Setting Goals? The 3 Small Steps You Have To Take

Are you a fan of company planning sessions? It’s a question we find ourselves asking at least once a quarter.

Some find them an invaluable way to take a snapshot of where things are now, and to design a roadmap for the coming months or even years. Others think that they’re too loose, and that without actionable items in the now, those future goals have no way of becoming reality.

Both of these people have a goal. Hers is to clean his teeth, his is to not faint. Each is important.
Both of these people have a goal. Hers is to clean his teeth; his is to not faint. Each is important.

I believe there’s a bit of truth to both perspectives. Planning is, by nature, an exercise in optimism. Few organizations want to set aside a morning, or a day, to lay out a schedule for failure. That said, if all you do is a bunch of cheerleading around “we’ll grow revenues by 100 percent in the second quarter,” but you never discuss how, disaster looms.

Actionable action items

Even if there is a shared, common goal, every person involved in making that happen will need unique, specific goals of his or her own. At Parthenon, we’ve worked with entrepreneur coach Andy Bailey to set personal and company annual goals, as well as quarterly ones that build up to the longer-term ambition. The key is to be very specific about the two or three (or even five if you’re ambitious) things that you must do, and that the company must do, every quarter to create bigger successes.

When it comes to this kind of planning, Andy recommends smaller bites.

“Take small steps daily toward a longer-term goal — it’s the fastest way to achievement,” he explains. “Many people create goals; most are big in nature and require huge amounts of energy to reach. Breaking these down into smaller, planned stages and tasks create the ability to achieve them over time. A daily step is a better option.”

Day by day, hour by hour

What’s more, taking a daily step toward something, rather than setting a 90-day goal and then hoping for the best, means that slow, steady work towards a specific ambition becomes an ingrained behavior.

“It takes 21 days to break or create a habit — the whole world knows this,” Andy says. “Creating a daily focus on what you feel is important for you will help you create positive habits or break old bad ones.”

3 steps to getting it done

Basically, the process is this:

  • Set the goal
  • Create a concrete series of steps to complete it
  • Chart your progress and hold yourself accountable

This bite-size approach not only makes a large task manageable; it also builds a sense of accomplishment as each step toward the goal is completed.

And for the procrastinators among us (ahem), it’s an excellent way to stay on track — or catch up if we begin to lag behind.

Every job is different, but there’s enough “one size fits all” here to merit giving this approach a try. As my Mother used to say when confronted with a dinnertime rebellion, “Just try it one time.” (She usually said more, but that’s another blog.)