Most people and businesses spend time at the end of the year or the beginning of the New Year setting new personal and business goals.
For example, you may have set some SMART goals for yourself or your business.
Companies set annual operating plan goals that tell them where they’ll spend their resources (money and employee time) to hit those goals.
You probably did something similar, setting out monthly, weekly, and maybe even daily tasks you need to achieve to hit your goals for the year.
But if you’re like over 90% of people, you are likely already sliding off track.
It seems almost inevitable, doesn’t it?
Overcoming the Odds
It doesn’t have to be that way, though.
Did you know airplanes are off course 99% of the time? Brian Tracy talks about this in his book Flight Plan: The Real Secret of Success. In it, he says you are the pilot of your life; you will be off course 99% of the time; and you must be prepared to make continuous course corrections.
The secret is how you do that.
And there is no shortage of advice out there around the subject.
Many makers of productivity planners, time management courses, and other self-help gurus have great advice on how you can accomplish that course correction.
The below process is borrowed from a new productivity planning system I am trying this year.
It resonated with me for two reasons. One, it aligns with how I’ve done goal-setting and performance measurement in my corporate career. And two, it lets me see over time that I’m getting better.
Let’s align first on why goals aren’t enough…
The Importance of Goal-Setting AND Measurement
As a manager of a large, global contact center for many years, I had anywhere from 10-40 internal employees, and at any given time, hundreds of outsourced agents across multiple vendors… and I was responsible for their performance.
I couldn’t just set goals for them at the beginning of a year or even a quarter and then hope they achieved those goals. My year-end bonus, at the very least, and often the safety of my job, was tied to how all those other people did their jobs.
So our operational team identified key measurements that would indicate we were on track, or not, toward our goals.
We tracked those measurements daily, weekly, monthly.
And then we met with each person involved and talked to them about how they were doing. We congratulated them for what they were doing well. And we worked with them when they were off track to see how we could get them back on track.
Your freelance business might not involve hundreds of people around the world, but that makes it even more dependent on your specific performance.
Let’s say one of your goals is to stabilize your income by adding in a few retainer clients.
Now you have to decide how to accomplish that goal.
For those kinds of client situations, you generally need to either create relationships with existing one-off clients or form new relationships with a “higher quality” of client.
You decide on the actions you need to take to start building those relationships.
But after a couple of weeks, you’re still “in the process” of implementing those actions… you haven’t actually taken any steps yet.
Setting goals, breaking them down into monthly, weekly, and even daily actions is critical to achieving those goals.
But if you actually want to achieve your goals, you need a measurement process. How else will you know how far off course you are and how you need to course correct?
The Two-Week Review Process — Step 1
At the end of each day, as you work on your schedule for the next day, you probably had some number of today’s actions you took… and some number you didn’t. You likely forwarded the incomplete tasks to the next day… or the next… or the next.
As a self-confessed procrastinator, this is a daily ritual for me.
I’m presuming, though, that those actions you had on your daily list were there because you felt you needed to do them to achieve your goals.
So by forwarding them into the future, you are most likely also forwarding the achievement of your goals further into the future too.
The first part of your bi-weekly review process, then, is to look at your calendar or your planner over the previous two weeks.
Make a list of the things you planned to do and did… and take some time to congratulate yourself. Maybe add these to your gratitude journal. Great job! You picked some goals and you took actions to achieve those.
Now, make a list of the things you forwarded into the next day and the next day… And ask yourself this question: why did you not get these done? The surface answer will probably be the same for everyone: you ran out of time.
But you did spend your day accomplishing things. Just not these things. Why not?
Are they really actions you need to take to achieve your goals? If not, you probably should cross them off your list of to-dos — they’re just adding stress when you see them unfinished each day.
If they are things that need to be done to achieve your goals, though, what can you do before your next two-week review to get them done?
Do you need to break them into smaller chunks? Or tweak them so they’re easier to accomplish? Maybe stop doing something else to fit them in?
The Two-Week Review Process — Step 2
Next, review your overall goals. Has anything changed? Are those still your most important 5-8 goals for the next XX (90?) days?
If you’re doing the right things, taking the right actions, you’re going to start achieving some of your goals over the course of the year.
As you do that, you may want to add different goals in, with different sets of actions.
For example, let’s say you get two retainer clients in the first three months of the year. Between them and your regular work, you now have a full work schedule.
Are you going to continue taking the actions you were taking to bring in new retainer clients?
Or are you maybe now going to make it a goal to speed up your writing or improve your writing in some way that allows you to accomplish the work they want you to do in less time?
Once you’re sure you’ve got the goals you really want to achieve lined up with actions to achieve those goals, you’re ready for…
The Two-Week Review Process — Step 3
In the corporate world, we live by the mantra “what gets measured, gets done.”
All those agents I managed had a set of daily, weekly, and monthly productivity and quality targets they had to hit.
When you look at how you’re doing in your business, against your goals, you’ll want to take a similar approach.
Since you’re the only one (often) earning income for your business, you need to be healthy and have energy, so you should have some sort of health goals on your score sheet — nutrition, exercise, sleep.
But you’re also the creative genius in your business, so how did you do with blocking enough time to do your best writing? Did you fill up your calendar with so much “stuff” you didn’t have time to create? And you’re your own marketing team (probably): how effectively did you use your marketing time over the two-week period to build your business?
Of course, you’ll also want to score yourself on how closely you stuck to your daily action plans for your business as well.
And again, do some self-assessment: if you didn’t score as well as you’d have liked in certain categories, what changes do you need to make to improve those scores?
Over time, your review scores should continue to improve as you build habits that allow you to take more of the right actions each day to hit your business and personal goals.
Results for Freelance Copywriting Success
If you just “set it and forget it”… you’re likely to wind up in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with nowhere to land.
But if you spend time every couple of weeks reviewing your performance, celebrating your wins, assessing why you didn’t achieve some things, and recalibrating your actions for the next two weeks…
You’ll successfully land that airplane right where you want it to be at the end of the year.