Do you know what you want, what you really, really want in 2017? Because here we are at the beginning of yet another year and every hour you don’t have a plan is an hour lost to working on your plan. Hours lead to days, to weeks, to months and eventually a full year goes by. Will you get to December 31 with a list of successes or feel like you’ve been spinning your wheels? Because you won’t succeed without a plan. As a writer, I particularly love this New Year’s Eve quote from Brad Paisley:

“Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one.”

What will you fill your pages with this year? Hopefully, those blank pages will be filled with all the things you’re doing in the plan you’ve set out for yourself.

Finding purpose: What is your why?

Maybe your raison d’être hasn’t changed in the past year. Maybe it has. Identify what it is and then filter all of your plans through that purpose so you don’t go off course.

A goal without a plan is just a wish. -Antoine de Saint-ExuperySet goals: What do you want to accomplish?

Before you can start making big plans, you need to figure out what you want to do. There are lots of tools out there that can help you get started by defining and writing out your goals, from guided planners to apps to good old fashioned pen and blank paper. You don’t have to be fancy, but writing out your goals is the first step in planning for success. Writing out your goals is important. You’re more likely to achieve your goals when you write them down. But writing them down isn’t enough. Practice SMART goal-setting – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. Beyond that, be careful about setting goals that are actually desired outcomes. If you don’t have control over whether you can achieve it by taking action, it’s a desired outcome. Here’s an example of the difference:

Goal: Finish writing first draft of novel by May 31, 2017. (This is 100% under my control.)

Desired outcome: Get a book deal by end of 2017. (This is 100% out of my control, but there are goals I can set that will help me get this desired outcome.)

Calendar time: When do you need to take action?

Mark major milestones or deadlines in a calendar. I love these big wall calendars for laying out major dates on projects I need to work on. It gives me a visual snapshot of the big picture. I duplicate these dates in my electronic calendar to set reminders, but I refer to my wall calendar regularly to stay on track. Be firm with yourself about the dates you set. Whether you’re doing projects as a business owner, for professional development, or for personal growth, you don’t want to be so loose that you miss deadlines and start to think it doesn’t matter. It matters because you want to do it.

Accountability: Who can help support you?

Some people might be able to stay on track with personal, professional, and business goals, but most people need some kind of support or encouragement. There are lots of ways to do this:

  • Ask a friend to keep you accountable. Ideally, someone who is working toward the same or similar goal is best so you both have something to gain.
  • Start a mastermind to help you stay on track with your business activities so you have a safe place to be honest, get real feedback, and be challenged.
  • Hire a coach that will help challenge your thinking and actions while they encourage and push you toward achieving your goals.

Results: Where will you be at the end of the year?

With hard work and focus, I know you’ll look back at 2017 a year from now with a healthy list of achievements. Taking time to plan now will save you time and keep you focused as you get busy taking each small step toward the success you want.

Karen C. Wilson, WBN President
WBN President, 2016-17
Marketing Writer at Halogen Software