Setting Goals + The Problem With To-Do Lists

If you’re running your own business, or just trying to organize your life then you know that it all starts with goals. You need to have concrete, realizable, goals that you want to accomplish, and hopefully, some idea of how long it will take to complete them. If you are doing something for the first time, which happens a lot in a startup, then you’ll be learning as you go which means you will need to get increasingly good at estimating how long something will take.

Goals are great but accomplishing them is even better. Often goals get cast aside or put on the “back burner” as so many people like to say, which really means, you have the goal, but no real timeline to achieve it. In fact, let’s not call it a goal, let’s call it a dream.

The first rule of setting goals is separating your goals from your dreams. Dreams are important too, but they are different from goals. In accomplishing your goals you can get closer to living your dreams but you have to start with the individuals goals you want to accomplish.

Here’s an example. Let’s suppose you want to be the CMO of a large software company. Your first goal might be to get a job in marketing. Your next goal might be to join a startup where you can become a Director or VP of marketing. Your next goal might be working in marketing for a large software company or go right to CMO. The idea is that your dream was to become the CMO of a large software company, the goals to get there are listed above.

I think that most people start with the dream, but sometimes won’t take real action to start going down a path that leads to that dream. If you are working as an auto mechanic and want to become an actor, what are you doing everyday to move you one step closer? Too many people do something so far from what they dream of doing, yet tell people, someday I’d love to do X.

The Internet is a beautiful thing when it comes to setting goals. You can actually read about people who have done exactly what you want to do. Successful people from all over the world write blogs, whether it is the CEO of a large Fortune 500 company or the marketing department of a local startup, chances are they will have a blog.

This is also how millions of people have been using Twitter, as a way to get targeted news and information from thought leaders. I personally follow many people that have achieved similar goals to mine, I want to learn from them and understand what they read and find relevant, Twitter makes it incredibly easy to do this. One example is Fred Wilson from AVC, a venture capitalist in New York City. I’ve been reading Fred’s blog for a long time, Twitter helps me stay on top of his posts and read other things that aren’t on his blog, and get a small window into his life. This is the beauty of Twitter, and it gives you better access to people that have achieved the goals and dreams that you have.

In short, set realistic goals and if you want to understand how other people did it, you can, for free on the net.

Now for to-do lists. Goals and items on a to-do list are two completely separate things. It’s okay to keep a to-do list but don’t think of reach item on your list as a goal. Returning a sweater your bought online or responding to a particular email are not goals, they are simply things you need to do, hence their place on a to-do list.

Keep your goals and do-to lists separate, still get done what you need to do on a daily basis, but always keep your goals in mind. Every day you should be putting as much of your focus on achieving your next goal. If you’ve always wanted to go to business school, one of your first goals would be taking the GMAT and getting a reasonable score. This means that before this you will have a goal of studying for the GMAT.

You can then back this goal into your to-do lists by making sure that this is a priority every single day.

Of course many of my readers are Domain Investors so I’ll end with how this specifically applies to Domaining. As Domain Investors it can become all too easy to become focused on buying domains, reading about domains, and talking about domains, but not monetizing or selling your own names. Without goals you may never push yourself enough to take your own business to the next level.

Start with simple goals and as you achieve them you can begin setting bigger goals. At first just learn the process, then start doing what so people actually do, achieve your goals.

Morgan Linton

Morgan Linton