Re-evaluating The Use Of Goals

At the moment I’m reading a book by Scott Adams, the author of Dilbert, called, “How To Fail At Everything And Still Win Big”.  I find Adams witty in his writing – it’s conversational, self-deprecating and at times, a bit glib.  Having worked in an office on technology projects for nearly twenty years, Dilbert is part documentary, part horoscope for me.

The premise of the book overall is that Adams was a successful failure.  He throws himself into things knowing he might fail but always looking selfishly for the things he can take away from those experiences to set himself up next time to improve his odds of success.  It’s not my way of doing things, but he makes a bunch of strong, common sense arguments for his methodology.

One big theme in the book that he repeats a few times is that “Goals are for losers”.  He relates goals to wishing and that’s not a strategy for success.

This topic has resonated with me a fair bit over the last few weeks as I’ve been thinking about the Casual Marketer business and how 2017 is shaping up for me.

A couple things jump out at me.

First of all, I had a “goal” to start and run not one but two podcasts this year.  I didn’t have topics or formats, but I had a goal.  I promptly stuck that goal up on my imaginary vision board and felt good about myself for having a goal… Yay me!

The second “goal” I had was to write and publish over 300,000 words this year.  To achieve this goal I said that I would write a daily email to my list that was generally between 750 – 1500 words and I’d write the monthly newsletter for members with each of those being about 5000 words.  In effect, I created a system to achieve my goal.

So, we’re in late October and where am I at with achieving my goals?

Well, I’ve started exactly zero podcasts.  I’ve toyed around with a few ideas and I struggled with landing of a format that excited me to do AND would be interesting for listeners.  In effect, this goal was not achieved and really went nowhere.

Conversely, this is day 269 of consecutive emails to you and I’ve published north of 350,000 words so far this year.  I’ll get 400,000 for sure with an outside shot at 500,000 which staggers me to think about.

The difference is pretty simple – for publishing my 300,000 words this year, I set a goal, but then I underpinned it with a system that I could use to easily achieve the goal if I merely stuck to the system.  On the other hand, the podcast goal had nothing behind it, not even a well-formed idea, so it didn’t get done.

Without a system or a process, your chances of success plummet.  Systems and processes create muscle memory and form habits.  If it gets to 10pm and I’ve not written my daily email I can’t focus and I start to feel this urge to sit down and write.  My body is telling me, “Hey mate, you have to do this!  This is our thing!”  I’ve now trained myself to do this.

The other upside is that once you have a system in place, the whole thing just becomes easier to achieve.  I know that every single day I need to write an email so I need a topic to write about.  If at any point during the day I think of an angle or a hook for the email, my brain kicks into gear, I make a mental note and I write the angle down so that I don’t forget the idea.  My brain is always scouring the environment for email topics – it’s on autopilot now.

Which leads me to 2017 and my business plans.  They are pretty formative at this point, I haven’t actually nutted them out in too much detail but at a 30,000ft view, 2017 is going to be about scaling Casual Marketer.  I know what I want to do and where I want it to go, but I’m now spending my time thinking about the process needed to make that happen.

For example, I need and want to get more traffic.  I didn’t really focus much attention on gaining traffic in 2016 as I was working on bedding in systems and processes to regularly generate the necessary content.  The past few days I’ve been thinking about the things I have to do on a regular basis and at a more foundational level to generate more traffic.  I’m thinking of building a traffic generation system.

The takeaway from all this is that I’m going to stop having goals and targets in isolation – every goal or target that I set will have a plan wrapped around it and a process underpinning the execution.  If I can’t figure out how to do that, it goes back into the “ideas cupboard” until I can work out a solution.

It comes down to time and bandwidth.  If you’re running a business in your spare time as a side hustle project like I am, you don’t have the time to focus on aspirational stuff without any firm plan in place about how to achieve it.  There’s a ton of stuff that I want to achieve that I can put processes around that will give me a better chance of being successful – that’s the kind of stuff I’m going to my time on going forward!

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