an idea, I am unlikely to ever actually do it. It needs to be more tangible for me to make it happen. I always follow the same process so I can filter out the everyday noise and then start to pull it all together.
- I always start with a brain dump. It’s not as painful as it sounds I promise! I write down everything that is in my head that I want to get done. Once everything has been written down I then split it into three different categories.
- Personal/everyday i.e. go to the bank, call the doctor
- Business day to day/admin i.e. call x client, write x blog
- What’s left are the ideas that I have for my business and these are what I need to turn into goals.
- I put categories A and B onto my Trello boards (more about Trello later). I have one for personal and one for business. Once the everyday has been filtered out I get to work on category C. At this stage these are usually just ideas and the first thing I have to do is to turn them into goals. If I have an idea or a wish, for example, of “Adding Facebook courses” I’ll change that into more specific goals of “Sell Facebook Create Course”, “Sell Facebook Growth Course”. I try and be very specific with my goals. Just “Adding” a course isn’t enough – my end goal is to sell a course so that’s how I need to think of it.
- Once I have created goals for all of my ideas I split them into short, medium and long term. Some of my long term goals will be longer than 12 months but that’s okay. I will still be working on them, even if I don’t plan to complete them soon. The short and medium goals may also feed into the long term goals. Standing back for a little while and taking time out allows me to see the bigger picture so I can see which goals fit together and which work alongside. Good old fashioned post it notes are really helpful for this stage – I use my dining room table, set up 3 columns and then move my goals around until I am happy with them.
- When my goals are split I then start to prioritise them, starting with my short term goals. Sometimes I might only prioritise the short and medium term goals – the long term I might put to one side until I am closer to working on them. This is where I use Trello to really pull my plan together.* Everything that I need to do to achieve that particular goal is added as a card and I colour code them according to their priority (it sounds complicated but it really isn’t). I use the same priority colour codes across all of my boards so I can see what needs to be worked on. I then split the lists to show me what is untouched, what I am working on, and what I’ve completed and I love moving cards to the completed section. I then use my boards as the basis for my diary and allocate the time I need to work on them.
How do you create your goals and what do you do to keep working towards them? I’m always looking for new ideas and would love to chat.
Amy Hobson, Focus Your Future
*I love Trello. If you haven’t used it then I would definitely recommend you check it out. If you like lists then I think you’ll love it too.
Amy is a member of the Woman Who Achieves Academy. Academy members regularly submit guest blogs to Woman Who.