Last updated on February 22, 2019
If you want to achieve your goals for the year, there’s one thing you need to know...
There’s a BETTER way to plan your goals.
Today, I’m going to show you the EXACT strategies and frameworks I use to plan my personal and professional goals for the year.
I’ve learned these strategies from years of trial-and-error — and lots of conversations with 8-figure entrepreneurs.
In this post and podcast, you’ll learn 3 BIG things:
Let’s do this!
Before we do goals…
Start the year fresh by deleting all outstanding tasks from your inbox, your emails, and calendar.
I did this for the first time this year and I LOVED it. It felt so DAMN GOOD.
For example, in 2018 I had a lot of meetings that weren’t useful. After wiping things clean, it made me think “do I really need to be a part of this?” before I committed to new meetings.
Now let’s dive into how to set your goals...
The truth is we all know what we want. You know what you want (aka the stuff you actually enjoy doing).
Don’t distract yourself or avoid the important things. The new year is a time to step back and focus on what matters to you instead of just being reactive. Get ahead and plan the year that makes YOU happy...
Last year I did Ayahuasca for the first time (after years of saying I’d do it). I was scared to try it honestly. But it turned out to be one of the most powerful experiences in my life. Do what scares you this year.
What’s the hard decision you’re not willing to make?
— noah kagan (@noahkagan) January 30, 2019
I used to do YouTube because I felt like it was what I “should” do. But if I was true to myself I actually found podcasts much more fulfilling. So this year, I'm focused more on creating amazing podcast episodes for you.
If you feel stale or like you’re in a rut, change your environment. Last year I lived in Los Angeles for 3 months and it gave me great new perspectives.
My podcast listeners dropped by 40% last year because I stopped being consistent. When you pick your goals, follow through. Don’t stop like I did or get distracted by stuff from the sidelines.
Keep these 5 ideas in mind as you start your planning.
Next, here’s how to do your goal planning...
Sit down, grab a piece of paper, and write out a fantasy story of your life for the upcoming year.
Include how the year looks, how you feel… everything. Your story will help you get EXCITED for the year. And you can come back to it to motivate yourself again and again.
Maybe some of your goals are:
Include those in your fantasy story!
Here’s a snippet of my fantasy story:
“At the end of the year, my new house is nearly complete and I’m really proud of all the podcast content I put out this year. I got to meet an insane amount of great guests and had a really fun time doing it. The Sumo Charity rides were amazing -- can’t believe we did 4 of them across America!”
Imagine what you would want to do by the end of the year, and start your story there.
What sticks out to you about your story? Find your theme, turn it into a single word, and use that as your Word of the Year.
Your Word of the Year is your mantra. A simple and repeatable word.
My Word of the Year for 2019 is Power.
I chose Power because I want to take strong action to make decisions and create a better Sumo product this year.
TIP: Pick the word you want to think about everyday, week, month this year.
Here are some ideas from our readers:
You can check out the rest in the comments section below.
Now, let’s move onto the four goal categories for your personal goals.
Your work goal could be:
Don't be vague. Don't just say, “I wanna work more.” The more specific your goal, the more likely you are to achieve your goal.
Your goal could be a specific income goal, a certain email list size, or producing a podcast once a week -- keep it objective so you know when you reach it.
For your workout or health goal, have a challenge that you’re excited to achieve.
What's a challenge that will push you?
Maybe it’s going to the gym consistently every week. Maybe it’s going for a nice bike ride every week.
Take a step back and think about what workout goals are both challenging AND exciting for you.
For me, it’s to fight a legit sparring boxing match this year and biking 3,000 miles.
What are things in your personal life that you really want to accomplish?
As entrepreneurs, it’s easy to get a carried away with our work goals and forget about our personal goals.
Treating your personal life as secondary can spell disaster in the long run so it’s wise to make them part of your yearly goals as well.
Your personal goals could be:
Whatever it is, have one goal so you can have some space to keep your mind off work.
(Sometimes, time off work gives you even better ideas on how to run your business.)
One of my goals last year was to go to Lambeau Field, and watch the Packers win (and I did).
What are the places you want to visit?
Here are some of the places I want to visit this year:
Once you have all these four categories ironed out, put your special list of goals EVERYWHERE.
Put it on a sticky note on your fridge and mirror. Place a virtual sticky note on your phone and your laptop.
If you want to take it up a notch, find an accountability partner and email them. Here’s a script you can use:
One of my goals for this year is GOAL.
Do you mind being my accountability buddy?
Will help me make sure I do it. 🙂
Every month, I’ll email you a short, few sentence update on my goal progress.
Just would be grateful if you read the update, and challenge me if it looks like I’m slacking. You won’t hurt my feelings, I promise.
This list of goals also reminds you when to say NO to things that distract you.
One of my favourite books from the last decade Outwitting the Devil says something I LOVE…
Create a plan and don't drift.
The most successful people don't drift from what they want. Be strict and say no to anything that's not on this list. And to make your goals manageable, aim for 3-5 goals in each category.
|Leave a comment below with your goals. I’d love to see what you are doing this year. I’ll PERSONALLY check back with you in 6 months to see how you are doing.|
When you win the morning, you win the day.
How can you set your morning to help you hit your personal goals?
Here’s how my morning habits checklist looks like:
Once you’ve broken down your own morning goals into daily habits, use an app or website to make the process easier.
As the year goes by, it’s easy to get distracted by a new opportunity.
Save yourself from all distractions by creating an Evernote or text file, and add in any things you get interested in over the year.
Name the file ”Things To Do Next Year ”.
Keeping a separate file for next year makes you HYPER focused on the current year.
At the end of this year, you can take the file and make your fantasy story for next year.
If you run a business, create a separate set of goals to help you focus.
Here’s the 5-step process I use for my businesses:
We do this at both our main companies:
Sumo - the most affordable email marketing tool
AppSumo - #1 deals site for software online
We’ve grown to an 8-figure business, so we’ve worked hard to get our planning right (aka a LOT of trial and error over the past 8 years.)
Let's dive into every step we use to set our business goals...
Think about the most iconic business leaders. Leaders like Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffet. Every year they do shareholder letters.
Here are a few:
Writing a shareholder letter or annual company review helps you to:
It’s like a finely-tuned company diary that you can look back on year after year to see how far you’ve come.
You don’t need to go as crazy as Bezos. You can keep your review SIMPLE. Maybe one page or less. The key is to think at a high-level of what went well and what didn’t.
After you’ve written your annual company review, share it with your team.
The more open and honest you are about the business, the more open and honest they will be about the problems faced in your business.
The 80/20 rule, also known as the “Pareto Principle,” roughly means 80% of results come from 20% of activities.
With the 80/20 rule, we analyze our businesses and ask 3 questions…
Sit down, grab a warm cup of coffee and look at your company’s revenue sheets for the past year.
Identify which product, service, or activity drives most of the revenue for the company — this is your cash cow. This helps you understand what activities or divisions in your company to invest more time, money, and energy for the upcoming year.
After you’ve identified your cash cow, think back to the activities you did to grow that cash cow. What activities can you do more?
Also, what’s the 20% that takes up most of your time but doesn’t lead to much revenue?
This could include activities or even people who are underperforming.
Sometimes, you may find that a part of the business that you spend close to 80% of your time on only produces 20% of the revenue.
This is why it’s well worth the time to pause and get a pulse on how your company is generating revenue, and what you can optimize.
When it comes to business, I don’t spend a ton of time thinking about the competition or do a lot of competitive research.
Instead, I spend my competitive time thinking more high-level…
How could a competitor come in and win against our company?
You may be leading the pack today, but what about tomorrow? How would you pivot if your competitors came up with a killer app and eats up your market share?
To stop competitors from screwing you over, ask yourself:
“If you were to start your business today, what would you do?”
“What can you do long term that can protect your business in the long term?”
“What can a competitor do to get a leg up over you?”
Is it pricing? A new product feature? Is it strategy?
This doesn’t mean that you should spend all your time thinking about competition, but it is a healthy business “gut check” to make sure that you cannibalize yourself instead of your competitors.
This is what Zuck would say to us during my days at Facebook.
Your moat is your undeniable business advantage that is both defensible and repeatable.
Here are some examples of moats:
Moats aren’t just reserved for the big boys. Even a small company can have a moat.
One of the simplest moats to have is an undeniable guarantee.
For example, if I were a moving company looking to differentiate in the crowded moving market, a moat could be a 18-hour moving period or delivery is free.
For a SaaS business, a moat could be a 30-day money back guarantee.
Next thing to do is figuring out your repeatable business model. This relates to finding repeatable ways to get new customers.
In most cases, these would be your go-to marketing channels to acquire customers. These could be:
Once you find a marketing channel that works, KEEP DOING IT.
When I’ve found marketing channels in the past like Facebook Ads, we’re poured literally millions of dollars into them to keep them going.
Successful businesses have clear objective targets.
The more clear and concrete your business goal for the upcoming year, the more likely you’ll achieve it.
Here are 5 things to look out when setting your clear numerical goal:
For example, our goal for Sumo for Q1 and Q2 is simple…
Create a product that AppSumo LOVES.
That’s it. We’re not too worried about revenue or the number of customers.
Instead, our BIGGEST focus is creating a killer product that AppSumo wants to use and can replace their current system.
Put on blinders with your goal, and avoid getting distracted.
A word of warning when choosing your goal...
One of the mistakes I made was choosing different goals each year without considering the direction the company was taking.
For example, here’s how my (wrong) company goals looked like:
Changing the company goal year to year for the heck of it confused our team. Instead of building on top of the previous year, it felt kind of random.
Best to stay consistent with your annual company goals for focused growth and a happy team. Lesson learned. 🙏
Let’s say you want your business to make $1 million in a year, if you break it down -- you need to make $83,333 a month.
Questions to ask yourself:
Keep your spreadsheets stupid simple so you can see what's breaking and what you can control.
Here’s a goal spreadsheet we used for SendFox, our affordable email tool:
The purpose of your spreadsheet is to:
This is straightforward but what are the KEY metrics that affect that yearly goal you’ve chosen. And can you make a spreadsheet where throughout the year if you hit your monthly targets, you’ll achieve your yearly goal?
|Note: If you hit your goal in July, you planned the wrong goal. If you hit the goal in December, you made it right. You forecasted it accurately.|
So you picked your goal and modeled it out… how do you make sure it works?
Goal: What is the goal for the time period you want? At Sumo, we do monthly GMOs. At AppSumo, we’ve done quarterly and yearly GMOs.
As your business becomes more stable, you can do longer timeframes on your GMOs. If it’s a newer business (or in the case of Sumo we’re going back to basics), start with a shorter timeframe.
If your yearly goal is 5000 customers, how many do you need by the end of the first quarter? (In this case, it would be 1250 customers)
Key Metrics: What key indicators can you control to make sure your goal is on track?
This could be:
Outcome: What are concrete outcomes you want to do?
Ask: What do you want to get done that will guarantee your business grows?
My suggestion for outcomes are:
So it’s 4 days a week (working on concrete short term outcomes) and 1 day (working on a long term experiment.)
The long term experiment could be adding new features to your product, testing out marketing channels, etc.
|Note: You SHOULD be doing long-term experiments quarterly that cannibalize your business (otherwise your competitors will). These are things that will LIKELY not work or produce returns right away.|
This 4+1 strategy helps guide you to accomplish your goals for the year and run experiments that could lead to massive upside for your business.
If you’re just starting out, I highly recommend doing less things in this area. It’s far better for you to hit all of your few goals on time, than to miss on a lot of goals.
For example, check out the Sumo January GMO:
We kept it really simple — we wanted to build momentum, so we went easy on the projects.
When you miss your goals, it sets a bad precedent and it means you have poor discipline. It also means that you set it up incorrectly. Practice following through and accomplishing it. When you are more confident, then add more goals. Just add less stuff to start.
Have the habit to review your personal and business goals every week. If you are off track, fix what you are doing. If you are on track, just continue what you are doing.
Once you set on the path on following your goals, don’t forget to do a high-level check in at the 6-month mark.
At the 6-month mark, review if your goals are still the right goals.
For example, last year one of the goals I wrote was “Have more fun at work.” This turned out to be way too vague. Big mistake.
So I revised it to “Put out a product that I really like” -- and I succeeded 🙂
Places to visit
What’s the #1 goal you want to do this year? Leave a comment below.