The Creative Entrepreneur's Guide to Simple Goal-Setting
If you want to become a high achiever and be on top of your performance as a creative entrepreneur and consistently grow your business, you absolutely need goals.
Now there is something utterly wrong with how we fix goals, which explains why so many fail to achieve them.
When done right, goals will help you focus and feel less overwhelmed. And we all know how difficult that is, in a world where we're constantly distracted. Building grit, discipline, and a strong mindset to work only on the right things have never been more crucial than today in 2021. It won't happen if you don't have eyes on your goals.
But what goals?
Wherever you are right now on your entrepreneurial journey, you know that being your boss and leading your business requires you to put your attention into so many different projects, clients, and teams as you grow your business. While keeping up with consistently creating quality content.
Goals will be the key differentiator in your success. It will keep you on track, push yourself to do more in less time, and get better each day.
Goal setting looks a lot different for each person, depending on your mindset when it comes to defining an objective, tracking progress, and working style.
One thing for sure, most people make it way more complicated than it needs to be!
This essential guide will help you cut around the noises and make it simple for you to decide what to work on, stay focused, and get real results.
Here's what you'll learn in this guide:
Why you absolutely need goals to succeed as a creative entrepreneur
Why outdated goal-setting formula don't work and what to use instead to easily define and take action on your goals
Build the right habits to support your goals
Reassessing your goals with a weekly 2 min exercise
How to measure and track your progress
What tools you can use to help you follow through with your goals
There is no magic goal setting formula that will make you succeed.
Once you understand how goals can really support your growth, you will use them as a powerful tool to be laser-focus & bring fast results.
The real reason why creative entrepreneurs need goals
As a creative entrepreneur, there're a million things you want to do. There is always a new product or a new offer to launch. Always a new project to take on. Should you blog, write a book, launch a new course, a membership website, a Youtube channel, a podcast, a video podcast?
Why not all of that?
Well, you can do it all, certainly not at the same time. We all have 24 hours in a day, and while that's too little for most people, creative entrepreneurs seem to be easily overwhelmed with their schedule and creating content consistently every week on top of running their business. Even with a small team, it's difficult to manage it all.
Time is scarce.
You also have limited attention span and energy to spend each day and only so many decisions you can make before starting to feel drained.
You're not alone!
Our brain is super effective at making sure we're going to save enough energy to last the whole day. So if by 2 pm, after working nonstop, you start to feel a drop in your productivity, sudden tiredness, headache, brain fog... that's just not your heavy lunch, but the number of decisions you already took in the morning. By multitasking on many projects. You've burned down your energy too fast. And your to-do list is probably still as long as ever.
I'm not about to tell you to sandbag.
Imagine for a minute what it would feel if you could free your time and get the results you want faster. Ditch the overwhelm and the distractions (at least on most days!). That's where goals kick in.
Goals will not help you do more, but less.
Less of what's not important right now for your business, less of what's in the way of getting the right results. It will help you get clarity & focus so you can push yourself to work only on what matters.
Which is most likely sharing your content and engaging with your people, your community, your customers...
I've worked with entrepreneurs who told me "I don't work with goals". Or "I don't have time to fix goals for me or my team".
It's true that working with goals takes time, you have to plan them, check on your progress, and actually make time to work on those goals.
Who got time for that?
I get it. I've worked with startup teams to help them figure out how to best formulate, track, and review their goals. And the main struggle was making time to define the goals, and scheduling all those review meetings, validating between managers and teams...
What a headache it was for everybody!
What if it could just be simple and actually enjoyable to fix goals?
If you're a creative entrepreneur I can bet 100% that you already work with goals. You're creating new products, scheduling webinars, livestreams, collabs, courses... you set your mind into doing and you get it done.
Those are goals.
Anything you target is a goal. It doesn't have to be all defined and measurable like most people will have you believe 😒
Haven't you get something you wanted without writing it down and defining measurables? We all had a goal in mind and went for the win without making it SMART.
Getting a degree. A job. Traveling. Starting your business.
Well then, if you already have goals, why not take the time to plan and review them to get faster results?
Before we jump right in, I want to make something clear. Goals alone will not get you anything. There's one thing (or two) you gotta make sure you do first ⬇️
The one thing (or two) that makes high achievers succeed
High achievers have many things in common, the most important one is not the type of business they're in, obviously or we would all be doing the same thing. It's not the type of content they put out there, it's not the type of habits or morning routine they build, it's not about their network...
It's about consistency. They show up every single day. They know what to focus on and they deliver. Plain and simple?
Consistency is something most creative entrepreneurs struggle with. Being consistent with your deliveries, with your content. Podcast episodes. YouTube videos. Instagram stories...
Consistency is a struggle.
Want consistency? Be obsessed with the goal.
Yes, the most important thing that successful creative entrepreneurs have in common is that they're obsessed with the goal.
Obsession makes you want to do more, less likely to procrastinate, or even doubt yourself.
When you're obsessed or passionate about a topic you can't stop thinking and talking about it. That's all you want to do. It will give you the clarity (what to focus on) you need to continue to take action, to keep your eyes on the goal, and the courage to move forward no matter what. A bit like a crazy person really 😏
Being obsessed with a goal always kept me going in life.
When I wanted to study in London, I told myself I will get my degree in London. I was obsessed with it and didn't have any plan B. That was going to happen no-matter-what. I made sure to take the right steps (starting by learning English so I could actually put two phrases together) and get into the university I selected. Saved money, got a loan and I made it happen.
Again, when I wanted to move to Hong Kong to start my career, I was obsessed with it. It kept me going to work 2 jobs Monday through Friday, with no day off for a year, to save enough money and move there. No plan B.
Now that I'm relocating again, I made sure that it was going to happen. One goal: move to New Caledonia. Even will all the struggles we had to face due to Covid, it's happening after 6 months of waiting to finally get our flight tickets.
Being obsessed with a goal always kept me going in business.
When I wanted to offer People Operations (HR) consulting services to startups in Hong Kong, that was a bold idea, to say the least. But I was obsessed with how startups were using culture, productivity, digital tools, and compensation to boost people engagement & performance.
So even if I lacked experience, having mostly worked in hiring & training, I went for it anyway, designed a simple offer to help startups with performance management & salary/bonus formula, and quickly signed clients.
If you keep your eyes on one goal and put the right steps, you'll have fast results.
Sometimes not the results you hoped for and you'll have to move on. That's part of the process of validating your ideas. Then, you'll just get another goal, another obsession, and keep moving forward.
Before working with startups, I wanted to start a hiring platform for French speakers in Hong Kong. I was obsessed with it for 2 years, got a functional website that was doing the job beautifully, and got hundreds of people & a dozen companies to test it. Long story short, I did fail to sell and find paid clients, but that's another matter entirely (learning the right steps to execute on the business is key). The goal was good, not the mindset yet. But I moved on and got a new obsession...
To sum this up, you need to obsess over your goals to be consistent with your efforts and actions.
Whatever the results, goals should always keep you moving forwards, to help you grow and get better.
So focus on actions instead of the results you might get or hope to get. Let's see why that's important ⬇️
Why smart goals don't work and what to do instead
So if results are not the focus but the actions, what's all the fuzz about setting SMART goals or OKRs or whatever other methods you've been told to use that are primarily focused on results?
From my examples above you can see that my goals were not SMART. I didn't use a specific goal-setting-winning-formula to name my goals.
Get a degree. Move abroad. Start a business. Get clients.
There was no specific deadline (apart from the school application deadline), it was mostly do is ASAP.
The timeline was start now and get it done fast.
There is something wrong with deadlines and measurables. I'll cover deadlines in chapter 7, so let's just discuss figures for now.
A measurable is basically a number you put on a goal. Defined as a main target or daily/weekly/monthly/quarterly/yearly target.
How many clients you want.
How many students you want to enroll in a course.
How many likes/impressions/views/listens/downloads you want on a post/blog/video/podcast...
How many book copies you want to sell.
How much money you want to get.
Those are arbitrary numbers you randomly decided, based on past results or someone else's results, or simply what you hope to get.
Au petit bonheur la chance.
Do I want a 2% increase, or 10%, 50%, 100%?
All those are vanity figures, also called vanity metrics. A number that will make you feel good.
I've worked a lot with those metrics/numbers/figures/measurables in People Ops. I used to swear only by OKRs (Objectives & Key Results), and still think among all the methods out this is definitely by far the best for small companies and entrepreneurs.
But, there's a big BUT, I've seen it fails more than succeed. I told you, in Chapter 1 of this guide, what a headache it was for everyone to schedule and review goals. Small companies need to go fast, and I've found that goals slowed them down instead.
Let's look at what was not working.
To give you the context, I've implemented a simple salary-formula & bonus scheme, specifically designed for startups' teams (got to give credit to Buffer's salary formula for inspiration) linked to individual performance.
You achieve your quarterly goals ➡️ you get your quarterly bonus.
You got a great year ➡️ you get a raise.
Pretty basic, am I right?
Those targets were achieved or not. The numbers were here to push you to do more, to have a big bold number in mind, and to tell you by the deadline whether you made it or not.
I've seen people:
☑️ overachieve the target.
☑️ barley reach the target.
☑️ or not reach the target.
What is that telling you?
Case number one; overachieved. The numbers look great, the bonus is given, everybody is happy. The person must have worked really hard... or the target was just way too low.
Case number two; the target is met. Good, again the person will have a bonus. The person might be happy, relieved... or disappointed that the target is not overreached. Same for the manager.
The person might have worked really hard to barely achieve the target.
The person might have just worked the same as usual, nothing more, nothing less...
Last case; the numbers look bad. Target might have been too high. The person might have been too busy to even work on the goal (very likely). One thing for sure, the goal has failed, no bonus is not given and everyone is miserable.
Or nobody cares. And the person still gets the bonus, depending on how much leverage this person has over her manager...
Bottom line is, yes, numbers can help you stretched yourself, but they can also limit you (and make you miserable!).
Are numbers a reflection of performance and efforts? Not necessarily.
If the numbers look great (high/increased), it doesn't mean the person worked harder than usual. If the numbers look bad, the person might have just been too busy with other projects to even work on the goal.
Result-based goals are biased, and often not relevant.
Why target 100K per year and not one million?
You ultimately want to make as much money as possible...
Does it matter if you grow quickly your email list if you have low conversion and no people who actually buy your offer?
Does it matter if you quickly grow your YouTube subscribers if you have a low engagement?
Instead of looking at your numbers, focus on taking action.
So let's dive into working with action-based goals.
Action-based goals focus on the actions that need to be taken to hit the goal. It will not focus on the results or the deadline. Let's take a look at a few examples for creative entrepreneurs.
Writing a book:
Sell 1 million copies of my best-selling book by June 2021.
- Write 3,000 words for 30 days.
⬆️ What you need to actually write the book.
Then you'll add up to it with goals to connect with other authors, (self)publish the book, market the book...
Launching a podcast:
Launch a successful podcast in two weeks.
Release the first 3 episodes for launch, then 1 episode each Monday
⬆️ What you need to get started.
Then you'll add up to it with goals to find guests, market the podcast, get sponsors, reviews...
Growing a Youtube channel:
Grow the channel by 1000 subs in a month.
Release new video every Sunday at 6 pm.
⬆️ what you need to stay consistent & grow a channel.
Then you'll add up to it with goals to go live, do collabs, connect with other YouTubers, offer a membership, set up a Patreon, get sponsors...
Creating a course:
Sell new online course to 100 beta users.
Outline course program & record 8 videos.
⬆️ What you need to create the course.
Then you'll add up to it with goals to make it evergreen, to relaunch the course a few times per year, to have guest experts, to get video testimonials...
Actions are the main steps you need to take. Of course, from there you need to define all the tasks that you need to take in order to complete the goal.
It's effective because your brain will be able to process the action-based goals much easier than say sell a million copies of my best-selling book.
It doesn't mean you don't want high results. Of course you do 😃
What sets authors apart is the quality of their book, not the goal they add in mind. It's not the number of books they've written.
What sets YouTubers apart is the quality of their videos (content & consistency& and how they connect with their community. Not the numbers of subscribers they wanted to have.
Action-based goals will break down bigger life & business goals (be a best-selling author) to bit-sized goals you can actually work on.
So what should you measure for your goals?⬇️
Double down on that one goal
So we've talked about doing more of what works. As you work on your goals, you'll fine-tune where to put your focus and efforts.
What you have to make sure you do, as often as possible, is to work on one goal at a time.
Now I know, as a creative this is so hard to master because there's just too much you want to do. But hear me out.
Trying to be a best-selling author while being a successful podcaster is possible, but best if you do it one at a time.
First, because when you spread yourself too thin you increase your chances of burnout.
Which can lead to serious health issues, not to mention that you won't be able to run your business at all for a while. Recovering from burnout takes time. I've burned-out and saw many people do, friendpreneurs (is that a thing?) and clients.
And mostly, because you'll be less productive if you multi-task on your goals.
Being overwhelmed is as unproductive as doing nothing.
So be selective to focus on your most important goal and ignore the rest, for now 😌
Let's take the example of online courses.
You can have a course AND a membership where you teach your students new content each month, but starting them both at the same time is going to be hard. Not to mention, confusing for your audience and your marketing.
▶️ Create the course first, run it a couple of times, improve the content, make it on-demand or schedule it to run a few times per year, and when you get good at running your course, only then will it make sense to start your membership.
Our perception of progress is often wrong. When judging what we're capable of getting done, we overestimate what we can do in a day, so we put too many things on our daily to-do list and cannot cross them all. And we underestimate what we can do in a year.
I want to make sure one more time that you remember; do not multi-task on your goals.
You can start and finish many projects each year. Have the patience to go through with one big goal at a time, double down your efforts on that one goal to go fast, and then plan your next big goal.
Strong habits will help you increase your focus ⬇️
Measure only what really matters
I'm not against using measurables in performance management. It makes sense to track your results to get better. Yet, there are so many results you can measure in your work that won't provide you with important information.
Instead, it will get you busy collecting and analyzing data that won't help you get closer to your goal.
If your goal is to sell an online course via an email launch campaign, then your click rate or email opening rate doesn't matter.
What's the point of getting all excited about a 50% opening rate when you don't convert?
Sure, you can try to improve your funnel to convert more, but a lot of things we do in marketing takes so much time for random results.
I used to spend a lot of time working on HR metrics to improve hiring funnels (how many people see a job opening, how many apply, get into the interview rounds, etc). There're lots of things you don't control, the market for one, then how popular a job is, how popular the company is, the period of the year...
In the end, if you had 100 applicants or 1000, what matters is filling the job with one good candidate. Sounds logic?
Managers get annoyed when they see only a few applicants. Even if among those, the perfect candidates already applied. They want bigger numbers.
Same for interviews, how many times a manager got the perfect candidate and still asked to wait and meet other candidates, just for the sack of it. Then the process is delayed for the one good match, the time we get more people in the interview process, and then he's gone, moved on with another company who go faster.
Again, numbers are biased.
Creative entrepreneurs care too much about the wrong metrics.
It's great if you have thousands of downloads on your podcast each day, but do you have engagements? What do you do with your community?
Coming back to hitting your goals, focusing too much on the results will not help you take any action.
Have you heard that all people in a competition have the goal to win, but only one does? They all have the same goal, but only a few will focus on their performance (meaning not results, but what actions they need to take consistently to get better) can hope to win.
If you want to have a successful podcast, looking at the number of downloads each day will not make you more successful.
Making sure you publish regularly, engage with your listeners and get feedback to be a better podcaster will help you ultimately increase your numbers of downloads.
And if not, you might need to get another niche podcast and try again or stick to Youtube instead.
Looking at which type of content has more downloads is useful to help you decide what to focus on next and do more of what's working.
Focus on the metrics that help you get better and improve your work, and continue to work on your goal ⬇️
Strong habits to consistently hit your goals
Repetition, repetition, repetition.
To get good at something, any skill, you need to practice. Over and over again. And focus is no exception.
Focus is a skill that you need to constantly work on to sustain it.
We always hear “a lack of time is a lack of priorities”, but it is in fact a lack of focus.
Habits will help you get the best out of your day so you can single-task, remove distractions & the overwhelmed, and stay focused long enough to make real progress.
A habit is an action you do frequently. A routine is a sequence of actions you do frequently, so a sequence of habits.
The more you do it, the easier it gets, and the harder it is to unlearn.
Imagine going horse-riding once per month, you won't make much progress. Now compare to practicing it twice per week, or even daily.
It's easy to understand in sports how frequent practice is beneficial.
Now let's apply this to writing daily.
Not only you'll be able to write a book faster if that's your goal, but this habit will help you become a better writer and story-teller, which will help you write better sales copy, emails, captions, guides, courses...
The compound effect of this repetitive action is adding up to your results every day. So you get better each day and improve your performance.
If you batch recording videos for Youtube you might think you're gaining in productivity.
You plan one day to record 4 videos, another day to edit and schedule them, and you're done for one month of weekly content.
This can work well if you want to batch record a course or if you've already mastered pretty well video making & editing.
However, it doesn't if you want to improve your skills at making videos and consistently improve your content on Youtube. Sure, you'll save time setting up your equipment, but that's pretty much what batching will do for you in the beginning.
Every time you batch, you will have to work on your video skills which you don't practice very often and will make it hard to master; being camera-ready (your look, background, lighting), your confidence skill (which is not easy when you get starting with video), and your speaking skill (whether you work from a script or bullet point).
You will also have to work on your editing skills, which again you won't practice very often. You'll need to take time to remember how to use Adobe Premiere Pro's (or whatever editing software you use) keyboard shortcuts which makes you go a lot faster and remember how to do any special effects (text, images, B-rolls, sounds).
If you record and edit your video a couple of times per week, you'll grow your skills and learn much faster.
Same for podcasting, if you do it weekly instead of batching it, you'll increase your confidence and your skill as a podcaster much quicker. Content creating will become easier.
So batching makes sense when you're already good enough and you're not trying to master a skill.
The frequent repetition of all the actions required to work on your creative skills will turn them into habits.
Now take a look at your current habits and ask yourself if they contribute directly to helping you reach the goal, help you remove any friction (time to set up, get you started), or if you need to build up new habits to reach your goal faster.
Do you need to wake up one hour earlier so you have time to journal?
Do you need to step you your recording space the night before?
Do you need to use time blocking to make sure you have enough time for deep focus during the day?
Look at how you organize your day and make sure you prioritize the goal so you can hit it now in three months, not in a month, but ASAP.
Why? Because deadlines like measurables are set arbitrarily and are not effective. Keep on reading to find out what to do instead ⬇️
How deadlines are killing your productivity
Deadlines are effective when there is a real due date, meaning an event scheduled that cannot be pushed back. The release date of your book. The date of your live webinar. The starting date of your new course.
There are a few problems that come to mind when setting an arbitrary deadline, saying I need to finish my goal in a month or 3 months.
First, if you know that the due date is not real and you'll most likely push it back and let other things become your priorities. I've seen it happen times and times again when working with people on their goals.
Also, you don't know how long it's going to take to finish your goal. So if you set a short deadline you can fail because you will not have enough time to finish on time.
Does it really matter if you create your course content in 4 weeks or 5 weeks? The quality of the finished product is not more important than how many weeks you've worked on it?
If you set a long deadline (quarterly is pretty long) you will most likely take more time than needed to finish the goal. Not to mention, you don't know what can happen in a few months.
I used to work with quarterly objectives with my startup clients because it was easier for founders & managers to follow up their team’s objectives with this time frame. Usually, no progress was made the first month, so that’s one month wasted each quarter, which accounts for one quarter each year. A big loss in productivity right there.
So whenever possible, try to get it done asap.
Your goal should be important and made a priority. If not, other things will get in the way, fill up your calendar and no actions will be taken towards achieving your goal.
Our perception of progress is often not correct.
When working on a goal & a deadline, we usually overestimate the progress we've made (we think we're ahead of our current progress) and underestimate what's to be done during the remaining time (still more to get done than we realized). That's how we get behind.
Even if you write your second book, you don't know how long it's going to take you. Maybe the first one took only two months because you were able to deep focus on that one big project, but now that you have a podcast, a membership to run, and a team to manage as you grow, your next book might take you a year to write.
Deadlines can increase your overwhelm and lead to burnout.
So if you don't have a true due date, skip the deadlines and work with timelines instead so you can block time on your calendar to work on your goals and finish asap.
Timelines will also help you track your progress ⬇️
Easy ways to track your progress daily
Overwhelm comes from working in all directions and feeling you're not making progress, that there are still a million things waiting to get done. Anxiety increases with all the distractions and other things going on in your business and life. Felling behind. Unfocused.
Being unfocused doesn't mean you're not doing the work. Well, okay maybe you're procrastinating. Or you're just wasting precious time and energy on the wrong things. And being busy is a form of procrastination.
Tracking your progress is essential if you want to ditch the overwhelm and quickly adjust your performance. It will help you build up good habits and resilience while increasing your productivity so you can make the best use of your time.
It doesn't have to be boring though🙄.
You can in fact gamify it by using a couple of tools which will make it fun and rewarding to tick off your tasks and seeing your daily progress.
Remember, it is not about working more, but getting better at what you do and be fully on focus mode when you work, so you can then fully disconnect & recharge when you're off work.
I highly recommend using a time tracker (I use Toggl Track) to know exactly where your time is going, by the minute. So you know how much time each project and client is taking you.
Sometimes we think a project will take us a couple of hours and end up taking days or weeks out of our busy schedule. And when you commit to too many things at the same time, it's overwhelming and it decreases your overhaul focus and productivity. That can be a real struggle when you manage many clients and short term projects.
Using the time tracker will also show you exactly where you're losing time and might need to improve to go faster, or delegate, or drop (projects taking too much of your time for not enough money). For that, you can use tags and projects to play with your analytics and generate reports.
Couple this with a tool that can let you organize your projects with a timeline to easily move things around. Boards are great for listing, like Trello, but not very efficient when it comes to due dates and seeing the whole picture.
I use Toggl Plan which I love so much (Monday & Asana are also great alternatives) to plan my current projects for the coming weeks (content & branding, productivity course, podcast, youtube, learning, Gritly Academy...). The timeline view helps me move things around and limit the number of big things I'm working on in a day.
Make sure you check in daily, mark your tasks and projects done, organize your timeline, and get moving. Toggl Track & Plan work well together (obviously) and can integrate with many other apps.
One question to ask yourself to check-in on your progress and make sure you're working towards your goal:
What is the ONE thing I can do today to make sure I progress on my goal?
The mindset you need to take action
You've made it to the end of this goal-setting guide👏
A few takeaways to keep in mind.
Goals can really support your growth if you use them as a powerful tool to be laser-focus & bring fast results.
Don't overcomplicate the process and keep it simple. Be minimalist about how you set-up your goals and track your progress.
Go for action over perfection.
Taking consistent action towards your goal is not easy. To help you with that, we've created a free Mindset Bootcamp to help you go from feeling stuck to taking action in just 3 days.
Having the right mindset will help you deal with the consent overwhelm, the daily distractions, and limiting beliefs that hold you back from taking action.