Even when we feel we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, we still have to move forward!
All too often, we set goals at the beginning of a new year and then about mid-March, we realize that we are nowhere close to reaching those goals. We’ve thought a lot about those goals, debated them, thought about what the next step should be, and wondered if we really have what it takes to succeed. I’ve been thinking a lot about simply moving forward (see last week’s post). I’m here to tell you that yes, you do have what it takes, and it’s simpler than you think: all you have to do is take the next logical step.
I’ve been meeting with some prospective clients recently who were so excited about their new 2014 goals and the plans to reach them; I could hear the possibility in their voices. When I ask them about the progress they’ve made, I’ve seen surprise as two things happen:
It sinks in that they haven’t been keeping track of their progress, and;
They realize that they have made very little, if any, progress and it’s almost 25% through the year.
Before I give you my tried and true strategy of getting out of this position, let me just state some assumptions:
The goal is their own goal, not their spouse’s, a parent, or a goal declared by an “expert”;
The goal is big enough. We hear about “big bodacious” goals; that’s a nice catchy phrase, but if it’s so big that it paralyzes you, it’s not much of a goal;
The goal is small enough. I love big goals, but if we can’t see any path from where we are to our stated goal, it might need to be downsized. As Goldilocks famously said, “This one is just right.” Personally, goals ought to teeter right on the line of scary and exciting. Reaching those goals is a rush for motivated small business owners.
If those assumptions are true, the strategy is simple:
Just take the next logical step.
When I’m feeling stuck, or just not sure what to do with the next hour, I ask myself that simple question, “What’s the next logical step?” It’s usually asking a question, sending an inquiry, writing a first draft of something – all simple, doable actions. If the next logical step requires some research, give yourself a time limit or it’s easy to get lost in the infamous “Internet research”. 20 minutes is plenty. If you find yourself fast-forwarding to possible outcomes of that one single action, bring yourself back to present and remind yourself that you are only focused on that one action.
Find a goal that’s right and true for you and focus on just that one next logical step. We’ve heard the message many times, but it’s true: every journey does begin with a step. All you have to do is keep going.
For some reason, I was having a hard time truly accomplishing anything of substance this morning. I hear this from my clients often, and it can sometimes last for days and weeks. Here is a quick list you can go through to move from being “stuck” to being in overdrive.
Recognize your “stuck-ness”. Try to figure out what is blocking you from moving forward. Common blocks are boredom, the need for a decision (you may not have enough information), or being overwhelmed with chaos.
Take 30 minutes to resolve your block – set a timer if necessary. Clean up the clutter, get the missing information, or take a walk around the block.
Decide what one action will most move you forward. Figure out the one next action and do that one thing. Tout à fait fini(over and done).
Create a ritual that defines your overdrive mode. Could be a special chair, location, or a cup of joe, whatever will tell you when THIS happens, I move forward and get stuff done.
Just start whatever you feel stuck around. Don’t worry about completing it (yet). Get started – you never know where you might end up.
I’m sitting in my special writing chair, got an iced tea by my side, and I started an article by just writing the pieces that I felt confident about. You’ll never guess what happened: I finished the article and then decided to help someone else who might be having a stuck moment, too, by giving you this step-by-step guide to moving from stuck-ness to overdrive.
When you’re trying to reach your goals, start with “the end in mind”!
Now that you’ve set a goal for 2014, declared a New Year’s Resolution, have you taken your first step? You see, there are results goals (the outcome that we want), and then there are action goals (the action we will take to reach our desired outcome). And that’s where the rubber meets the road. It’s one thing to declare “I want to double my sales”, or “I am going to be more productive”, but when we define what action steps we will take to reach those outcomes we begin to see results (for more about results and action goals see here).
But knowing what those steps are can befuddle even the best in business. When a client is struggling to define the steps to reach their goal, I walk them through the process I’m about to share here.
Entrepreneurs are big thinkers – great at knowing where they want to end up. Defining the steps to reach that destination can feel mundane, cumbersome, and well…boring. Small business owners are fond of the expression “make it happen!” but without a large staff to “make it happen” those details often fall on your shoulders, the small business owner.
To easily define those action steps, and to take the most efficient path, here’s my remedy for detail-offended entrepreneurs:
Begin with the end result – feel it, believe it, know it.
Once you can envision reaching that goal, ask what step you would have taken right before you reached the goal?
What action would you have taken immediately before that?
And before that?
Continue backing up until you reach an action step that you can, and will, take today.
By starting at your goal, you include only those actions that produce results and that are the most effective and efficient. The best part is that once you’ve walked backwards to where you are today, you’ve defined a comprehensive action plan designed by you, in full detail, to your desired goal.
Long term planning can feel daunting; we know it’s critical, yet it seems so ambiguous and a long ways away, even when it’s only a few years. If you’re like many business owners, you push it off to tomorrow, and worry about later, well…later. The problem is that “later” arrives when the time for careful and thoughtful planning is past.
Years ago, I joined a young, growing, software company. Profits were strong, and growth seemed easy. I asked the CEO “what’s the most likely end game? How do you want to get out of this? What do you want to get out of this?” I was shocked that he had no idea. Over the next few days we’d circle back to the question again and again, and he eventually realized that the most likely outcome was to be acquired by one particular company. My next question was “what decisions do we make that will make that outcome most likely to happen?” That most likely, and desired, outcome guided the company’s strategy over the coming years and yes, we were acquired by that most likely company at a very lucrative price.
A client and I were talking about his 2014 plans this week when I threw in the question “how long do you want to do this?” My client has owned a very successful business for 14 years and, honestly, he’s tired. I wanted him to start thinking about his ultimate goal, and we then started talking about his most likely exit strategy and the path most likely to get him there.
This week, another client and I talked about possible outcomes and what each might look like for his life. After all, business ownership, and it’s winding up, should support our personal goals and dreams. Once he sorted out the most likely outcome, we created possible paths to reach that outcome. When you take a trip, you look at different ways to reach your destination and select the path that best meets your wants and needs. At every intersection, you make a decision to follow the road that will get you to your destination when you want to, in the manner you want. You select one course, but you know there are alternatives in case you encounter obstacles.
Defining long term business goals and strategies is the same as creating your travel plans; define a goal, set a course, but always have alternatives in the back of your mind in case you need to take a detour. Long term planning, whether it’s an exit strategy or a few years away, becomes simple when you think in terms of “most likely and desirable outcomes”. Give it a try and let me know where you want to end up.
Vision Planning notebooks are an excellent way to map out your action plan for the New Year!
Hi everyone! Now is a great time to write out your goals and plans for the New Year! You know my motto – “if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail”. I have extra vision planning notebooks that I’m giving away FREE starting Wednesday, December 18, until the New Year. The only thing you have to do is sign up for the newsletter on www.avisionofyourown.com! Once you do, shoot me an email at with your mailing address, and I’ll send it out. Any questions? Shoot me an email!
Vision boards are a great way to really focus on what you want to accomplish next year. Writing down your ideas makes you accountable to yourself, and moves your ideas from your head to reality!
Helen Dutton, A Vision of Your Own, has provided business and personal coaching for small business owners since 2000, providing online and face to face coaching for entrepreneurs, small business owners, start-up businesses as well as established businesses across the country. Clients come from New Hampshire, her home state, but she has also acted as a mentor to business owners in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, the Denver area, and closer to home in the Boston area. Helen helps her clients develop their small business ideas, create marketing plans, improve operation efficiency, build customer service systems, build management and leadership skills, and develop confidence as a business owner. Helen provides business tips and resources through her blog and her newsletter, where you can also find business templates to help your business prosper.