I know that some micro-entrepreneurs find planning rather challenging — having to look months into the future and gauging what you can realistically achieve in that time can easily fill you with dread, especially if you have previous experience of not achieving goals.
Plans are often discarded as quickly as they are written — think New Year’s resolutions! This may not matter as much if you can afford to go with the flow. But if you can’t and need to get new clients or new projects to bring some money in, you’ve simply got to find ways to make goals work.
A key problem with goal setting
In my work as a business mentor I have noticed that it isn’t always the goals we struggle with, but the unrealistic time frames we set ourselves. Since we are not able to look into the future, many entrepreneurs find it really hard to estimate how long something will take us with any kind of certainty.
As a result, setting goals can easily turn into a guessing game.
Imagine the flying visit to the supermarket. You plan to do it in 15 minutes, but how often do 15 minutes turn into 30 minutes or more? Once, when completely reorganising my office, my estimate — two days — turned into four. Yet another time, I set aside half a day for some paperwork, which in reality only took me two hours.
If you find it hard to estimate the length of time something will take you in your business, it may impact how you manage your time and your projects. A friend’s extension is a good example: it took three months longer to finish than the builder had estimated!
Of course unexpected things do happen, and so it isn’t always easy to estimate whether your six-month goals will in reality take you four or ten months.
A few things you can do
You could play it safe and always add some buffer time to your goals.
But to become more accurate with planning, it is always a good idea to break a big project into smaller chunks.
For example, the goal of having ‘X new clients by the end of the next quarter’ is in reality made up of smaller goals and tasks: ensuring you have an attractive offering that your potential clients really want and communicating your new or revised offering.
This can be achieved via email marketing, networking, social media, securing new speaking engagements, attending exhibitions, running a workshop or whatever else applies to your business that brings in new business.
Each of these chunks is easier to quantify in units of time than simply aiming to ‘bring in new clients’!
And if you’re still not feeling confident with your estimates — quite normal if you’re doing this for the first time — then break each chunk down into even smaller chunks. Indeed the smaller the chunks are, the easier it is to estimate how long something will take.
Make sure you allocate some time for inevitable delays such as when you’re ill or are having to wait for other people’s input. Then, when you add up all the individual chunks you will have a much clearer way to estimate how long things ‘really’ take and will never be as behind as my friend’s builder — bingo!
What helps you to reach goals on time? Please share your tips with other readers below.
About the author: Ute Wieczorek-King provides business support for passionate fempreneurs who want to take their micro-business from good to great. Get Ute’s daily business tips on Facebook or sign up on the Success Network website to receive two free ebooks to help you grow your business and make it more profitable. http://www.successnetwork.org.uk
Copyright 2013 Ute Wieczorek-KIng