So it’s April 1st. While many use this day as a day of staging April Fools’ pranks (or avoiding them) it’s a great time of year to practice your ‘April Smarts’ in your business.
The First of April marks the end of the three month milestone for the year. Yep, we’re a quarter of the way through the year already. A good time to review your progress relative to what you’d like to achieve in your business over the course of the year.
You may or may not have some written business goals or a plan you put together at the beginning of the year but, if you haven’t, you would have at least given some thought to the matter.
So I thought I’d offer up some questions that might be handy to ask as a part of a review process. These aren’t your typical ‘milestone’ questions. These questions give you a bigger picture view of your self-employment journey and invite you to look at things from a different perspective.
Question 1 – Do I still want what I wanted three months ago?
Sometimes we commit to a particular goal over the New Year period. It seems right at the time but the appeal may well drop off, yet we develop a sense of obligation to get it done, just because we said we would.
But here’s the thing, you’ve got every right to change your mind. Just because you wrote a goal down or voiced it to someone, that doesn’t mean you have to treat it as some sort of contract that you’ve got to see through no matter what.
The whole ‘never give up’ philosophy has got out of hand, to the point that some folks end up thinking they ‘should’ persevere or that they’ve failed at something when in fact they’ve simply changed their mind. Priorities change, values change, moods change and yes, minds change.
So, in answering the question – Do I still want what I wanted three months ago? – I’d invite you to step back and take a look at your business goals free of any sense of obligation. Take a fresh look at them. If any of them still have the same appeal, continue as planned. If they don’t, give yourself permission to let them go and find something more appealing to do instead.
Having said that, don’t take this as a hall pass to let a goal go just because it’s proving too hard. ‘Don’t want it any more‘ and ‘Too hard‘ are very different things so be honest in your appraisal.
Question 2 – How much progress have I made towards my business goals?
Of course you’d be asking that question anyway but I’d invite you to look at it from the perspective of the goals themselves.
We’re a quarter of the way through the year. Technically, you would have wanted to have progressed around 25% towards the goal for the year. But perhaps you are only 10% there.
This could mean one of two things. Either a) you need to pick up the pace in order to reach your target in the required time or b) the target was too ambitious in the first place.
How do you tell which it is?
Picking up the pace would require you to either be more efficient with your efforts or to perhaps make more effort. To work smarter or work harder.
Working smarter takes experimentation (which may include delegation) and, sometimes, consultation. You’ll know if you’ve reached your experimentation ‘limit’ when it stops being fun and it becomes a chore. You’ll find yourself overwhelmed and will have difficulty making decisions. The way out of this position is to seek some help. Find an expert or a mentor to get you back on track. (I know a good coach so if you think that’s what you need, let me know and I’ll hook you up 🙂
And working harder works up to a point but then you reach a point where you get diminishing returns. You’ll know yourself whether or not you are ‘under-working’ so when you hit the upper limit of that feeling, you’ll know you’ve reached the stage where working harder won’t work in your favour.
So, assuming you are working as smart and as hard as you can reasonably expect, the conclusion could well be that the target was in fact too ambitious.
Just as you have the right to change you mind, you also have the right to move the goal posts. Move them closer if that seems appropriate to do so. While it’s great to have challenging goals, as soon as they become ‘impossible’ they’ll start to have the opposite effect and you’ll end up disillusioned with yourself.
Conversely, if you are well past the expected milestone, feel free to move the goal posts further away to make it more challenging for you.
Question 3 – What have I accomplished that I didn’t set out to do at the beginning of the year?
In my own quarterly review I just did, I fell way short of some of the targets I’d set for myself for the January to March quarter. The year end targets are still within reach though and I was pretty pleased with my efforts overall so I gave myself a commendation. I’d fallen short not through lack of effort, but simply because unexpected opportunities had come up that diverted my attention yet still supported my overall business direction.
But even then I’d sold myself short. It took some additional input from one of my group coaching clients (thank you Ginger 🙂 to remind me of some my work that I hadn’t factored into my commendation. So I’ve upgraded my efforts to to ‘highly commendable’ for the first quarter of the year.
No doubt you have a similar story and wouldn’t have to dig too far to find some results that you haven’t factored into your evaluation. And even if you have reached your quarterly targets, I’d still invite you to review what else you have accomplished and celebrate that as well.
These questions won’t take long to answer and a review of your goals won’t take long to complete. No doubt you’ve got a list a mile long of things you need to do now but I can guarantee you, investing half an hour to an hour in a review process will save countless hours of wasted effort later on.
Got any tips of your own to add? Please share them in the comments below.
PS – If you haven’t set any targets or made any business plans for the year, I can send you my 20 minute express business plan. I loathe business plans but think the planning process itself is critical as it makes us think through the details we might otherwise ignore. Just drop me a line and let me know if you’d like a copy.
I've been self-employed since I was 19 (and that was quite some time ago) and have owned manufacturing, service and consulting businesses ever since. Every business goes through stages and each stage in each business needs a different strategy to flourish and prosper. I can teach you about the stages and the strategies to shortcut your success.