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Day 4 – Turning Goals in Daily Actions

Day 4 and thank you to all those who sent in their theme word for the year. I can’t wait to see how it goes when we check in next year.

Here’s the thing about goals. Everything is achievable if you build it in blocks that are manageable. I worked for a guy a few times in my career and he would always say, start with the end in mind and work your way backward from there. 

So now you have your end goal – the vision of the future and we’re going to work our way backward to today. Remember a dream without a plan is just a nice thought.  The rubber hits the road when you get into action and through actions, you start to gain momentum. And then suddenly you find yourself as if by magic, meeting the right people, hearing about new opportunities, and experiencing all kinds of serendipitous events. 

Let’s use a concrete example.  Let’s say you want to write a book and have it published in 3 years.  We know that this is a doable thing because many have done it before and many are doing it right now – there’s no mystery – it’s rather a simple process. Simple doesn’t mean easy. You’re going to have to write the book steadily for the better part of the next year. In the meantime, you have to put together a pitch and send it out to tens of tens of publishing houses to generate interest. You will have to slog through a number of “no, thank yous” and if you’re really lucky, someone might say yes. Then you have to write, get an editor, and if you decide to self-publish, you’ll need a marketing plan, a business plan, and so on… as they say the devil is in the details. And I’m not telling you all of this to discourage you. I want you to write the book and I want to achieve your goals.  And by teaching you this process, I aim to do just that!

Let’s use the example of writing the book, there are a lot of steps. We’ll start with the proposal document which you can prepare to float the idea to publishers.

First things first, make sure you have some tools that will support you. If you are a low-tech person, a planning calendar and some paper to chart out your actions will do. If you’re a high-tech person, pull out your online calendar and a good tracking system like Trello, Asana, or Monday.  I personally use Google Calendar, Trello, and Calendly to manage it all.  Paper, pencils, and monthly planners get the job done just as well. The important thing is that you step through the tasks needed in your mind before you jump in.

Sample Key Actions:

Overall Goal: Submit book proposal to 10 publishing houses by March 18th.

Key StepsStart DateDue DateHow many hours per week will you spend
Create a tracking system for contacting publishers  Jan 3rdJan 7th5 hours
Contact 5 people that you know each week you have written books and gather details and ask for introductionsJan 3rdJan 30th10 hours per week
Schedule time to write your proposal dailyJan 10thMar 10th10 hours per week
Research the book writing processJan 17thFeb 3rd10 hours per week
Schedule time to make new contacts via your existing networkJan 3rdMar 18th5 hours per week  
Hire an editor on Upwork to make your proposal tight.Feb 14thFeb 26th2 hours per week
SubmitMarch 18thMarch 18th 

Once you outline the plans on paper, then you can transfer them to your calendar system. 

Remember, the big goal is writing the book.  The first subgoal you have to accomplish is creating your outline to shop the book in the first action cycle between Jan 3rd and March 18th.  All you have to do is focus on the subgoal portion. If you have outlined your big milestones and then broken them down into smaller parts, you don’t have to fret about writing the book. Your job is to stay focused on what’s in front of you and put blinders on so that you don’t get distracted. there are lots of shiny objects that can pull our attention away.

You’re probably thinking, only one goal per period? Well, that depends on a few things including your other priorities and commitments.  Research shows that somewhere between 2 and 4 is the right number of subgoals that we can effectively work on.  Since this is your first time through, practice with 2 subgoals and when March comes around and we measure your progress, you can determine what else you can take on. This process comes from the quarterly business reviews and helped to keep everyone focused on progress toward the big goals. A lot more got done than in old models of annual planning cycles. Give it a try!

Remember you don’t have to do this perfectly – you might even find that your cycle of planning is slightly different than mine. The important thing to remember is that you have to find your reasons to do what you say you’re going to do. Maybe your version of Plan-Execute-Measure (P5-E55-M5) is Plan-Execute-Measure (P5-E45-M5). And you wind up running more than 4 cycles. Or your process could be closer to an agile process like Plan-Execute-Measure (P3-E22-M2). This requires you to work on shorter subgoals. No matter which model you choose, it’s important that you use the 3 phases continuously, that you write down the plans and that you figure out what’s working and not working and why.

Happy planning and don’t forget to reach out if you have any questions.