How many times have you set yourself goals to do things at the beginning of the new year and they are still undone the following Christmas?

Setting annual goals doesn’t work.

I know some people have grown to hate goals, they start with great enthusiasm but before long the goals they set are more of a burden, the feeling of excitement turns to stress or anxiety. I used to be one of those people.

My loathing of goals comes from being forced to set annual objectives at work by my manager. If you are like me you set them, and probably look at them again just before the next annual appraisal, half of them will have become irrelevant because of what’s happened in the intervening year, and the other half you haven’t done because you got involved in something much more interesting instead. You did a lot of great work during the year and now you are about to get beaten up by your boss for not hitting your objectives.

I’m now running my own business, and I didn’t write down a set of annual objectives last January. Just as well. If I look back at 2015, there’s no way the things I’m trying to accomplish right now would have been on the list back in January. Coming up soon is the launch of a podcast with a co-host I didn’t even know back then.

Setting goals in January is fine to tackle the problems issues and opportunities you can see in January. I can pretty much guarantee that come September there’s a different set of issues and opportunities.

So is there a better way to set goals? …..Of course there is

In my mind there’s no doubt you need goals. If you want to achieve something you can’t just drift along. you need a target or goal to reach and a plan to get you there. The goal needs to be SMART, but that’s where my relationship with traditional goal setting stops.

Trying to look further forward than the next two or three months is very difficult. Plus I’ll usually have a pretty good idea at any point in time what the next key thing is that will take my business forward. So this is the way I approach it:

  • Set goals for a maximum of 90 days and
  • Make them relevant to what you need to do now.
  • Keep them few in number
  • Make your primary focus the one key thing that will drive you forward

At the end of 90 days, or earlier if you have done that one key thing, work out where you are and what’s next.

It’s Easier to gauge what’s possible in 90 days than it is in a year. Most of us have a fair idea what we can do in 3 months because it’s easy to visualize. We think of a year as a much bigger time period than it actually is, and ambitions become hugely unrealistic

There are some things you aren’t going to accomplish in 90 days. You want to drop 50lb? Realistically that’s probably going to take a lot longer, so there’s nothing wrong with having a goal that lasts a lot longer than 90 days. But you need some sense of achievement, so even if the place you ultimately want to be is 50lb lighter, where can you realistically get in 90 days? Plus there will be a great sense of accomplishment when you have succeeded in shedding 7lb in 90 days time. If you only look at the year, chances are you went off track at some point, and the 20lb you lost feels like failure against the 50lb target. That sense of failure is what makes lots of people give up.

So, are you going to set goals for the whole of 2016? or just for quarter 1?