Last week, we decided what our top 5 most important goals for the year would be.
We started with 25 things that we'd like to do, and whittled them down to the 5 essentials. Hopefully, one of those 5 goals is something huge! It's a dream you've wanted to pursue for a while.
It's that blog you've been wanting to start, that new modern line of pottery you want to create, or that revenue goal for your business that feels a bit daring.
Once you determine your big goal – that great big plan of yours that you know can be achieved in the next year – you’ll need to break it down into much smaller projects and tasks. At this point, it can be really easy to keep your to-do list vague without even realizing it.
For example, you know that if you want to grow your blog audience by 10,000 readers per month, that it’s going to require writing more content, and killer content at that. So every week, “blog post” will find its way onto your list.
Should you just keep it at that, though? Perhaps you have a few ideas swimming around in your head. Why not just wait until you have 2 uninterrupted hours to write, sit down, mull over your topic, and get going?
Let me show you why this isn't a great idea.
Have you ever told your preschooler, “Holden, it’s time to get dressed!” “Ok, Mommy!” you hear a pleasant voice shout back. Thirty minutes later, you walk into Holden’s room to find him in his undies with his sneakers on, struggling to pull his jeans up over his shoes. His shirt is on backwards and inside out, and by the way, he’s pulled out his entire truck collection to play.
“Maaaaaaybe he could have used a bit more supervision,” you think to yourself.
Sometimes our brains can be just like that well-intentioned preschooler: believing they can do it, but easily distracted, and for some reason always just a bit sticky. “Seriously, where is he getting all of this candy? And will he ever finish a lollipop all in one sitting?”
I have the answers for you: The candy is coming from the grandparents and that kid at preschool with the lumpy pockets; and no, he will NEVER finish a lollipop in one sitting. Just let that dream die right now. I'll give you a moment of silence to grieve.
Ok, now that we're back on track. It's important to remember that our brains need supervision too. Phew! Anyone see the irony in the words I just typed? Clearly, I need to take my own advice!
The Importance of Being Specific
Have you ever sat down with your two precious hours…perhaps your only two hours on any given day that you can call your own, and wondered two hours later why you got so little done? Maybe your brain is way more advanced than my preschooler version, but when I give myself the vague task of writing a blog post, this is what happens:
Peruse Facebook and Twitter to see what my favorite business bloggers are writing about. Oh wait, my friend just posted family photos – oh my goodness, how cute are those?! Her props and outfits are so cute. I guess it wouldn’t hurt things too much if I just spent a few minutes on Pinterest looking for photo prop ideas. I mean, it’s on the list to get some new family photos….
One hour later, I’ve got some great family photo ideas, several new recipes to try, and new outfits that I just have to have. “Oh no!” I look at the clock and realize I have one hour left to get this post researched, written, polished, and published.
I frantically hunt, write run-on sentences, misspell several words, and format the post in a way that makes no sense. I snag a random photo, add some text, and voila!
Turns out – this post is nothing groundbreaking. I was rushed. I didn’t have enough time to approach anything from a new angle. I might get a few readers to pop over and take a look, but no one will be sharing this one. No one will care enough to comment. It’s been done before.
Come to think of it, this blog of mine reminds me a lot of my preschooler’s room: Full of things he loves, but always a bit disorganized. It's not quite the bright, fun, creative haven that I’d love to show off to all of my friends.
The directions we give to ourselves should look more like the ones we give to our preschoolers:
1. Take off your PJ pants 1. Decide what topic to discuss
2. Take off your socks 2. Write an outline of the key points you want to include
3. Put on your new socks 3. Fill in each point with anecdotes and how-to’s
4. Put on your new pants 4. Write a compelling intro that places your reader in the story.
5. Take off your shirt 5. Create a post title that’s short, to-the-point, but compelling
6. Put on your new shirt 6. Create a gorgeous cover photo with title overlaid
7. Comb and smooth your hair 7. Spell-check, format, and SEO for the post
Even within this list, you can see that many of these steps can be broken down even further. Perhaps you need to research and cite some sources for your post. This is a separate point. Creating a cover photo can involve hunting for a stock photo, downloading, uploading to your photo editor program, adding text, and cropping to the right size.
Every step has steps within the step.
(That either sounded really confusing or really profound….you be the judge!)
Be as specific as you can be with each task on your list. This will keep you focused. There’s no room for wandering onto Facebook or into your Inbox when you have your outline in front of you, and your next job is clearly outlined for you.
Step-by-Step: Accomplish Your Goal
Here’s another example: Maybe you’re working on a new project such as launching a podcast. Which list of tasks will help you accomplish your goal in a more efficient manner?
1.) Launch a podcast for moms who have small businesses while spending time with their children.
1.) Decide on a title and tagline for your mom business podcast.
2.) Purchase a domain name.
3.) Set up Web Hosting, WordPress, Genesis, and purchase a Site Theme. (This is really 4 separate steps!) We personally love Bluehost for web hosting and Restored316Designs is where we purchased our theme. (Affiliate link, but only because we love them!)
4.) Brainstorm at least 10 moms to reach out to for an interview.
5.) Pick 3 moms you already know so you can get a few yes's under your belt.
6.) After listening to several other interview-style podcasts, decide on the questions you will ask in each episode.
7.) Draft your “ask email” including an intro, the things you admire about that business mom, some answers to frequently asked questions, the timeline, potential dates for the interview, and the questions you'd like to ask.
8.) Plan to do your initial interviews with friends in person until you figure out Skype Recording.
9.) Research and order microphones for you and Sarah.
10.) Research recording and editing software.
11.) Nail down sound quality for your guests – what equipment and software do they need.
12.) Do a test group Skype call with Sarah, Beth Anne, and Mom to test software and sound quality.
13.) After test call, hone your recording strategy.
14.) Watch tutorial videos on sound editing and learn how to edit audio.
15.) Schedule 5 interviews in advance.
16.) Record our intro episode.
17.) Write an intro blog post.
18.) Set up accounts on social media
19.) Set up an email account.
20.) Edit our first few episodes
21.) Write show notes on the episodes.
22.) Create cover photos for each episode.
23.) Sign up for a podcast-hosting service.
24.) Buy an ID3 editor to tag podcast episodes
25.) Create podcast cover art.
26.) Tag first 3 podcast episodes and upload to podcast hosting service.
27.) Submit Podcast Feed to Podcast Directories such as iTunes
I bet you didn't think it'd take 28 steps or more to start and launch a podcast. It's true that the second list looks a lot more overwhelming than the first. It might even dissuade you from getting started.
On the other hand, the second list makes the project realistic. Now you’re going in with a clear picture of everything that needs to be accomplished and in what order. Step by step, day by day, as you go through each task on the list, you’ll accomplish your goal.
It's All in the List
You can set a due date for your Big Goal and work backwards to determine due dates for each step, or you can realistically estimate how long each step will take, and a set a due date based on that. Either way, having a due date and someone to hold you accountable is key. I'll discuss that more in another post!
If you choose to follow list 2, I have to warn you that you may miss out on some things. There’s a good chance you’ll have no idea what everyone is talking about on Facebook. You may miss out on that webinar on SEO from your favorite online business guru. You’ll have less hearts on your posted-less-often Instagram photos.
It’s completely your choice. If you’d rather have the latter (and let’s face it, I could look at cute pictures of your kids on Insta all day – they make me smile!) that’s completely fine. Every little choice we make has a trade-off.
In this case, the trade-off for Sarah and I would have been not getting the chance to meet some of the most amazing, talented moms on the planet. Connecting with and encouraging other moms just like us. Making online friends who share our passions and priorities. Learning and growing from the support we receive in our community. Feeling that we get to make a difference, even if it's a small one, each and every day.
That's not a trade-off we're willing to make. The podcast took a lot of work and planning to launch, but it has been so worth it!
Whether it's creating a new product line, launching a blog, growing your customer base, or increasing revenue, there are so many little steps that will be necessary to help you get there.
Take time today to brainstorm the steps involved. That single goal will quickly turn into 5 smaller goals, then each of those may have their own 5 steps. Keep breaking down your tasks until they're as specific as possible. You'll probably have to organize and re-organize your list so that it makes sense and flows logically.
Leave some space to add and revise your list as you work, but whatever you do: make that list! Your brain will thank you…probably in the form of a sticky high-five and some half-finished lollipops 🙂
~ Beth Anne