November 9, 2017

Don’t Try to “Drink the Ocean”: The Importance of Setting Three-Day, Three-Month, and Three-Year Goals

This past week I received a question via my “Ask a Question” button from someone inquiring how to get nationwide recognition for her business as a solo entrepreneur.

Whew…. That’s a big goal for one person to think about tackling.

With this in mind, I offered her the following advice,

“Don’t try to drink the ocean.”

What does that mean? It means that in order to avoid feeling overwhelmed by any goal —whether it’s at a new job, your current job, or part of your job hunt—it can be helpful to break it down into three-day, three-month and three-year increments.

Why? Because these three time spans capture the urgent, important, and strategic perspectives on tasks.

Your three-day goals should blend the merely urgent with the important, and bring focus to your day-to-day activities.

At a new job, for example, your three-day goals might be simple, and not especially strategic:

  1. I need to know where the bathrooms are
  2. My co-workers names
  3. My boss’s likes and dislikes with regard to interruptions, message-hand off’s, and work flow

At three months, I want to have:

  1. Read the last five years of strategic reports,
  2. Absorbed as much institutional memory as possible
  3. Made three substantive contributions in general meetings.

In three years, I want to:

  1. Have expanded sales by forty percent
  2. Gotten promoted
  3. Had my company send me on at least one Executive Education course that expands my skill set

Should you want to apply this method to starting your own business, your three-day goals might include:

  1. I want to have transferred all my contacts into one, comprehensive database
  2. Gotten recommendations for two business accountants and made appointments with both
  3. Posted up-to-date profiles on networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook.

Your three-month goals might be:

  1. I want to have had a brand identity created for my firm and business cards and stationery printed
  2. I want to have a scaleable website up and running
  3. I want to have brought three people onto my advisory board.

Your three-year goals might be:

  1. I want to have be generating 20% above net in profit
  2. Have a staff of five people
  3. Been invited to speak at a conference detailing the success stories of entrepreneurs

While this may seem a bit simplistic, what I’ve noticed is that we often begin a new endeavor with our big goals clearly in mind, but without a map of what that means we should actually do today, next month, and next year, leaving us with a massive to-do list that suggests we plan to “Drink the Ocean.”

Adopting these three mental horizons ensures you assign priorities within your to-do lists that make sure you don’t lose your way, get overwhelmed, or have to backtrack.

In effect, this “triple time horizon” is like a practical, constantly updated personal business plan.

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