The first step of good business planning is to set goals. To be clear, goals are not dreams. “I dream of opening more locations.” “I dream of increasing revenue.” Those are nice, but they’re not goals.

The best goals are S.M.A.R.T. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. They look more like this: “I will save $40,000 to open a new location each year for the next three years” or “I will reduce my operating expenses by 10 percent by July 31, 2021.”

Once you’ve set your goals, you can begin the hard part of working to achieve them. Here are some tips to keep you on track:

  • Write it down—The simple act of writing a goal makes it real and tangible. Use the word “will” instead of “would like to.”
  • Tackle your scary thoughts—Now that you’ve written it down, what doubts do you have? Figure out what negative thoughts may get in the way and reframe them. Instead of thinking, “I’m not good with money,” for example, change that to, “I can learn to manage my money.” Make a contingency plan for any roadblocks you think may come your way.
  • Create a plan of action—This may be a lot to think about at first, but seriously, what are you going to do to reach your goals? You need to start somewhere. Whether you’re deciding how much money to save each month or which classes you’ll take to further your understanding on a subject, making action plans is what separates dreams from goals.
  • Visual reminders—Keep your goals front and center. Whether it’s a vision board, artwork or Post-It notes stuck to your computer monitor, have something that will keep your goals top of mind.
  • Share your goals with other people—Tell friends, family, coworkers or business associates, and ask them to check in on how you’re doing. Being accountable to others can have a big impact on whether you follow through on achieving your goals.
  • Block out time on your calendar—Set dedicated time for yourself to check in on how you’re doing, to fine tune your plan of action and to take the tactical steps identified in your action plan.

We hope these tips help you set goals and stay the course, no matter what you’re trying to achieve. Would you add anything else to the list? Let us know!