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Stay Out Of The Ditch: Part 1 Goal Setting

Updated: Sep 18, 2020

As we said in the introduction to this blog series, the way we conduct business activities can either move our business forward or slow us down. It is like driving on the road versus the ditch. The ditches are the ‘too much’ or ‘too little’ on either side of ‘just right’.

Today we will apply this idea to goal setting.

Goal setting is something we all do, conscience or not. Some people seem to be masters at setting and achieving their goals and others seem to set goals and forget about them the next day. Where do you fall on this spectrum currently?

Before we jump in, let’s define a goal. A goal should be something outside of your operational or “to-do” list activities. They should be things that help set the direction of your business, informing your decision making, and keep you focused.

Alright, let's start with the ditches:


The Too Much ditch for goal setting is just that: too much! Too many goals, or goals that are wildly unrealistic. The Too Much of goal setting usually leaves us frustrated and defeated within a few weeks (or hours). With too many goals our attention splintered, leaving us without clear direction. Or, the goal is unrealistic and we are constantly tired because no matter how much we work, the “goal” is still miles off.

We often drive into this ditch at the start of a year. Maybe while creating a vision board or listening to a podcast on making this year the very best ever! These goals are often set when we are away from the day to day realities and we dream of all we can accomplish now that we are determined to wake up at 5 am and take cold showers!

When reality hits and your new client piles on some extra work, you fall behind on your goals. Hoping to catch up, you work extra hours over the weekend. Some progress is being made, but you always feel behind and are now not sure if the goals you set are making any difference to your bottom line...So much is happening, but it does not seem like you are moving forward.


The Too Little ditch can be just as dangerous.

At a recent networking event, I met a frantic business owner. He talked about how busy he was and how he needed a coach to help set up business processes so that he would not feel “crazy” all the time. He was working constantly and said, “I take every job, you know because you don’t know when the next one will come.”

I responded, “I can definitely help. But first, let me ask, what is your financial goal for the year?”

He paused and said, “…I don’t know.”

“Okay,” I said, “do you know how much money you have made so far this year?”

Again, a blank look. “I could call my bookkeeper, or I could guess, but I am not really sure.”

“Do you know how much money you need to make in a year?”

“Not really.”

In this case, the business owner might be doing well, but he does not even know it. When we do not have any goals, it is hard to gauge how we are doing in our business. We can work 60+ hours in a week but are never sure we are doing enough. This can be taxing and exhausting...So much is happening, but it does not seem like you are moving forward.


Just Right goals have two parts. First, we need to know our 'why' and then we need to be SMART.

One of the greatest determining factors for reaching your goals is your

understanding of why you are setting them in the first place.

In other words, what is the goal of the goal?

I cannot tell you how many business owners I talk to say, "I need to post on social media more". Then, I ask, "why?" and they don't have an answer (or it is generic, like "I need more followers").

Posting on social media IS great. But, if you are not sure why you are doing it, it will be hard to create a plan or strategy. Therefore, your efforts will not have as much of an impact.

So, before saying what you will do, define why you are doing it. Think about the results you want. Will this get you there? What is the return on investment for this goal in your business?

Once you know your 'why', you can create Just Right goals that are SMART. There are many great articles written on these kinds of goals, so I will only add a quick summary here. The acronym has changed a bit over time, but it is believed the original concept should be credited to George T. Doran in the early 1980s. He created this system to help managers and their teams' complete company objectives.

The terms have changed over time, but the principles are the same. SMART goals are:

Specific: What are you going to do?

Measurable: How will you know you have reached your goal?

Assignable: Who will accomplish the goal?

Realistic: It is possible to achieve with available resources?

Time-bound: When will the goal be completed?

As you set SMART goals, you can break them down into actionable steps that can be added to your daily or weekly task lists. Your objectives for each day, week, and month become clear.

You can see progress toward your goal, even if you have not reached it.

For solopreneurs and most small business owners, I would suggest setting goals that are time-bound to no more than 90 days. Even if you continue with the same goal for a year, it is valuable to check-in and evaluate your goals multiple times a year.

Make sure the goal still meets your needs. Is the specific deliverable still “right”? Could you do more? Should you do less? Are you seeing results from the completion of the goals? If not, what new area(s) should you focus on during the next 90 days?

My hope is that as we understand our 'why' and set SMART goals, we can focus our energies on the things that truly move our business forward.

Congratulations, business owner, you are out of the ditch!



Two books I strongly recommend for solopreneurs and small business owners related to this topic are:

The 12 Week Year, by Brian P Moran and Michael Lennington

Smarter, Faster, Better: The Transformative Power of Real Productivity, by Charles Duhigg

Here is an article that addresses some common reasons we sabotage our goals and what to do about it. Happy reading!


Amy Lynne Coaching is located in Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN and works with solopreneurs and small business owners to help them reach their goals.

If you are interested in learning more about coaching with Amy Lynne Coaching, you can schedule a phone call here!

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