What could you do – or change – this year to make it your best year ever? Have you had a thought about it already?
As many, you probably find it a challenging question. Especially after such an unexpected and difficult 2020. Some are too shy or too busy to set ambitious objectives. Others do have beautiful goals, yet face challenges following through. Focus and motivation tend to fade away during the year (the infamous New Year’s Resolution Syndrome?). This applies to organizations and teams as well as to any professional, leader, founder, freelancer, or solopreneur alike.
I figured the most driven and successful professionals are the ones who have an answer to that question – an actionable one actually. Having a sense of direction is key to day-to-day motivation and fulfillment.
So what if 2021 could be the year where you can set clear goals and work towards them?
I have been exchanging best practices with various friends and professionals and realized it might be of interest to others. So here it goes.
Before setting goals, I like to take time to step back and put things into perspective. It helps me get a refreshed view of what I am doing, where I want to head towards, and why.
For sure, if you are on a specific mission, reminding yourself of it will be a great – and hopefully energizing – starting point. Simon Sinek and his books became a reference in the “Why” quest.
Truth be told, not everyone has their purpose figured out. In any case, a bit of distancing from day to day can only be beneficial. For example, reminding yourself what is meaningful and what really matters to you. It can be about your values, areas where you want to make an impact, things you want to do in the long run.
I made an attempt to describe my personal mission here.
Make it playful
Unconsciously it may seem that ‘ambition’ has to be something serious. Or at least I used to think so. No surprise it only adds weight to your shoulders. What about making this exercise fun? Associate it with positive and light feels. I use this philosophy in many situations. May it be for strategic workshops with executive teams or just for myself. It stimulates creativity and lifts energy up.
Here is the intro I like to use:
Let’s project yourself at the beginning of next year.
It is the 1st of January 2022.
You had your best year ever.
You are so happy.
You invited your close surrounding and loved ones to celebrate with you and pop the champagne open (any other celebration symbol will also do).
What is it that you are celebrating? What are the great things that happenned this passed year?
Well, I bet you have some ideas, right?
Goals that inspire
What do you find the most inspiring among these two?
- Launch New Product Successfully
- Rock Start Launch
I don’t know about you but I noticed people usually connect more emotionally to the #2. I find giving an inspiring name to my focus areas an additional way to make them even more motivating. Doesn’t need to be a slogan. Yet, I like my goals to sound good and be memorable when possible.
Less is more
When our attention is spread across tons of things, we move slower on each of them. That’s logical, yet this is a recurring trap many of us fall into. How to avoid it?
When I set my yearly themes, I try to keep them under 5 areas. Of course, if you have one, the chances you’ll effectively deliver is even higher. My ideal is 3 as I need a bit of diversity to feel fulfilled and challenged.
What’s your magic number?
“Not everything that counts can be counted
I do fully agree with this famous quote. Yet, when possible, referring to numbers is another thing I find helpful. Among these two, what is the most tangible to work towards?
- Launch New Product Successfully
- Reach 100 Customers Satisfied With The New Product
During the year, it will be easier to know if you are in a great place when using #2 as your golden goal. Having a number helps define success in an objective manner, and measure progress regularly during the year. This is inspired by the OKR method which I found very successful to make strategy a daily thing for teams and individuals. More about it in this blog post.
Setting a target can be a challenge when you are not used to doing it. To be motivating, it shouldn’t be too easy yet it should be achievable.
The two questions I ask myself are:
Is achieving this goal a challenge?
With proper focus on it, can I achieve it?
If the answer is YES to both, then it is good. If this is NO to one of them, then I adjust it.
Set A Rythm
So, following the previous steps gives you 1 to 5 motivating, inspiring, and meaningful goals, possibly with some success metrics. What’s next? Build continuity.
That’s the basic trauma behind the New Year Syndrome. When we fail to follow through on our – hopeful – resolutions, we feel bad about ourselves. This is not a nice feeling so we rather avoid it in the future and put it on the concept of resolution. To avoid that, I use 3 simple ideas:
Quarterly break down.
I break down my yearly objectives into pragmatic, practical quarterly goals. This is more tangible and easier to connect with on a day-to-day. No need to do all the quarters at once. Use the learning of the current period for the next one.
I do regular updates with myself where I check how my progress on the identified focus areas is going. I do it weekly or every two weeks. I make it actionable by evaluating how confident I am to reach metrics.
Some easy tooling
A hands-on overview is helpful for the updates. Anything will work at this stage: a table in word or excel for example. For the geeks, Monday.com, Trello, or Asana will also be good tools.
Everything is a learning
These updates can also be used as opportunities for self-dialogue. I use it to get unstuck, challenge myself, and learn. If I realize the goal was not right – not meaningful enough, not ambitious enough, unrealistic, etc. – I just take the lessons and make the appropriate adjustments for the next quarter or for the year.
This was it. The simple recipe I use every year to prepare myself for the next 12 months, build up motivation, set priorities, and drive focus on my execution. It works wonders for me, and it does too for all the freelancers, founders, solopreneurs, and motivated professionals who did set up something similar for themselves.
Since many have shown interest in this method, I am thinking of making a short video tutorial for freelancers and founders. If you want to be part of the beta, feel welcome to reach out via email or linkedin.
For the ones who may be curious about my focus areas for 2021, here they are:
- Balance – Body & Mind – everything that relates to my health and general condition
- Solopreneurship 2.0 – development of ikiōm‘s strategic consulting & advisory activities
- Amplify Positive Impact – Supporting and advising high-impact founders to collectively make a more positive contribution to the planet
By the way, if you are also focussing on one of these areas and believe we could help each other, feel welcome to reach out!
I hope you found this content useful and I wish you a happy, healthy, and fulfilling year!