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If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else…said the great Yogi Berra. Isn’t that the truth? 

The other day, my youngest son, Vance (he’s sooo stinkin’ cute and has the best spirit!), was working with his legos. This kid is a lego freak. It’s truly the only activity that will keep him occupied for hours…other than throwing a football, that is. 

Anyway, sometimes I work with him, but honestly, he likes to build his own creations and that’s his “quiet time.” So, I was just watching him. I know life gets crazy busy, but have you ever watched a kid build something with legos? It’s kind of fascinating.

For Vance, he will set out his legos on the table. He gets out the instructions for how to build whatever the “thing” is on the box. He then sorts and groups the pieces based on which part of the “thing” he must build first. He’s very meticulous and will get a little snarky if you mess with his groupings. (wink emoji)

Here’s the cool part though. When it comes to building his creations, he has a plan…and by golly, you don’t mess with the kid’s plan. I must admit that as his mama, his intentions of adhering to his lego designs and plans makes my heart so happy!

Whether you’re a 7-year-old lego guy or a 44-year-old working momma, having a roadmap and a few instructions along the way helps you achieve your goals. 

Here’s the deal, ya’ll. When it comes to getting crap done, you’ve GOT to have a plan. Otherwise, you waste time wandering around without any clear purpose or destination in mind. 

So, why is it we spend more time planning what to wear for Halloween or the family vacation, but we don’t plan for what we want out of life or work? I get it. It all seems very daunting…and, truth: I think we’re afraid to be accountable sometimes. It can be uncomfortable. 

Learn to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Make a plan that’ll help you clarify your priorities and spend time on the things that’ll move your needle. Once you’ve identified those priorities, it’s easier to understand what you need to say no to…in other words, you say yes to things that align to you priorities and no to the things that don’t.

Last week, I was talking about how purpose is the antidote for distraction. This week, I want to give you a few thoughts that’ll help you develop a plan to achieve your purpose and goals. I’m sure some of you have experience with SMART goals and planning (especially my educator friends!), but for those who don’t, you can read more about it on one of my favorite websites at www.mindtools.com

Let me first say that SMART goals aren’t the end-all, be-all. It’s really more of a guide to help you think through how to plan and achieve a goal. I’m a firm believer that you’ve gotta keep it simple, be flexible and switch things up a bit if you find that your initial plan isn’t quite working for you. Regardless, you gotta get going by having a plan and make course adjustments along the way.

Here’s the scoop on SMART planning and goal setting.

S – Be SPECIFIC with your goals. If you’re going to plan a large event, be specific with exactly what you want the end outcome to look like. This is the “who, what and where” of your goal. Ask the questions of who needs to be involved, what do we want to accomplish, and where should this happen? 

When planning a trauma-informed workshop with a big-name speaker at the State Department of Education in Oklahoma, I was specific on who should be invited because it can’t be everyone (as the saying goes…if you’re serving everybody, you’re serving nobody). So, I spent some time talking with colleagues about exactly WHO needed to be at this event? What should be our speaker’s talking points…what do our guests need to hear from him? What do we need to ensure are the key takeaways? Where will this event take place?

M – It’s important to MEASURE your goals. This is a big one for those of you managing teams. It is critically important to have checkpoints along the way as you’re working through a project. Checkpoints are a great tool to ensure your team is on the “same page” and that you’re making progress. 

But, here’s the thing about measurements in general. Make sure you are crystal clear on your purpose so measurements align to the goal. I do believe in the concept of keeping things simple. 

Collecting too many data points distracts from your purpose. I’ve worked with organizations that collected so much data that it quickly became information overload and then trying to process it…well, talk about a mess to digest it all. 

I found this great quote from Albert Einsten, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” This applies to your measurement goals…if you don’t understand your purpose well enough, you’ll struggle figuring out what to measure.

A – Keep your goals ACTIONABLE and ACHIEVABLE. This is the time to get real. Setting outlandish goals is dumb. It’s not motivational at all. To boot, it kills productivity and the desire to even try and accomplish the goal. If you’re working with a team, ask them what’s achievable. Let them be a part of the decision making process. If your team doesn’t weigh in – they certainly won’t buy in. Think about posing questions that answers the “how” of making a plan and setting goals. How can you accomplish this goal? What steps are needed in order to achieve the goal? Really stop to think about what’s realistic.

R – Is your plan RELEVANT? Last week, I talked about in a past life, I was the Executive Director of a small non-profit. We had a board chair who was awesome but tended to chase shiny things. The experience I had working with him was that he was going after new donor dollars…and that donor wanted us to develop a new program. At that time, we didn’t have the capacity to do it. The timing wasn’t good. The new program didn’t align to our mission. At the end of the day, the new program idea wasn’t relevant at that point in time. So, we parked the idea until it became relevant.

T – Think about your plan and goals as TIME-SENSITIVE. Every goal needs to have some sort of target for completion. That being said, I believe any plan must be flexible because sometimes things happen to throw you off course. 

You’ve got to balance a few things here. In order to keep your plan a priority, you must identify timeframes. But also be mindful that if you move your target dates often, you’re signaling to your team that the plan isn’t a priority. 

I look at project completions from two lenses: soft and hard deadlines. Since most of us are working with other people (whether you’re an entrepreneur or business owner with 50+ employees), we are oftentimes waiting on others to complete their part of the project. So, set a soft deadline that gives you some wiggle room in the event you need to make adjustments. The hard deadline is just that – THE time when a project must be complete. 

A few questions to consider when thinking about your time frames…. Is the plan or goal short or long-term? Do you have a specific date in mind? Think through your checkpoint dates to ensure certain milestones are achieved to stay on track. 

Planning really does light my heart on fire. I love feeling like I’ve conquered a project…and, I’d love to help your organization too. If you like what you’re reading, then DM me or shoot me an email…I’d love to hear from you.