And this is why..

In a previous life I was a programme manager. I took meaty, complex programmes, broke them into manageable projects and then broke them down into tasks which I tracked like a terrier after a mouse. I had Gantt charts and dependencies and weekly reports and tracked milestones. I loved it and I was really good at it!

But I realised over the course of this year that I’ve brought my corporate mentality into my own business and it’s been making me miserable. 

At the start of the year I was in a fabulous group coaching programme. Each month we set goals, cheered on by a great coach, I diligently set my goals trying to imagine what I was going to feel like over the coming 90 days. There were rewards if we hit them, plus I didn’t want to spoil the group’s 100% success rate so I stuck with my plans.

And got myself in a right pickle. I hadn’t allowed enough time, life got in the way. One of the reasons I work for myself is to make sure I don’t work weekends but I found myself working at the weekend to get my goals done. But with unexpected life events I still didn’t allow enough time so I felt bad about what I’d put out and ended up cancelling a course which made me feel even worse. 

That’s when I started to question whether structured goals really were working for me or against me. And as with so many things it’s all down to the individual, if you love a SMART (Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound!) goal then please, go right ahead and use them. They are perfect for some people. Just not all people.

For me, goals were taking the fun out my business, making me stressed about something that I just didn’t need to be stressed about. In short they were doing the exact opposite of what they were meant to be supporting.

So could I survive without goals completely? Maybe, there’s only one way to find out!

But am I really going to run a business without goals? I love an experiment so let’s see if I’m still emailing you this time next year!

What I’m going to do instead

I’m going to liken my plans for next year to a walk to the next village pub for lunch. 

I’m going to leave in the morning, giving myself what feels (finger in the air) like a very reasonable amount of time to get to the pub. I’m going to choose the route as I go, depending on which path feels nicer, stop and chat to the locals I will invariably meet and maybe sit by the river a while. The walk to the pub will be pleasant, as enjoyable as the final goal of the tasty lunch itself. And while I could get there faster, I will get to the pub. And if someone gets in touch during my walk and needs me to go home for something more important I’ll turn around and go home instead, without feeling like I’ve failed.

The alternative would be to go with my super efficient friend. She’s lovely but she would know the distance to the pub in km and map out the exact route we’d take. She’d have her Garmin watch on and would be keen for us to get there at an average speed of above 6.4km/h which was our best effort so far. Along the way she’ll be checking in, making sure I’m keeping up, looking anxious when I’m chatting for too long to someone I haven’t seen for a while. And I’ll probably miss seeing the kingfisher or the otters and be a bit sweaty and cross by the time we arrive at the pub.

In both scenarios we are likely to get to the pub. But for me the first option feels good. I’ve got a family, a flock of sheep, a very naughty dog who likes to run off after rabbits on days I’m close to deadlines and all the general joy of life going on around me. I want to be able to take the curve balls with grace and humour rather than feel that I’m letting my (arbitrary) business goals down AND my family by not being available for them as I trapped in front of a screen. 

So I’ll be setting my general direction, places I want to get to just leaving out the exact timings and letting the nicest route be the driver for me.  And if the pub is unexpectedly closed when I get there then I’ll just re-route to the next village and wander on my way.

Does this make any sense to you? Or do you love some specific, time-bound goals in your life!?