goals: how to plan for the year ahead (2021)
With 2020 behind us most of us will be feeling like we have just about got out the other side. The thought of having to plan for the year 2021 might seem like the most stupid idea based on the most upside down year we have just had! However, clearly laid out goals can be very motivating and are as important now as they ever have been, especially when the future of our businesses and the world we live in feels so uncertain.
people with goals achieve 10 x more than those with no goals
Before we can start to plan for the year ahead we must know what has gone well over the past 12 months and also what not so well. Spend a few minutes writing down your top 5 wins for the year and 5 things you would do differently.
For example one of your wins might be adapting to restrictions and creating an online class and something you would do differently might be to post more regularly on social media. It is really important with exercises like this that if you want to, you just keep writing. Don’t feel like you have to stop at 5. If you feel like you have achieved loads then just let it flow onto the paper. Likewise, if you feel you have had a year where you would change lots of things, just keep writing about it.
write it down
Committing to paper can really make you realise what you have and haven’t achieved over the course of a year. It can be a real eye opener particularly if you are feeling a bit flat about not hitting all your goals, as seeing them written down can show you how much you have achieved. On the other hand, if getting dressed every day or managing one hour of homeschooling a day is a big win, then get that down on paper too!
Once you have done this, start visualising yourself in 2021 at various points throughout the year. Can you see yourself winning an award, or doing this exercise at the end of the year and feeling really proud of what you are writing down in that first exercise? Perhaps you see yourself spending more time with your family because you have created a better work/home life balance and are making the most of being around the house more?
post it notes
Once you start to visualise these things, write each goal on a post it note. They don’t need to be in any order or make particular sense at this stage, we will organise everything later during the yearly planning. The things you are visualising don’t just have to be work related they can be family orientated, to do with your health, holidays or trips you might want to take or financial goals you want to hit. Maybe you want to buy a new house next year, stop smoking or run your first marathon?
Once you have your post it notes of things you want to achieve, organise your goals into one of the following categories. The easiest way to do this is to put a coloured dot on each post it note:
Now this may look rather overwhelming, loads of post it notes with different coloured dots, and lots of things you want to achieve in a relatively small space of time! But don’t panic. We are going to organise them into manageable stepping stones so you have the most productive 2021 yet!
The best way to look at the year is to break it down into quarters.
Q1: January - March
Q2: April - June
Q3: July - September
Q4: October - December
I like to think of each quarter as 90 days and I then refer to each section of the year as its own 90 day plan.
It is VERY important to say at this stage that if you don’t start in January don’t worry. But don’t feel like you can’t start. Just start your quarter on whatever date you want to. If you end up looking at this in a months time that is totally fine!
Next take a large sheet of paper and split it into 4 columns. Title each column Q1-Q4. You can then start to move your post it notes around the paper and organise them into your columns. It is really easy at this stage to chuck everything into Q1 as you are probably really motivated at this point and think you can achieve anything! Which is great, but you need to remain realistic…
realistic time frames
The easiest goals to start with are those that are date set. By this I mean the time you have to achieve them in, is out of your control. For example, if you want to run a marathon and the date of the marathon isn’t until September you won’t be able to achieve that goal in Q1, it has to be set for Q3, but you can factor your training into the earlier quarters. Same goes with winning an award. If the award ceremony isn’t until Q4, you won’t be able to win it in Q2. However, you can start to plan for these goals in earlier quarters, and that is where we start to break down our goals.
Let’s go back to the goal of running a marathon. Let’s say you haven’t really done much running at all before, so running a marathon is going to take a lot of training. Q1 you might hope to be able to run a 10k race, why not sign up to a 5k and a 10k by the end of Q1. Then moving through the quarters aim for your distances to become much longer. Perhaps try and run a half marathon by the end of Q2.
The same goes for winning an award, think about what your business needs to do to achieve the award, perhaps you need to survey some of your customers to find out what you are doing well, and what not so well. Speak to your team and see what ideas they have, their different perspective on your business will promote interesting feedback. You will also need to allow time on your yearly plan for entering the award. Often these things can be quite lengthy and also require lots of supporting material from your business which can take a while to compile.
Financial goals are also goals that can take longer to achieve. Perhaps you have set the goal of paying yourself a certain amount by the end of 2021, you will need to break down this goal so you know it is achievable. Say you want to have paid yourself £50,000 by the end of the year. A £10,000 pay rise on last year. How many extra clients do you need to bring in to make that goal realistic? How many more cakes do you need to sell? How can you increase your prices or decrease your costs to help you achieve that goal?
balance your goals
By now you should have quite a decorated piece of paper with lots of different post it notes across the quarters of the year. Remember at this point to keep it all realistic. If you put too much on there you are likely to achieve even less as you can become overwhelmed.
Also look at the balance of goals. Try not to have everything business related in one quarter and all your personal goals in another. Try to have a little bit of each category in each quarter.
Now at this stage you should have goals and targets balanced across the quarters of the year. You will also need to keep in mind busy times of the year. If you know you busiest season is Quarter 4 gearing up to Christmas, then avoid putting too much in that section. Like wise if you know you want to have most of the summer off when your children break up from school, keep that part of the year fairly free.
By getting to this point of your yearly planning you should have a clear idea of what you want to achieve and just how manageable it is. You should have your year laid out in front of you and you can then move on to tackling a quarter at a time.
The next thing to do is to transfer the first 3 quarters into a 90 day plan.
We go into more detail on this in our full length video tutorial called Planning for the Year Ahead inside the Academy.