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I used to be the kind of girl that set goals.  Annual goals that is.  I’d get out my planner at the end of December.  Then, I’d write down three to four things – BIG THINGS – that I wanted to accomplish in the coming year.  

And they weren’t always realistic goals either.  I’ve been known to write some real pie in the sky goals at times.

Then, on January 2nd, I started working towards these goals.  By the middle of the month, they’d be crumpled up in the corner of my desk gathering dust.

The problem was that I got too busy creating to worry about annual goals.  If you own a creative business, you’ve probably figured out by now that part of the process of running a successful creative business is making the goods that you sell.  Whether you are dreaming up new designs, creating beautiful jewelry or mastering a new skill, there’s a creative process that you need to do to get your product to market.

Most other businesses don’t have this piece.  They’re in the business of selling.

Around mid-January, my Valentine’s Day sales skyrocket.  I don’t have a lot of time to think about goal making.

The result of this increase in business is that my annual goals are pushed aside.  And, sadly, I usually don’t find them again until the end of the December that year when I’m ready to make my next set of annual goals.

And this is when I discover that I haven’t accomplished any of the current goals.  Business might have been good, but I haven’t grown my creative shop in the direction that I’d hoped.

So, this year I decided to try setting quarterly goals instead.  Quarterly goals are a set of goals that you make each business quarter – usually every 12 weeks or so.  The year is separated into four quarters.  This gives you a chance to make four sets of quarterly goals.

After recently reading The 12 Week Year by Brian Moran, I discovered that the mindset of quarterly goals isn’t that different.  Instead of making annual goals, Brian creates sets of 12 week goals (basically a quarter of the year).  In his book, he explains how to treat each set of 12 weeks like a full year.

Have you ever felt like you are working towards a goal and it isn’t getting completed? 

You do daily check ins and continue to see no change.  So, you quit. 

What’s the point anyway?  You’re never going to get there.

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Mindset is everything.  And quarterly goals fix this negative outlook.  They’ve allowed me to focus my year better.  By looking forward to only the next 12 weeks, I’m no longer worried about what I will do months from now.  Instead, I focus on making every day matter.  Because it does.  

I’m also able to balance working towards my goals with the constant fluctuation of creative work.  There’s time for both each day.  At least I make time for both because I’m motivated to stay on track and accomplish my goals.

And, to my surprise, you can achieve a lot in twelve weeks.  Actually, you can get a lot done in an afternoon.  You just need to know what tasks you need to work on and the results that you’re trying to achieve.

In the end, my business has grown.  As of September, I’ve accomplished more this year than previous ones where I focused on accomplishing annual goals.  

So, it’s the end of August, which means that the fourth quarter of the year – usually October through December – will be starting soon. 

Want to try writing your own quarterly goals for these next 12 weeks?  Here are some ideas to help you write your quarterly goals and end this year on a positive note.

#1 – Decide What you Want to Accomplish

Before you can write any goal, you need to figure out what you’re hoping to achieve. 

What things will help grow and transform your creative business?

Make a list of all of the things that you would like to work on for your business during the next 12 weeks.  After making your list, choose two or three of these items will help you grow the most.

If you already have goals for the year, break down the larger annual goal into a smaller one that you can work on as a quarterly goal. 

For example, your financial goal for your business this year is to make $60,000.  But you want to write this goal as a 12 week goal.  You can divide $60,000 by 4 to determine your financial goal during the next 12 weeks.  In this case, you’d need to work on making $15,000 during the next 12 weeks.   

As you decide on your quarterly goals, remember that the number of goals you make will fluctuate based on the time you have.  This is one of the reasons that I love quarterly goals so much. 

So if summer vacation is approaching and you are planning on spending more time with your family, you might choose only one easier quarterly goal since you’ll have less time to work on it.

By succeeding in completing the quarterly goals that you set, your self confidence (and your business) will soar. 

#2 – Figure out What you Need to do to Get There

This is the fun part.  Once you decide on what you hope to accomplish, you need to decide on the tasks to work on every day to get to your goal. These tasks are stepping stones to reach your end goal.  They are little leaps that you need to take each day and week to get to the finish line.

As much as I love writing to do lists, this part can also be difficult.  It’s not easy to know exactly how to accomplish something.

Start at the end goal and work backwards.  Your starting point should be the place that you are right now.

For example, if your quarterly goal is to get more social media followers, how will you get there? 

Do you need to create certain content, interact with your followers, make more friends with influencers?  These are all possibilities and more.

Write the steps that you need to accomplish from the end to the beginning.  Figure out what things you need to do to reach your final goal. These are the steps that you’ll follow during the next twelve weeks.

#3 – Write out a Schedule

A quarter usually has 12 weeks in it – hence the concept of The 12 Week Year.  Sometimes, you might argue that it’s 13 weeks, but let’s work with 12 weeks.

One of the reasons is because I like even numbers.  The other is that it gives you a buffer week or two off.  This buffer can be used for vacation – yippee – or, if you’re running behind, you can catch up.  (This extra week comes in handy if you have sick kids every once and awhile.)

But don’t depend on that 13th week.  It may or not be there in the end.  Focus on a quarter as 12 weeks.

Divide your action steps into the 12 weeks.  What things will you work on and complete each week to accomplish your quarterly goals?

Here’s an example of the action steps for one of my quarterly goals looks like.  Each week in the quarter has a set of action steps included.  This way, when I’m planning my week, I don’t have to spend much time debating on what to do.  The steps are already laid out for me.

What if I can’t get the action steps completed each week?

With this kind of mindset, you probably won’t.  I’ve found that the more negative my thinking or the more I rely on a thought process of “It doesn’t really matter”, the less likely I am to complete the steps.

That being said, life happens.  Most likely the steps that you’ve planned for the following week depend on what you hope to accomplish this week.  Make adjustments in your weekly tasks as needed.  Just be sure that you haven’t scheduled too much.  

I’ve learned this the hard way.  Putting too many action steps into a week can cause mass panic when you can’t get it all done.  Look carefully at how much time you’ll have that week and delegate accordingly.

#4 – Set Time Aside Daily

One of the pitfalls with owning a creative business is that you can get caught up in all things creative.  If you are responsible for making products for customers or creating new designs weekly, it’s harder to find time to work on your quarterly goals.

Set aside time each day to work on your quarterly goals.  If you use time blocking for your weekly schedule, schedule time into your weekly schedule to work on your quarterly goals.  Don’t just leave having the time up to chance.

And actually use this time.  If you don’t schedule it, the creative tasks that you do each week will take over.  Promise.  And you won’t see any progress towards your quarterly goals or your business growth.

So, make time for your business growth and your business will follow.

#5 – Find an Accountability Partner

Sometimes working productively towards your goals is tough stuff.  It’s not easy convincing yourself to stay focused and accomplish things – especially if you’re the boss.

Find an accountability partner who will help keep you on track.  You could choose your partner, spouse or friend.

Sometimes it’s better to choose someone outside your family/friends circle.

But I love my family/friends and they love my business.

That’s pretty much the problem.  When you’re looking for an accountability partner, you need someone that’s going to be truthful with you.  This partner is going to tell you that you failed or what you’ve done isn’t good enough.

I know.  These things are hard to hear.  Especially from family and friends.  They aren’t usually the people to tell you these things anyway.

I find the best accountability partner is a business coach.  A business coach is someone who has insight into the online business world and has overcome some of the obstacles that you face to make your business successful.    

This person will also be able to give you ideas to help you improve your business and suggestions on things to do next.  They might even be able to help create action steps that will ensure that you get to the finish line.

When choosing an accountability business coach, make sure your personality and management style matches the coach’s.  Not everyone makes a great fit.  Research the kind of coaching the person’s done, their credentials and speak to a current client, if possible.

If you aren’t sure you’re ready to hire a business coach, you could join an entrepreneur Facebook Group.  Find one that let’s you check in about your progress.

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#6 – Commit to your Goals

This is an important one.  If you aren’t committed to your goals – any kind of goal – then you aren’t going to succeed.

Write quarterly goals that you will commit to accomplishing.  And dedicate yourself to this mission.  It’s not enough just to write the goals down. You actually have to work on them and make a plan to succeed.

#7 – Change your Mindset and Boost Self-confidence

Part of the problem with accomplishing your goals is the “I can’t” attitude.  If you have kids, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Early on, many kids start saying “I can’t”.  If they say those too little words often enough, they start to believe it.  Those words become ingrained in their mindset.  And instead of trying, these poor little ones start to shut down and not do anything.  Even though they know how to.

It’s amazing how powerful two little words can be.  I see this also with adults.  Although I don’t hear “I can’t” uttered that often, these words are displayed in their actions.

Many times, when it comes to their creative businesses, entrepreneurs simply stop working if they feel overwhelmed.  At least, they won’t take the steps needed to grow their businesses.  It’s as if any action is too scary.

I’ve been there.  Growth can be scary, especially when it happens quickly.  

Instead of the “I can’t” mindset, you need to adopt the “I will” mindset.  These two words make any goal seem possible and help to boost your self-confidence.  Make them your new mantra and your entire mindset will shift.

#8 – Stay on Track

Getting off track is my biggest obstacle to accomplishing my quarterly goals.  During the 12 weeks, there’s always one week where things are particularly chaotic.  An action step doesn’t get completed and, suddenly, the rest of my 12 weeks are thrown off course.

Don’t worry.  This happens to everyone at some point.

But, it’s key to try to get back on track as quickly as possible.  Adjust the following week’s goal, add the extra work to the next week (but only if you can complete it as well as the current action steps) or schedule some catch up time over the weekend (my least favorite option, but sometimes necessary).

I also use my planner to help motivate me.  At the end of every week that I accomplish my action goals, I put a smiley face on Friday.  At the end of the 12 weeks, I plan a family get away weekend or even week.  These few days away together motivate me to stay on track during the twelve weeks leading up to it.

In addition to my planner, I like to keep a business journal while I’m working on my quarterly goals.  It helps me review what I’m working on and the progress that I’m making.  You can keep a separate journal as you go or even just write a line or two in your planner. 

I personally like to keep a separate business journal to write about my business experiences.  It also helps track what I’m learning as my business grows and changes.  You can check out how to start your own business journal here.

Another key to staying on track is to make sure that you don’t put too many action steps into one week.  Try and estimate how much time each action step will take.  Then, make sure that you set aside enough time to get those action steps completed.

If you are constantly planning too much, you’ll never be able to stay on track or even catch up to accomplish your quarterly goals.

Final Thoughts…

How you organize your time is really important to the success of your business.  Everyone has the same 24 hours.  It’s how we use it that can determine the life and business we end up creating.

Although annual goals have overwhelmed me so much in the past, I’ve discovered quarterly goals are so much more manageable.  Because of the short time span, I’m more likely to work on them instead of shoving them into a corner on my desk.

It’s also become easier over the months to set aside time each day to work on them.  My weekly action tasks keep me on track and motivate me to accomplish my goals because there’s a wonderful prize at the end.

If you aren’t a regular goal maker, try writing one goal for the next quarter.  It can even be a personal one such as reading more or learning a new skill. Go through the process of creating weekly action steps and make time to work on them each week.

At the end of the 12 weeks, see how you’ve done.  It’s a pretty powerful feeling when you’ve accomplished something that you’ve set out to do.

And remember, setting and achieving goals isn’t something that is done over night.  It’s a slow process. 

It takes time to get in the rhythm of goal making.  Once you get there, though, you’ll see your creative business soar and, suddenly, feel much more productive.

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