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Get Started with Goal Setting in Five Steps

A Goal Setting Guide for Small Business Owners

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Goal setting is an important part of starting and growing a small business. In fact, goal setting can play an important role in many different parts of your business, from starting a business, to marketing, to sales, to succession planning. Goals provide direction, motivation and a clear way to measure your forward-moving progress.

Without goals, and a process for tracking your goals, you may have difficulty seeing the big picture and staying focused. Goal setting helps you build a bridge that can guide you from where you are right now to where you want to be.

The tips below will help you get started with goal setting for your business, focus on the specifics of what you hope to accomplish, and start to put your plan into action.

Step 1: Start with a Dream

The first stage of goal setting is about considering everything you dream of accomplishing. It doesn't need to be realistic at this point, so avoid limiting your thought process to what you think may actually be possible. Now is the time to consider every possibility, as if there are no boundaries.

To get started, grab a piece of paper and think about where you want to be in one year, five years and ten years. Don't worry about how you will get there, just write down every possibility -- big and small.

Step 2: Brainstorm the Possibilities

Once you've written down your clearest dreams, it's time for a brainstorming session to access some of the ideas lurking in your subconscious.

You can follow any brainstorming method that is most effective for you. If you get stuck, here are a few brainstorming processes to try:

  • Brain Dump - Let your mind take off and write down everything that you think of, whether or not it makes complete sense at this stage.
  • List Making - Focus on one significant idea at a time and create an outline of all of the possible goals that may be part of each larger idea.
  • Mind Mapping - Start with one idea, then use words and drawings to create a map of related ideas.

Step 3: Sort the Options

The next step involves taking all of the dreams and ideas you have down on paper from Steps 1 and 2 and making sense of them. It's useful to sort your ideas into a few categories, based on measures that are important to you.

For example, you might create categories based on your priorities, ranking your ideas by how important they are in your life. You could also categorize your ideas based on:

  • Attainability
  • Time commitment required
  • Financial impact
  • Desirability

The categories you create for your ideas isn't as important as the process of creating a way to sort them.

Once you create meaningful categories, and start to put your ideas into groups, you may be surprised at how much overlap there is. In some cases, once this step is complete, you may find that you have a few consistent themes that continue to reappear in the process. This is a sign that you are on the right track in identifying your most important goals.

Step 4: Create a Plan

After Step 3, you should be able to identify one or two loose business goals that you want to focus on (if not, go back and start brainstorming again). SMART goal setting -- which means setting goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based -- is a powerful way to move your rough goals from abstract ideas into specific action steps.

The action plan you create for accomplishing your goals should define specific actions you need to take to reach your goal, while placing a focus on why the goal is important to you and what it will mean to you once you achieve it.

Step 5: Focus on Today

Striving toward a specific business goal can be overwhelming, but if you have broken the goal down into bite-sized chunks as suggested in Step 4, then you should be able to take a series of small, digestible steps each day to get closer to your goal.

While you don't want to lose sight of the big picture, if you take an ambitious goal one step at a time, one day at a time, you will start to build momentum and confidence in yourself, and with steady and purposeful progress, you will reach your destination.

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