Goal setting is not just for the new year. Without a destination in mind, we can’t make a map to get there and without directions we’ll end up meandering aimlessly. For this reason, I’m an advocate of goal planning and visioning in business.
I’ve developed my practice bit by bit over the last decade, constantly reading and trying new techniques to develop the best goal and vision plan for my business. In my early 20s, I realized I had a variety of dreams, but felt like I was struggling to achieve them.
Using these techniques has taken me from that place to one where I feel like I’m truly successful, which I define as freedom of how I spend my time.
Here are six simple tips to help you get your goals, dreams, and visions on paper and turn them into a reality:
1. Brainstorm without commitment
Over the course of a week or two, I began the goal planning process by jotting down notes whenever a goal comes to mind. It could be anything from “learn to speak Spanish” to “expand into four new markets this year,” both of which have been some of my brainstorm ideas. I don’t judge or commit, but, instead, write down anything that comes to mind during that timeframe.
2. Edit your notes
After my notes are compiled, I go back and reflect on what I wrote. I spend time on each note and determine whether I really want to accomplish that idea or task, considering what will really be required of me to do so.
I do this until the list is edited to include only the goals I truly desire to tackle. Part of this process is determining what really suits me, doing a gut check and making sure that no goal is motivated by an outside influence.
3. Consider the big picture and create mantras
Once the list is narrowed down, I step away from it and brainstorm single words that describe the way I want to characterize my life that year. I make a long list of descriptive words and then go through the same editing process as with my brainstorm notes.
I ultimately select four to six words and use them almost like mantras to help shape the way the year will feel. Some past mantras have included peace, joy, love, freedom, adventure and growth.
4. Organize and integrate lists
I then use these mantras to help me break my goals into sections. If this feels disjointed, try to do it by category: business, travel, relationship (friends, family, etc.), finances, health, and so on. By organizing goals and using the mantras as macro-level narratives, it helps me to see how some of them can integrate and work together.
Lastly, I take my list – now divided into categories with mantras and goals – and write it out as a narrative. This part is essential because it allows me to visualize the embodiment of them more holistically, as they would play out in reality.
Since nothing exists in a vacuum, it’s important to see how one goal category impacts another, and what a full life would look and feel like when these are achieved. For example, a consistent goal of mine has been practicing gratitude. I narrate this practice by writing, “I wake up each morning and take a moment to breathe deeply and say ‘thank you’ for the simple fact that I woke up.”
6. Create a vision board
If you feel up for an extra step, I also pair this written process with vision boarding. While there are ways to do it online, I prefer to collect a large stack of magazines and cut and paste the old-fashioned way. I gather words and images that resonate with my goals and mantras, and keep the vision board in my office.
I’m often amazed when I look closely after some time has passed and see things come to life that I’d forgotten were there. One such example was last year’s vision board: a section of it was dedicated to travel images. Days before a holiday to Peru, I looked at the board and realized I’d pasted an image of Machu Picchu and had completely forgotten about it. A few days later, I beamed when I stood amongst its ruins.
As entrepreneurs, we spend a lot of time planning and developing strategies for our companies. I’ve found a lot of value and success in following these steps to help me move forward in business.
While it may seem daunting, try to take it one step at a time and see how it feels. Don’t be afraid to edit your goals, as they’ll inevitably change and evolve over time.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Darrah Brustein is a writer, master-networker, and serial entrepreneur with businesses in merchant services, networking, and financial education for kids. Connect with @darrahb on Twitter.