30-Minute Goal Setting Cheat Sheet

A Goal Setting Exercise for the Time-Challenged

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Goal setting doesn't have to be a long and complicated process. In fact, sometimes the more cumbersome it is, the less likely you are to see it through to the end. And what happens if you're really tight on time and just can't find the hours or days to dedicate to an intense goal setting process? Does that mean you should just skip it until next year? No! If you have just 30 minutes, you can follow these four simple steps below to create a goal for your small business.

Step 1: Find a Few Minutes to Reflect

The first step in this quick-action goal setting process is critical, and it could easily be the toughest of the steps. You won’t be able to focus on your goals if you are multitasking -- responding to emails, answering the phone, thinking about your to-do list, or juggling family commitments. Try to physically get away from your work, shut off the phone, turn off your computer, and just exist for a few minutes by yourself with your thoughts. Think about what you've accomplished recently and how far you've come since the last time you reflected.

Step 2: Pick a Theme

Now, grab a piece of paper and a pen; it's time to pick a topic or a theme for your goal. What one goal, wish or dream keeps popping up every time you think about the future? What do you want to accomplish more than anything else? What keeps you up at night? That should be your focus for this exercise.

Sometimes, this step can be accomplished by identifying just one word that encompasses what you hope to accomplish. For example, do you want to become more productive and organized in all aspects of your life? Perhaps "organize" is your theme. Or, do you want to create a goal focused on taking time off from work and more time for yourself?

Try "relaxation." You get the idea.

Step 3: Make an Action List

This step involves brainstorming every possible action that you may need to take in order to achieve your goal. Don’t worry about neatness and order, just get everything down on a piece of paper. For example, if your goal is to pay off a business credit card by the end of the year, your brainstormed list may include:

  • Reduce expenses
  • Review spending habits
  • Cut up credit card
  • Check for auto-payments attached to the card
  • Download a budget template
  • Create a budget
  • Figure out how much you can increase your monthly payments

Once you have written down everything you can think of, go back and break down each idea so it becomes a list of simple actions. For example, “reduce expenses” may become:

  • Cancel magazine subscription
  • Run an inventory check
  • Plan a sale to sell bulk inventory items
  • Pick one new online marketing activity to try

The good news is that you don’t have to create a comprehensive list right now, you just have to get started. As you begin to knock off the action items, you will find that new action items and ideas pop up all the time.

In fact, this list should be kept handy so you can add and revise as necessary.

Step 4: Make a Commitment

One of the biggest reasons people fail to achieve their goals is because they don’t make a commitment to see it through. You can overcome that hurdle by writing down your intentions on paper. It's almost like making a contract with yourself, making a promise that you will do one thing, even if it’s one small thing, to support your goal every day. 

Remember to take it one action item at a time, and to take time to pat yourself on the back for progress you make. Even the smallest action is better than inaction, so taking it step by step will get you closer to your goal every single day.

For more comprehensive goal setting help, see this Guide to Small Business Goal Setting and this introduction to setting SMART business goals.

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