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Coaching, Productivity

As we turn the calendar to 2018, it’s time to set goals for the new year. But first, a quick question: How did 2017 turn out for you? Did you achieve your goals? Or was it another year of disappointment or unfulfilled potential?


Perhaps you’re searching for a structure for goal-setting that really works. Or, you simply want to freshen up your approach. Or, maybe you’re looking to add another tool to your toolbox for working with others. This article is for you. Here are five steps to achieve your goals in 2018.


1. Get clarity on your personal foundation


Setting big goals is pointless if you don’t have a strong personal foundation. I like to say, “You can’t build a skyscraper on a foundation designed for a garage.” Your personal foundation comes from four key elements:


Vision: Where are you going?

Purpose: Why is this important?

Mission: What are you doing?

Values: How will you act?


Clarity on these questions provides direction as well as the perseverance to keep moving forward when obstacles come your way (which is inevitable). If you don’t have statements of your personal vision, purpose, mission, and values in place, take time to develop them now.


(To work on your personal foundation, subscribe to my free email course, Build a Strong Foundation.)


2. Shorten your year


Many annual goals are doomed from the start simply because twelve months is a long time. Complacency and procrastination set in when the finish line is too far off. Changes in circumstances can derail progress or make your initial goals irrelevant or less important than when you first set them.


Use a quarterly cycle to overcome these pitfalls. The shorter time frame brings the finish line closer and increases your ability to focus on desired outcomes. It allows you to recalibrate when major changes come your way. You get a fresh start each quarter, which increases the number of goals you can accomplish in a year.


(For an entire system based on this concept, I recommend “The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks than Others Do in 12 Months” by Brian Moran.)


3. Create process goals, not just outcome goals


We’re often told that the best goals are SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. To illustrate, let’s use a goal we often see at this time of the year—a weight loss goal:


I will lose 10 pounds by March 31, 2018.


Although this goal meets the SMART criteria, it’s unlikely to be achieved if it stands alone. It’s simply an outcome goal, what you hope to accomplish in the end. What’s missing are the steps it will take to be successful. That’s where process goals come in.


Pairing process goals with outcome goals dramatically increases your likelihood of success. Process goals provide the action steps, habits, or behaviors that are necessary to achieve your desired outcome.


Continuing with the weight loss scenario, here are three examples of process goals:


I will consume no more than 2,000 calories per day.

I will limit desserts to no more than one per week.

I will exercise for 30 or more minutes at least 5 days each week.


What makes process goals powerful is that you have more control over the process than the outcome. Outcomes are vulnerable to external circumstances and conditions that you can’t control. But generally, the right actions and activities lead to the right outcomes and results.


Now let’s apply this concept to a common business scenario, a goal to increase revenue. Here’s an example of how you might pair process goals with an outcome goal for the quarter:


Outcome goal:


I will increase revenue by $5,000 per month by March 31, 2018.


Process goals:


I will make 10 calls to potential new clients each week.

I will spend 30 minutes each day interacting with potential clients on LinkedIn.

I will ask each of my current clients for a referral before January 31.


Clients who use this structure report a higher rate of success in achieving their goals. And in cases where the goal isn’t met, clients say they got closer than they would have without following this process.


4. Establish a weekly planning and review process


I recommend scheduling a weekly self-meeting to review these elements and plan for the week ahead. Start by reading your personal vision, purpose, mission, and values statements. That serves as an important reminder of the big picture: where you want to go and why.


Then, review progress on your outcome and process goals for the quarter. Some can be evaluated with quantitative measures (i.e., number of contacts, days, dollars, etc.). Others are more subjective. A red-yellow-green grading system may suffice in those cases.


Finally, transfer action steps from your process goals to your calendar. That’s right, schedule them. Setting aside time during the week to work on these priorities increases your chances of getting them done. Many clients find it helpful to schedule recurring blocks of time each week to focus on their process goals; otherwise, their calendar is consumed by tasks and meetings that don’t move them toward their goals.


5. Get a coach!


The entire goal-setting process is tailor-made for partnering with a coach. Your coach will help by asking questions that bring clarity and focus. Your coach may spot gaps or weak links in your process, or help you explore possibilities you hadn’t considered. He or she adds the all-important element of accountability.


I’m going to share my goals with a coach throughout 2018. What about you?



This article was first published on the Noomii blog on January 2, 2018.


Productivity, Strategy

This is the second of a two-part series of articles. Visit my blog to read the first article, Jump Start Q2 with a Personal Quarterly Offsite Meeting.


As highlighted in my previous article, I recommend the QWD Planning Cycle to coaching clients as a way to better establish and achieve their most important goals. It consists of a series of meetings with oneself to ensure follow-through on good intentions. These meetings include the following:


  • Quarterly Offsite
  • Weekly Planning
  • Daily Tactical


After you complete the Quarterly Offsite discussed last week, you’re ready to conduct Weekly Planning and Daily Tactical meetings.


The Weekly Planning Meeting


Here’s your opportunity to set the stage for a productive and fulfilling week. Set aside 30-60 minutes to reflect on the prior week and plan for the next one. Schedule this meeting for the same day and time every week to more quickly establish it as a regular habit.


Some prefer to do this at the end of the workweek (i.e., Friday afternoon), to gain closure and create a fresh start the next week. Others start Monday morning with this activity to jump-start the new week by focusing on top priorities.


I schedule my planning for an hour between attending church and eating dinner on Sundays. I don’t typically work Sunday, but use the weekly planning session more holistically, not just looking at my business but personal life as well. Here’s my typical agenda, which is like the quarterly offsite:


Pray: for divine wisdom as I engage in planning my week.


Reflect: on my personal vision, purpose, and values, as well as the habits and behavioral change I’m working on.


Review: my schedule and notes from the prior week, evaluating progress on both routine tasks and my WIGs (wildly important goals) for the quarter.


Identify: people or projects highlighted for follow up from the previous week’s notes. Often, these are potential new business contacts or opportunities that emerged during the prior week’s conversations.


Prioritize: the most important tasks and projects for completion in the week ahead. I pull these from running lists I keep on 4×6 post-it notes of short and long-term projects. I also capture recurring items such as content development, administrative tasks, and professional development.


Schedule: the top priorities on my calendar for the week. Setting aside specific blocks of time to work on these priorities makes it more likely they’ll get the attention they deserve. That includes time set aside for strategic thinking, to focus on new and better ways to serve clients, as well as potential new business opportunities. I also review my calendar for regular coaching sessions, scheduled meetings, and personal functions, such as daily workouts.


Envision: the joy and fulfillment that comes from a well-planned and productive week.


Anticipate: that not everything will go according to plan and I will need to rely on self-leadership strategies to avoid being derailed by discouragement.


I love the feeling of confidence and clarity that my planning session creates for the week ahead!


The Daily Tactical Meeting


Truthfully, I don’t have the daily tactical meeting dialed in as well as my quarterly offsite or weekly planning sessions. Consider it a work in process. But here’s what I aim for at the start of every day:


Quiet time: to start with prayer, spiritual reading, and reflection.


Schedule review: as a reminder of meetings or appointments that day, as well as time blocks set aside during my weekly planning for top priorities.


Prioritization: to ensure I focus on my highest and best value work, rather than getting caught up in an endless sea of distractions.


Mental practice: to visualize a positive outcome from the day’s activities, and the behaviors, actions, and attitudes necessary to accomplish that.


My daily practice typically takes 15-30 minutes, with the quiet time consuming most of that on my most successful days.


Schedule These Meetings Now!


Nearly all digital calendars have functionality to schedule recurring meetings. Now’s the time to create each of these meetings with yourself. Color code them so they stand out from other scheduled functions. Set up notifications or reminders to ensure you don’t blow past them. Insert your meeting agenda or important points in the description or notes field.


Mark your schedule for July 1 to review your Q2 progress and reset the process again for Q3. You won’t achieve perfection, but you’ll advance beyond what you would have achieved without these proactive steps. Note the progress made and celebrate your success!



Is it time to shift your approach to setting and following through on important goals? Let’s Talk! Contact me via email or schedule a complimentary strategy call on my online calendar.


Productivity, Strategy

How was your first quarter? Did you achieve your goals? Whether you had your best quarter ever or fell flat on your face, now is the time to lay the groundwork for a successful second quarter.


To increase your effectiveness in Q2, implement The QWD Planning Cycle. I often recommend this approach to my coaching clients to better establish and achieve their most important goals. It involves a series of meetings with oneself throughout the quarter to ensure follow-through on good intentions. These meetings include the following:


·      Quarterly Offsite

·      Weekly Planning

·      Daily Tactical


This framework is influenced by Patrick Lencioni’s classic book, Death by Meeting, and Essentialism, by Greg McKeown. It works regardless of the size and scope of your leadership–whether you’re a solopreneur like me, the leader of a large organization, or someone who leads a small team within an organization.


Today’s focus is the Quarterly Offsite. Next week we’ll look at the Weekly Planning and Daily Tactical meetings.


The Quarterly Offsite


Get away from your office and all the operational details that reside there, so you can focus on what’s important for the quarter ahead. Find a coffee shop, public library, or park bench where you can brainstorm alternatives, determine priorities, and establish key initiatives. Increase the incentive to follow through on this meeting by going to a place where you enjoy spending time.


I prefer an analog approach to my offsite so I’m not distracted by email or other trappings of the digital world. Just a notebook and pen. Perhaps my earbuds and some concentration-enhancing background music (I like Focus at Will). If there’s an online resource I need, I bring it up on my screen and close everything else.


Here’s my agenda for this meeting, which typically includes a mix of personal and professional items:


Pray: as a person of faith, I seek divine wisdom as I enter the planning process.


Reflect: look back at the prior quarter, noting where I achieved goals and where I came up short. I also evaluate progress on the habits and behaviors I was focused on.


Review: consider whether my life has been consistent with my personal foundation (vision, purpose, and values) during the last quarter. Explore changes that will make the next quarter more in step with my personal foundation.


Establish: the WIGs (wildly important goals) I want to accomplish in the next quarter. For more information on WIGs, see The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals. In a nutshell, a WIG is a critical initiative that can’t be accomplished without focused action outside of normal routines. Think in terms of a special project, change initiative, or new venture.


Identify: new habits and behaviors to create during the next quarter, as well as those requiring continued attention to take hold.


Your offsite may require a couple hours, or a full day, depending on the complexity and scope of your role. Once you make it a habit, it’s easier to get in a groove, but don’t rush it. There’s something incredibly refreshing about pressing the pause button to gain clarity on what’s most important in your life and business.


Do It Today! Put your personal offsite on the calendar for this first week of the new quarter. Protect the time like you would your most important client or customer meetings.


Next Week: come back for insights on a weekly and daily planning process to achieve the goals established in your quarterly offsite.


Is it time to shift your approach to setting and following through on important goals? Let’s Talk! Contact me via email or schedule a complimentary strategy call on my online calendar.


Fun, Productivity

That’s fine if you’re getting the results you want. Then keep doing what you’re doing.


If, on the other hand, you’re stuck in a frustrating time loop like the weatherman played by Bill Murray in the 1993 classic, Groundhog Day, it’s time to make some changes. Hopefully, it won’t take the same extreme measures Murray’s character experienced to get you to re-think your priorities and behaviors.


To achieve new levels of effectiveness as a leader, you need to enact new habits and behaviors. Whether Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow today, you can get unstuck and move faster and further toward your goals. Even if there are six more weeks of winter (can you tell I’m from Minnesota?).


Consider these three new approaches to your work day:


  • Kill the open door policy
  • Consolidate email and social media time
  • Engage in Deep Work


Kill the open door policy


Let’s face it, your office is often the place you get the least work done. An open door policy is well meaning and conveys a positive message: I’m available. But there are unintended consequences of being perpetually available: a steady stream of interruptions and distractions.


Reclaim control of your office time by killing the open door policy. That doesn’t mean permanently withdrawing from your team. After all, a big part of leadership is getting things done through others. Your team still needs access to you. But it doesn’t have to be unlimited.


Use your door as a tool to communicate your availability in the office. Here’s an approach I found effective at various stages of my career:


Door completely open: feel free to come in, I’m available.

Door nearly closed but not latched: don’t come in unless it’s something that can’t wait until later in the day.

Door closed and latched: don’t come in unless the building is on fire.


If you don’t have a private office or work in a cubicle, find another cue that conveys the same message. Give yourself enough uninterrupted time for higher-order thinking, problem-solving, and planning activities.


Consolidate email and social media time


When it first became available, email was hailed as a huge time saver in the workplace. Now, studies on the time-wasting effects of email abound. Depending on the study, the average worker spends between 20 and 75 percent of his or her day checking, reading, drafting, and sending emails.


Look online and you’ll find countless suggestions to tame the email tiger. Unsubscribe from email newsletters you never read (or don’t subscribe in the first place). Use filters and folders to file emails that contain important information but don’t require a response.


Don’t get trapped in a long email chain to debate a decision that needs to be made. And don’t use email when a simple phone call would do. Both are among my pet peeves, especially for internal communication.


At a minimum, stop checking your email all day long. Are you like the average employee in one survey, who checks his or her email 36 times an hour? (Okay, I realize some roles are email heavy by necessity, i.e., customer service representatives, but that’s the exception.)


Consolidate the time you spend on email and its potentially black hole twin, social media. Schedule two or three blocks in your day for these purposes. Close your email window the rest of the day. Change your email server to pull your messages when you want them and hold them back at other times. Or use a service like Inbox Pause.


Stop being reactive to email and social media and your productivity will soar.


Engage in Deep Work


Deep Work is capitalized here because it’s the title of a great book by Cal Newport. The subtitle, Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, reveals why every leader should read it. Although many leaders pride themselves on being multi-taskers, Newport suggests multi-tasking is a misnomer. We are simply switching between tasks in a distracted state, which drains focus and productivity.


Newport suggests “Deep Work” as the antidote, a focused approach to cognitively demanding tasks that produces powerful results in less time. He introduces Wharton professor Adam Grant as an example. Grant sets aside extended time periods where he can concentrate without interruption to accomplish his most important work. At times, these deep work periods last three or four days.


Turning off my smartphone, closing my internet browser, and shutting the door for 3 to 4-hour blocks of deep work have proven to be extremely productive. So has Newport’s suggestion to schedule these time blocks on my calendar, as I would my most important meetings.


Pick one


Try all three of these strategies but choose at least one to build into your regular routine. Make it a habit over the next six weeks and watch, you’ll be more productive when spring finally arrives!



What can you do to become more productive? Let’s talk about forming new habits to regain time, focus, and energy. Contact me via email or schedule a complimentary strategy session on my online calendar.

 Photo copyright: <a href=’’>izanbar / 123RF Stock Photo</a>



January is here and with the new year, a chance to start fresh with our goals for 2017. All too often, these goals quickly fall by the wayside and along with that, the growth we were hoping for in our personal and business lives. Here are three subtle but powerful adjustments to improve your goal-setting process for the new year.


Focus on growth, not maintenance


There’s nothing wrong with maintaining important habits and disciplines you already have in place. However, goal-setting should focus on taking a significant step forward or growing in one area of life or another. Perhaps you’ve already established the habit of regular visits to the gym. Your new goal might focus on a new workout routine to take your strength or endurance training to the next level.


From a business standpoint, Chris McChesney, co-author of The 4 Disciplines of Execution, suggests leaders determine their “WIGs.” These are the Wildly Important Goals that help the organization take a giant step toward realizing its vision.


Unlike maintenance tasks, like paying the bills, WIGs are important new initiatives that won’t happen without special attention. Leaders need to ask, “What lives at the corner of what’s really important but won’t happen on its own?” For example, implementing a new customer relationship management system may be wildly important to building your prospective customer base, but is easily be pushed to the back burner in the midst of the daily grind.


Focus on behavior rather than results


In his new book, The Five Thieves of Happiness, John Izzo points out the danger of focusing on the results of our actions rather than the actions themselves. “Happiness is knowing what we can control and accepting what we cannot control,” he writes.


Izzo suggests that the thief of control misleads us to believe we have more control over our lives than we really do. This leads to discontent when things don’t go well, which may tempt us to give up. Instead, we achieve happiness by focusing on what we can control, like our actions and responses to circumstances, and keep moving forward.


As you set 2017 goals, focus attention on the actions and behaviors necessary to achieve the results you desire. If we perform the right actions, we will achieve the right results, even if it takes longer than we expected. For example, increasing revenue by 20% is a worthy goal, but incomplete without including the actions required to get there.


Avoid the letdown


There’s some debate about the value of going public with your goals. On the surface, it seems like a good way of obtaining accountability. However, research by Peter Gollwitzer indicates that when our identity-related goals are noticed by others, we gain a premature sense of accomplishment. In addition, our behavioral intentions for achieving those goals are undermined.


For instance, if I declare that I’m going to become a marathoner (which I’m not), sharing those intentions with others make it less likely that I’ll do what it takes to run a marathon. I experience a social reality condition that makes me feel like a marathoner without the work required to become one.


Similarly, Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton, authors of The Knowing-Doing Gap, found that companies often substitute talk for action. Important initiatives are unfinished because leaders feel like talking about plans and goals made something happen, without prioritizing implementation.


To counteract these tendencies, attach required action or implementation steps to your goals whenever you talk about them.


Act now!


Take the following steps to jump start your success in achieving this year’s goals:


  1. Identify your WIGs, Wildly Important Goals. Focus on 2-3 key initiatives for the first quarter.
  2. For each goal, prioritize the actions and behaviors you can control over the intended results.
  3. Be aware of the tendency to let talk substitute for behavior. Reward action, not talk.


Establish a regular review (weekly, monthly, and quarterly) around these steps and enjoy the progress on your 2017 goals!


Let’s Talk! This is a great time to collaborate on making 2017 your best year ever. Contact me via email or schedule a complimentary strategy call on my online calendar.