How To Trick Your Mind & Make Sure All Your Goals Are Achieved
We all want to make sure our goals are achieved. But, making that happen can be a struggle.
Remember when you were in school, and you worked really hard to study and submit a killer essay or to really nail an exam?
What was the one thing that validated all of that hard work? All of the late nights and the missed parties – what was it that made all of that worth it?
What WAS that one thing?
Receiving a letter grade on that assignment or exam was the only way that you knew if all of your hard work was beneficial or not. The grade was a performance measure and it provided you feedback about how “good” your performance was.
It is the same thing in business. And, even more so for solopreneurs like you and me. We’re trying to grow a business that allows us to quit our day job. That means “business growth” hours are early in the morning, late and night, and relaxing on the weekends is a thing of the past.
So, we need to know that it’s all for a reason. That what we are doing is going to make a difference. That we are making progress and our goals will be achieved. That is the power of the feedback loop.
What is a feedback loop?
There are many scientific studies and publications that I could quote and get really dialed in about what a feedback loop is – but, for the purposes of what we are doing here, it is important to know that feedback loops have been studied and proven to work.
In fact, the concept is used with professional and Olympic athletes all the time. While it seems like a really simple thing … it is so powerful. And, really important for making progress and ultimately reaching the goals that you’ve set.
Feedback loops = Goals Are Achieved
The way a feedback loop works is you perform some kind of task or activity, then you measure your performance against the metrics that you have identified as meaningful. From that measurement, you get some feedback about how your performance stacks up.
Finally, you make changes, tweaks, and improvements to the way that you perform the next task or activity and measure again, etc. The loop continues around and around.
The most crucial part of this loop is the beginning. And, by “beginning”, I mean before you even get into the loop. The part where you are setting your goals and your metrics.
For a feedback loop to work, you have to put a time limit on it. Just like you (I hope!) use the Pomodoro Technique to work in 20-minute bursts and take 5-minute breaks, it is important to work in goal bursts as well.
It has been found by many performance improvement coaches that a span of two weeks is a good amount of time for goal bursts. And, during that two-week span, there is an overarching theme or goal, with tiny little tasks or objectives that are designed to get you closer to that goal.
For instance …
2-Week Goal: At the end of 14 days, I will have written a 5-page e-book about how and where to source free stock images and email it to my list.
From this overarching theme, I can break it out into small objectives and tasks, with corresponding measurements.
Like this …
Week One Objective: Make a list of 25 sources for free stock images and outline sections of e-book
- Monday Goal: Find 5 sources for free stock images and identify heading for section 1
- Tuesday Goal: Find 5 sources for free stock images and identify heading for section 2
And so on …
Week Two Objective: Write 5-page e-book
- Monday Goal: Write section 1
- Tuesday Goal: Write Section 2
And so on …
The feedback loop begins on Monday of week one.
Your goal is to “find 5 sources for free stock images and identify heading for section 1”. This is your goal for a “best case scenario” day.
Meaning that you’re able to stick to your business growth hours and nothing “comes up” that derails you from the day that you want to have.
But, it is important to have a backup plan and set an additional goal that is attainable if your day circles the drain and you can’t get your ‘best case scenario’ goal met.
So, in that case, your plan B goal might be “find three sources for free stock images and think about what section 1 could look like”.
Setting goals on levels is important to your motivation because it helps set you up for success. You don’t want to enter the feedback loop until you have the mindset and the systems in place to support you … no matter what the day throws at you.
Setting A Goal Isn’t Enough … You Have To Implement The Action Plan
You’ve heard me talk about S.M.A.R.T. goals. This is the mnemonic created by Brian Tracy, which gives us a framework of how to decide which goals we need to work on and how to put words to them.
While this system is presented as a way to ‘achieve goals’ … in my opinion, it is only the beginning of the process. Once you have set your goal, you need to put a system into place so that you can take steps each day to achieve it.
When you use the concept of feedback loop, you are creating a system that you can follow to make daily progress towards your S.M.A.R.T. goals.
What does S.M.A.R.T. stand for?
S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Attainable
R = Realistic
T = Time-bound
If we go back to my original goal (at the end of 14 days, I will have written a 5-page e-book about how and where to source free stock images and emailed it to my list.), it already checks off time-bound because it is a two-week goal burst.
I have decided that I will set a new overarching goal every two weeks. It is specific because I have identified the length of the book and the subject that I will be writing about.
It is measurable because I can determine if I have reached my goal by measuring how many pages and how many sources. And, it is attainable and realistic because I am breaking it down over a period of two weeks.
When you start out your goal-setting with the feedback loop in mind, you are already setting up your goals in the S.M.A.R.T. format and, you are also creating an actionable framework for getting started working on your goals.
Big Goals and Small Goals Are Best Set With Feedback In Mind
Being a budding solopreneur with family and work responsibilities means your day could go a million different directions. For instance, as I am writing this post my 4-year old is screaming his face off because he was up at 3 am (for reasons that are a complete mystery to me), the 5-year old is running a fever, and the 12-year old has a stomach ache. Plus, we are packing to move this week and I still have my business to run.
Needless to say, I’m am shooting for my “worst case scenario” goals today. Because even thinking about my “best case scenario” goals is completely defeating.
But, all of my goals are set with the idea of the S.M.A.R.T. structure and feedback loop framework in mind. Because, regardless of how my day goes, I want to feel successful.
For example …
I woke up this morning with these tasks on my list …
- Write new post and publish with content upgrade, 3 images, and quotes
- Write six pages of content for client X (this is part of a 2-week goal to write 62-pages of copy for a client’s website)
- 30-minutes of video recording
- Post 12 blogs for client Y
But, when I woke up this morning (after not getting my usual morning quiet time), I reassessed my goals for the day and decided that my list would look more like this …
- Write new post and publish
- Write six pages of content for client X (I kept this because I was realistic when I bid the project for the client and gave myself 2-weeks to finish it.)
- 5-minutes of video recording
- Post 4 blogs for client Y
And, the one thing that I absolutely must get done today is to write and publish this post.
When I finish my ‘one thing’, I will go to my list and cross it off.
My brain will release dopamine in response to that sense of accomplishment and I will feel awesome about completing that one most important thing that I needed to get done today.
Tomorrow, the day will look completely different and I will assess my circumstances, time available, etc. and adjust my goals for the day accordingly.
Obviously, I will need to make up some of those things that I didn’t get done today but, it is absolutely amazing the things that you can accomplish when you are being mindful of your time and your level of focus.
The feedback loop and S.M.A.R.T. goals systems are not necessarily designed to help you be successful by always reaching the maximum amount of work. They are designed to help you create a healthy relationship with goal-setting and with yourself … in the face of the restrictions that your life runs within.
Be kind to yourself.
Set your goals each day so that they are realistic for THAT day. And, make sure that you are keeping the feedback loop in mind.
I know that S.M.A.R.T. is not the only system for setting goals. But, I do think it is a good starting point. It helps to create a framework for identifying goals that you can actually reach, and that will help to move things forward in your business.
When you take a look at your tasks for the day, and you are assessing what you are able to get done given the circumstances of that day, you can prioritize based on which activities are going to make the most progress for your business.
You need to get laser-focused.
Once you have eliminated everything off of your list that is not directly related to growing your business, it is time to pick one project for your two-week burst. This project should be something that will propel your efforts the most.
This is your goal.
The daily action items that you perform to get you closer to your goal are tasks. The feedback for your tasks is checking them off of your list each day when you reach them.
These ‘quick wins’ are great for keeping the momentum and continuing your work towards your two-week goal.
If you worked for an organization, your manager or company might have a performance management plan that includes various strategies for providing feedback and igniting productivity. But, since you are “awesome. party of one.” – you have to create these little checkpoints for yourself.
Some ideas for your performance management plan might include:
Setting a two-week goal with an incentive attached to it like going to get a pedicure or eating a really big cupcake. Anything that you feel would be indulgent and celebratory of the hard work that you put in.
Giving yourself a day of no meetings or work for one day is a great way to celebrate completing a two-week goal. And, taking time away from your work can give you some great perspective about the next two-week goal to set and the direction to move things in.
If your two-week goal was something that your tribe or readers would really love to know about – share it with them! There is nothing better than announcing a major milestone accomplished in your business or blog and hearing all of the awesome congrats from all of the people who helped you to get there. Spread the news!
This might not seem like a celebration but, it is a very powerful exercise. When you write down the goals that you have achieved – it is an amazing thing to see in writing. It can be a huge confidence boost and really help with your motivation. Plus, you can read back and see a timeline of all of the things that you have accomplished – which is very cool to see.
Include the fam.
When you reach a big goal in your business or blog, take the family out for ice cream or to dinner. They each had a role to play in you achieving that goal, and when they can share those wins with you, it helps them to realize what all of that “not right now, I’m working” talk was about.
Having a healthy relationship with goal-setting is an important part of being successful in your business or blog venture. And, using the right systems and framework for devising your goals and feeling inspired to continue working towards them – even when your day has gone to pot – is the best way to ensure you stay on track.