How to Break Down Your Big Goals Into Action Plans
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I love goal setting. I know it’s one of those things I feel like people either get really jazzed about or they are very much against it. My own journey with goal setting began (probably like most people) with New Year’s resolutions. I’m sure many of us know how worthless setting resolutions is by now, but I will fully admit that I was one of the many who would choose a few things that seemed important to me every year, like lose 15 pounds or book 20 new wedding clients.
But I would have absolutely no idea how I was going to actually make any of these resolutions come to fruition. I would just think about them a lot throughout the month of January until inevitably forgetting all about them come mid-February until December 31st when I’d think, “Oh, yeah! Resolutions! I should set those again!”
I didn’t get really serious about goal setting until about 5 or 6 years ago when I started following Lara Casey’s blog series that she would do around the start of every year where she would ask a lot of really great questions such as, “What worked for you in the last year?” and “What didn’t work in the last year?” or “What do you want to say YES to?” Things like that. And for the first couple of years, I enjoyed just reading her blogs and journaling my own answers to those questions until I came up with a bunch of possible goals. At this point, I was at least setting realistic goals instead of merely resolutions, but I wasn’t actually following up on them daily, weekly, or even monthly. I was still doing a sort of “set it and forget it” routine.
Finally, I decided to actually invest in Lara’s Casey’s PowerSheets to try and take the goal setting thing one step further since I still wasn’t making the type of progress I probably should have been. The great thing about the PowerSheets is not only does Lara really help you to map out meaningful goals in the workbook-style section at the beginning, but in using PowerSheets you are forced to revisit those goals every month and every quarter. There are some prompts at the beginning of each monthly section where you can evaluate the previous month and get excited about what you are going to accomplish next, so you’re not just setting your goals on January 1st and forgetting them for the rest of the year.
A key step in all of this is the idea of breaking DOWN your goals into manageable chunks because, let’s face it, if one of your goals is something like “launch a 10-module course,” that’s going to feel pretty overwhelming sitting on your to-do list. You need to turn that goal into a plan.
First, you need to decide on the time frame for your big idea or goal.
Do you want to accomplish it in a month? In a year? Obviously, the key here is to be realistic. When we’re setting our goals in January, the tendency is to want to do all the things and get them done as soon as possible, but that’s never going to work. We need to begin by first looking at ALL our big goals and decide which ones you want to focus on each quarter.
As you’re looking at each large goal, begin to break it down into smaller projects. If you have a goal such as “create and launch a new course,” you may decide to break down that goal into two projects – creating the course and then launching the course – and that you will spend Q3 focusing on both of those projects. Again, be realistic. Most likely, things are going to take longer than you expect, so give yourself some wiggle room.
When I do this exercise I like to take a sheet of paper and divide it into four quadrants and label them for each quarter. I then write out all of those projects that make up each goal on those mini Post-It notes and I also write how long in either weeks or months I anticipate that project taking. And then I begin popping them into the various quadrants. You might start to realize that one quarter has too many and then rearrange. You might also realize that certain projects need to come before others and rearrange.
Next, focus on the quarter right in front of you and really get specific.
Take those projects that you plan to focus on this quarter and break those down into the smallest of tasks. Get really, really specific. What is every single step that needs to happen in order to complete that project? To give you an idea of how specific I get, when I created and launched The Pricing Workbook I had a total of 164 tasks. About 30 of those were to write and create the workbook and the remaining ones were all to launch it. Every single piece of content that had to be written, whether it was an email or a social post or a part of the sales page, was a separate task. Every graphic that had to be created was a task. Every communication, whether it be emailing someone for a testimonial or doing a live video in my Facebook group, was a task.
Brain dump every single thing you can think of to accomplish your project into one master list of tasks. Each task should really take no longer than about 30 minutes to an hour at most. Now that you’ve broken everything down, re-evaluate. Do you still think you can accomplish all of these tasks for all of these projects in the next 3 months? Sometimes once you see it mapped out like that you realize it’s a little more than you thought, but that’s okay! That just means that you might need to adjust your timing on when it’s going to be completed by.
Systemize all these tasks.
You’re going to want to have a project management system of some sort. Personally, I am an Asana junkie. I think it’s the most user-friendly and robust of the various platforms out there. But it really doesn’t matter which system you use, as long as you use one. Because tracking hundreds of small tasks is pretty much impossible any other way. You want to be able to easily set due dates, move things around when needed, group similar tasks together, etc.
If you don’t have a project management system currently and you want to learn how to set up your own like I have my Asana set-up, I have a really affordable guide that walks you through all the steps to easily get a functioning system up and running and dives into more about how I actually USE it.
Decide what happens when and prioritize.
I like to use a good old-fashioned calendar for this part. As much as I love lists and numbers, when it comes to mapping out time, I like to use a calendar. In the past, I would just print out 3 months of any old generic calendar I could find for free on Google, but I recently bought the most beautiful thing for the wall in my office – a GIANT 4×5 Creatives Calendar by Lindsay Letters.
I start to brainstorm which tasks need to happen when. First, I’ll start by putting any specific dates on the calendar such as launch dates, cart open dates, completion dates for projects, even any upcoming vacations or days off on there, too. Then I work backwards from those end dates to build out what I need to focus on each week. I write the weekly focuses on each Sunday on the calendar, not because I’m actually going to work on Sunday, but just so that I can see what my focuses are that week.
6 weeks before the launch date, I might make one of my focuses “write the sales page,” or 2 weeks out might be “promote the launch webinar.” I do these for actual launch-based projects, but also ongoing things. For example, on the last week of every month, I write out new monthly action plans for my business management clients so that’s always going to be a focus on the last week of every month. I try to only have 3-4 focuses each week.
Design a monthly action plan.
Now that you know what you need to focus on each week for the next 3 months and you’ve got every step ready for you in your project management system, it’s time to map out the next month or few weeks. This is where the nitty gritty part comes in. You need to assign dates to all the steps or tasks for each of those weekly focuses. The thing I love about Asana is how easily it is to move stuff around. As long as everything makes it into the right week, you can always adjust week by week if you need to or if you get behind or everything. Add concrete dates to all those steps and you’ve got a plan for the next month to make massive progress on the key projects in your business that will get you closer to accomplishing those big goals.
If you need to see how I set-up and use my own Asana system, you can grab my 10 step training guide – Project Management 101 – OR if you need someone to help you break all of this down FOR YOU and create an action plan FOR YOU, shoot me an email at [email protected] and I’ll be happy to tell you more about how I can help.
I hope this was helpful to you in understanding how to better break down those big goals so that you will actually ACCOMPLISH them because I truly want to see you make big progress this year.