If yearly goals suck, in that they’re way too long and you can’t stay motivated towards your goal for 12 months, what do you do?

The alternative that I use, and my coaching clients use, to much better effect is quarterly goals focused on actions.

Quarterly Plans Are Better than Yearly Goals

A quarter is around 12 weeks. 12 weeks is enough time to make forward progress but it’s not so far out that you can’t feel the end. In a single quarter, you can double your business with the correct focus on actions.

There is no “future” you that will do all the work in the last few weeks of the quarter. There is only you, today, that can do the work or not do the work.

You feel urgency right away when you score your week and realize that you’re not accomplishing the actions that were on the list for the week. There isn’t enough wiggle room in a quarter to let yourself believe that you’ll do the work at some point in the future.

Your Actions Matter if You Want to Succeed

Note that I said your quarterly goals need to focus on actions. Actions are crucial in that they are your lead indicators. Higher business revenue is a lagging indicator. It comes as a result of more sales. More sales comes as a result of getting in touch with more people.

Talking to prospects, or sending cold emails, is your leading indicator. If you’re talking to more people, then it’s likely you’ll raise your revenue because you’ll make more sales. Talking to more people is the only thing you can affect as well. You can’t force people into sales, you need to find the people that value your services, and you can only do that by talking to more people.

Building a quarterly plan means you need to focus on the actions that you need to take every week. If you want to write a 50,000 word book in a quarter then you need to write just over 16,000 words a month or around 4000 words a week or 800 words a day. You’ll need to measure that 800 word a day output.

By measuring your output by the day, you can’t fool yourself. You either wrote 800 words today, or you didn’t. If you didn’t you’re either missing your goal for the quarter or you’re writing 1600 words tomorrow.

Make the choice.

If You Want to Win You Need to Measure Your Actions

One of the keys that many people miss in their business is measuring. You need to measure your lead indicators if you want to be able to affect them.

If your goal is to contact 10 prospects a week to see about work, then you need to track how many you have been in touch with. If you don’t measure the leads you reach out to, you’ll overestimate the number. You’ll feel like you talked to 10 when you only talked to 5. This mismatch in expectations and activity and it’s going to show in your sales.

If your goal for a quarter is weight loss, then you measure food intake. I have a rule about no pop except for a single one Friday night with 2 pieces of pizza. After Friday night, I’m not allowed to break the rule and I measure my success or failure with those food intake goals every week.

You can only affect my weight by changing what you’re doing today. In The 12 Week Year⁠ it’s said, “Your current actions are creating your future. If you want to know what your future holds, look to your actions; they are the best predictor of your life.”

What actions are you taking today, and how are you measuring them? Are they pointing you towards the goals you have?

Without Accountability You’ll Move Slower

We all do our best to stick with our goals, but it’s hard. I’m writing this after sleeping around 4 hours last night due to a kid being sick. It would be easy to not write and watch movies with my kid on the couch.

I’d rather lay on the couch and watch How to Train Your Dragon or Trolls with my kids and my wife.

I’m not watching movies though, I’m writing. My lead metric is 1500 words a day to get my book Analogue Productivity finished. I’m doing it because I know I have to report to my mastermind group and while they have kids and understand that things happen, they’ll still hold my feet to the fire about catching up.

Accountability is that gym friend that you know is waiting first thing in the morning when you’d rather sleep. They show up so you show up. Knowing someone is expecting action out of you is a key to staying on track.

If you don’t have accountability, then it’s much less likely that you’re going to stay focused on the lead indicators. It’s much less likely that you’re going to progress as much as possible.

What To Do When You Have An Idea

One of the issues with planning for a quarter is that you fill your time with projects that take a quarter. It can feel inflexible in the face of new interesting ideas. I’ve had ideas for three different WordPress plugins and two other non-fiction books. Plus some ideas for short stories, because I love fiction.

Some of those ideas will happen. Some won’t. Some I’ll look back on and decide they were a terrible idea. Some ideas will end up being part of one big project with a bunch of little ideas.

You’re right, a quarterly plan for your projects is less flexible than just winging it. You will feel bound and like you can’t just jump between things. It’s this jumping between things that has been killing you though. You keep jumping between things and moving 27 things one inch forward.

I keep a Collection in my Bullet Journal called Quarterly Ideas. This is where I file all my options for my next quarterly cycle.

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It can feel like you’ll never get to all the things you want to do in your lifetime. That’s a lie, you have so much time. Would you rather complete 4 or 8 projects this year or push 15 slightly forward and not ship anything?
Shipping 4 projects a year for the next 10 years will mean you shipped 40 projects. Most people ship nothing and over 10 years. It’s possible that they did nothing of lasting value at all in those 10 years. I’m not sure how you did with math is school, but 40 is way more than 1.

People that ship stuff to the world succeed. If you want success, in whatever form you call success, then you need to be someone that ships. Going with quarterly plans that focus on the actions is your leading indicator for shipping.

Now, before we build out our Quarterly Goals, we need one more set of documents. We need to build the filters for our work and life. We’ll need to use these filters to make sure that everything we do is heading in the right direction.

Next week, I’ll show you exactly what I do when I build my filter documents.

Photo by: fallentomato