Before you embark on any new project or business venture, you need to ask yourself the question ‘What does success look like?’
Without an end goal in mind (and preferably written down somewhere), how will you know you’ve achieved what you set out to do? Having a goal (or many) will help you focus on the work that’s genuinely important and worth pursuing, rather than just being a distraction.
The problem many people encounter (including myself sometimes), is that they are so keen to get started and ‘make stuff happen’ that the busy work (Email, Facebook, Twitter, unproductive meetings) is often confused with meaningful work, which is the only kind that truly matters.
Success means different things to different people and in my line of work it’s mostly measured using bespoke software and tools like Google Analytics to set statistical goals for the websites I manage. Unfortunately, having all this data at your fingertips can be overwhelming so it’s important to focus on the stuff that counts and which you can act upon. Always striving for more website Visits and Unique Visitors, Faceboook ‘Fans’ or Twitter ‘Followers’ can be dangerous as you can never, ever have enough. When it comes to digital, there’s always more you can do and therefore no end to the workload if you’re not careful. For this reason, it’s important to set yourself realistic, achievable goals and milestones for a specific time frame, remembering to congratulate yourself if you reach them, and not to beat yourself up if you don’t! You can try benchmarking and comparing yourself to others, but there can only be one you so it’s much better to compete with and set challenges for yourself. The important thing is to work and try with purpose.
In my opinion, the most important things in business are sales and happy customers, so if you’re creating both then you should consider yourself a genuine success. Your own happiness and personal fulfilment are very important too. If you don’t feel good about the work you are doing then it’s unlikely that your customers or clients will either. If that’s the case you need to stop what you’re doing and change your direction. If you go out of your way to provide the best possible service then you will not only please others but make yourself feel fantastic too.
In addition to the small scale stuff, you need to set yourself some ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goals’. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that having a grand vision and shared goals with your colleagues (if you have some) are powerful ways to motivate a team to great heights. The most successful businesses and inspirational leaders understand this and often talk in abstract terms which inspire others to dream and follow their footsteps (listen to some of the best on Nancy Duarte’s website). Once the ‘big idea’ has been defined, it becomes much easier to gauge whether your day to day activities are contributing to the overall success of the mission, or if they can be jettisoned to free up more of your time to work on what does. Keep your aims broad, loose and ambitious and this will give you the freedom to experiment and feel inspired to create your very best work.
Another thing to remember is that work, just as in life, is a journey not a destination. When you achieve one goal there is always another, bigger one up ahead that requires you to ‘Level Up’. As Lord William Armstrong, one of the great British pioneers of the industrial age once said; “However high we climb in the pursuit of knowledge, we shall still see heights above us and the more we extend our view, the more conscious we shall be of the immensity which lies beyond”. Or as the posters which adorn the walls of Facebook offices say, “This journey is 1% finished” to remind employees that the company has only begun to fulfil its ‘mission to make the world more open and connected’.
Start setting some goals for yourself today. Try writing them down on paper and sticking them up on the walls of your office, cubicle or home to remind you what you are trying to achieve. I believe that anything is possible with hard work and determination but you need a plan and some focus to help you get there. This is the very first step in becoming the person you want to be.