Where is it you want to get to?

Business Dispatches

Where is it that you want to get to?

“Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?

The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.

Alice: I don't much care where.

The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn't much matter which way you go.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

I had a great discussion with an entrepreneur the other day around priority setting. They were talking about having trouble with setting priorities for their work. My first inclination was to ask about the process they used to set their priorities. My thought was perhaps I could offer some suggestions to improve that process. However instead, I asked them to describe their long term goals. What I learned was that they had not set any clear goals to help guide their business. Things had been going very well and there was so much on the go that they hadn’t taken the time to sit down and formulate any long-term goals.

I get it. As an entrepreneur, there are so many things to keep in mind and so many directions that I am pulled in every day. I look at my list of things to do and I see it growing longer every day. As a business grows, the field of opportunities and tasks grow along with it. I have laughed lots about never seeing the bottom of my to-do list.

To paraphrase Lewis Carroll, if you don’t know where your business is headed, it doesn’t really matter what you work on first. Anything you might work on is just as good as the next thing.

Here’s a framework that I have been using and it’s working for me. I didn’t invent this but I really appreciate the approach and the clarity it delivers. Really, it’s a set of nested tools where each piece supports the next to deliver solid business performance. In other words, each element of this framework fits into the next and supports the success of that element as well as the overall business.

  1. The first step is to get clarity about what I am doing with my business and why. I want to create a vision statement for myself and the business, setting out a clear, very long term objective describing where I want my business to go. That acts like a north star for my business, keeping me on track over the long term. It provides a backdrop for decision making that I can use as a standard to judge the relative merit of any decision.
  2. Then, based on that longer term vision, I set out some SMART goals for myself. Specifically, what do I want to achieve, by when and by what manner. These are all written down (there’s something in the act of writing that makes them a bit more real rather than having them just floating around in your head). I’ll write more about SMART goals in an upcoming post. Writing them down locks in a clear picture of what you want to achieve. The key is to test your goals against your vision. Ask yourself, “does successfully completing this goal move me closer to achieving my vision for the business?”

Those goals can work over different timeframes as well. Lets imagine that you set some 5-year goals for your business that then get broken down into a 3-year and a set of 1-year goals. You could go even deeper into quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily goals. Now you have an incredibly clear picture of what you want to achieve over any future time period!

  1. Now I can prioritize my work tasks very effectively. In the morning when I plan my day’s activities, I look over my list of tasks and ask myself:
  • “Do these tasks line up with my goals?” (in this case it could be daily, weekly or monthly)
  • “Does the stuff I’m planning on working on today move me closer to the completion of one or more of my goals?”

If the answers to these questions are no, why would I put energy into the task? Priority management becomes much easier when you are clear about what goals you are trying to achieve! (That is … you know where you want to get to.)

The prioritization of your daily and weekly tasks is then driven by the short, mid and long term goals you set for your business. And those goals are all aligned with achieving your business vision.

If establishing an effective goal framework is something you have been struggling with, perhaps it’s time to think about professional business coaching. Getting clarity in your vision and long term goals for you and your business is a critical element in effective business coaching. Lets talk about building a clear roadmap for your business.

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