There are plenty of experts who can help. The problem is that Expert 1 will tell you to do this and Expert 2 will tell you to do that. And when you search Google for guides and tutorials to help, somehow you wind up feeling even more overwhelmed than you were before.
There’s no way you can do it all at once.
And you know what? That’s you’re answer right there.
When I started my design business a few years ago, one of the first things I did was to create a list of everything I wanted to achieve over a 6-month period. Then I put my To-dos onto a spreadsheet with columns for January through May.
Here’s what my goals looked liked:
- get one $20K client
- write 4 blog posts
- launch a webinar
- create an ebook
- create an online course
- contact organizations for speaking engagements
- create a presentation
- Create a newsletter
…And even more stuff.
This is all great, and it definitely got me going in the right direction. But see the problem here? It’s completely unrealistic, especially given the fact that I was just starting out. I had never written a blog post, didn’t even have a topic for a webinar (forget about knowing how to create one!), and I had absolutely no idea how I was going to land a big client. Plus, I was clueless when it came to ebooks and guides.
It was too much. I actually stopped referring to my spreadsheet because February, March and April had the same exact goals as January. By trying to accomplish everything at once like this, I wound up with the same goals rolling over to the next month.
I couldn’t achieve any one of the goals on my list. And more importantly, I didn’t know HOW to achieve them.
I kept staring at my list thinking, “Ok, I want to get a big client, start a blog, do a webinar, create an abook. Now what? Where’s the big client coming from? How’s the webinar coming together? No idea…”
Then one day I realized that I was tracking the wrong goals. Even though writing down “get one big client” looked great on paper, it was a completely empty goal. And believe me, I worked at getting that client every day! I sent emails, reached out to subscribers, called friends and family, sent connection requests. I knew I was getting close, but something was off.
I decided to break everything down into simple steps. I needed an action plan.
Here’s what finally worked
I picked just two of the goals to drill down on (get a big client and start a blog). Then I broke the two goals down into smaller tasks and created milestones for each of them. For the client goal I decided to focus on how many connections, contacts, and emails I would send each month, and for the blog I started by picking a topic and writing my first blog post (which seems pretty straightforward now, but I was stumped on the whole blog thing at the time).
Once I drilled down on two goals instead of eight, my list started to look like this:
- Post in 2-3 Facebook groups
- Post in 2-3 LinkedIn groups
- Send LinkedIn invitations to 500 people
- Pick 3 target industries
- Create a prospect list for first industry
- Create an email sequence to send to prospects
- Sign up for a Quickmail.io free trial
- Write a 700 word blog post about web strategies
Now I had measurable goals that I could really dig into.
The 3-Step Action Plan
What helped me narrow down my goals is a simple 3-step action plan. Here’s how it works: you take your high level goals and break them down into months, then weeks, then days using my Time Block Template. For instance, a 6-month plan gets broken down into:
- One month goals; and then
- One week goals; and then
- A daily To-do list
With the action plan, I drill down on specific tasks related to my monthly goals, PLUS any personal things that need to get done like exercising, errands, breakfast, and so on. I throw everything in there and estimate how long each task will take to complete. By including both personal and professional tasks on the list, I have a more accurate view of the week and fewer surprises that come up. There are times when I’m over-ambitious and estimate 4 hours for what should be an 8-hour task. When that happens, I use what I learn to forecast it more accurately the next time.
Once I have the list of tasks for the week, I put them on a visual calendar. I take my To-do list and block out hours on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and so on. I can’t even tell you how much this step has helped me. It’s like turning your to-do list into an infographic where you see exactly what you need to do and when you need to do it. No more questions, no more scratching your head, no more wasting time.
Every Sunday night I make a new calendar so I’m full-steam ahead come Monday morning. At the end of each day, I tweak the rest of the week depending on what I was (or wasn’t) able to accomplish. No matter how much we plan, there are always unexpected things that are going to come up, and that’s okay. That’s why the action plan is there. I can shift tasks around and edit the next day until I get it all in there.
The best part? I’m not overwhelmed anymore. There are only so many time blocks in a week. Once they’re full, everything else just rolls over to the next week.
Tip: I recommend jotting down your 6 month goals so you have a starting point for your goals. For instance, what things absolutely must be done immediately (get clients), and which ones can wait until next week or even next month (tweak website, update social profiles)? If you decide that you need clients immediately, make sure to put it on the top of your list.
To grab a copy of my Time Block Template, download it below: