Smart goal setting doesn't have to be complicated. (Credit: Unsplash)
Smart goal setting doesn’t have to be complicated. (Credit: Unsplash)

Happy New Year! Time to set those goals and then get back to work…right? Not quite.

Taking some extra time to truly think about your goals and determine next steps you need to take will —  in my experience — increase your chances of actually accomplishing those goals. Because at the end of the day, goals are nothing unless you act upon them.

Here’s how to turn your 2019 goals into steps that will get the job done:

1. Identify what you want to accomplish.

This can be something strictly professional, like adding a blog to your marketing plan. Or maybe it’s more personal, like getting to know new people or starting a career shift.

Be careful not to make what you want to accomplish too broad. Saying, “I want to spend more time with people in 2019” sounds great when you’re small-talking at a NYE party. Go deeper. But what kind of time and what kind of people? Are you looking for potential clients, your next long-term partner, or a new friend group? What do you want to do with these people? If you join a hiking group but aren’t outdoorsy, you’re probably not going to enjoy the time you spend with these new people. So think about what you’re interested in and the kinds of relationships you want to form, and let those be your guides.

[Related: Networking Tips for Those Who Seriously Dislike Networking]

2. Identify why you want to accomplish this goal.

Identifying the “why” of the matter gives you a deeper connection to the goal because it forces you to determine how important that goal really is to your life. When you locate a reason that’s close to your heart, you have a greater chance of finding the motivation to make the goal a reality.

I had to consider the “why” when I decided, about a year ago, to move back to Atlanta after living full-time in the countryside. My husband needed to be closer to his work, for shorter commutes. I, too, needed to spend less time driving to my teaching and speaking engagements to ease stress and mazimize my productivity. Why did we need those things? Because along with our daughter, we needed to spend more quality time together as a family.

Goals are an opportunity to cut out what’s no longer working, like us and the countryside. But you won’t get there without first asking “why.”

[Explore more articles offering advice and tips for women entrepreneurs all along the entrepreneurial journey.]

3. Be realistic about your goals.

The old “reach for the stars” mantra always leaves out one crucial detail: there are tons of steps in between you and those stars. So while aiming high is wonderful and necessary, you need to be realistic about where you are on your path.

Sometimes that’s just a matter of finances: you want a celebrity-fit body but can’t afford a celebrity-level personal trainer. There are plenty of options that are just as effective, and it pays to do a little research and find them and possibly adjust your goal.

Other times, your aspirations are just bigger than your time or motivation allow for. I encounter this a lot when clients talk about starting a blog. Sure, it would be great if all of us could post twice a day, five days per week, but most people are unable to commit that much to something they’ve never done, at least at first.

To make your goals realistic, start small. Write a blog post once per month, if that’s all you think you can handle. Or include hiring a writer to help you make those posts happen to your goal list. You can always work up to five. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with big intentions; just be sure to have something to back them up with.

[Related: 5 Marketing Stunts That Turned Heads in 2018 (And What We Can Learn From Them)]

4. Write out the steps that need to happen.

This is a very simple, yet overlooked part of the process. Writing out goals helps them happen. It makes them real and tangible. In addition to the goal, write out the tasks that have to happen in order to reach your goal. Make it easy; use a bullet-point list.

If you want to start blogging, you need to set aside time in your calendar to write and choose a list of topics you can cover. If you absolutely do not have the time to write and need to hire help, creating a job description and looking for writers might be added to your list.

These steps may seem small at first, but over time, the process starts to make the goal feel like a reality you’re inching toward. When you start to see results, you’ll become addicted to them. That won’t happen overnight, but it’s these little steps, along with patience and persistence, that will ultimately help you choose the right goals and meet them in the coming year, making a big difference in your personal and professional life.

[Need more inspiration? Listen to our podcast series about women entrepreneurs]

Lorrie Thomas Ross, MA is a marketing expert on a mission to help more women brand, build and boost business to be happier, healthier and wealthier. Her agency, Web Marketing Therapy® is a full-service marketing agency that diagnoses, prescribes and guides healthy marketing solutions. Her Wild Web Women® community supports women in launching and growing web-based businesses. She wrote the McGraw-Hill 36-Hour Course to Online Marketing and several (now Linkedin Learning) courses.