Goal planning has been one of the most critical factors to our success, not only in business, but also in our lives. Early on we did not really focus on goal planning, and if we did, we definitely did not communicate those goals with one another. This caused us to be unfocused, caused Tom to bounce from business idea to business idea and lots of frustration for Ariana.
So in this episode, we discuss why goal planning is critical, and we walk through the process that we use to plan out our goals and how we will achieve them.
Episode Key Points
- The importance of checking in on your goal
- Why we recommend starting with your vision
- The time-frame we recommend for planning your goals out
- What cadence we recommend for reviewing and updating your goals
- Why we recommend your goal planning include both business and personal goals
- The importance of making your goals visible
- How goal planning can reduce financial strain
Goal Planning Mini-Course
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Serial Startups Podcast Show 4
Ariana: This is Serial Startups Podcast Show 4. In this episode, we’re going to discuss goal planning and why it is so important to not only your business, but to your life.
We’re going to start off the show today a little differently. We’re going to do…each of us is going to get 30 seconds to ask the other person random questions.
Tom: Oh jeez.
Ariana: So I will start first. Let me set the timer here. Okay, if you were stranded on a desert island, what one item could you not live without?
Tom: My wife.
Ariana: Aw, that’s no fair. First car?
Tom: Chevy Cavalier.
Ariana: Favorite show as a kid?
Tom: Gilligan’s Island.
Ariana: You lie. It’s MacGyver.
Tom: MacGyver. It’s definitely MacGyver.
Ariana: Okay. Favorite color?
Ariana: Oh no, I only have five seconds left.
Ariana: If you were the last person on the Earth, oh time’s up.
Tom: The answer is pizza.
Ariana: Okay, stop timer. Alright, we’ll give you some time to think of yours. You thought of some.
Ariana: Oh. (laughs)
Tom: Alright, are you ready? Am I ready?
Ariana: Wait a minute, you’ve got to…okay. Well you can resume the thing before you start because you’ve got to say okay.
Tom: Alright, now my turn for the fun. So, starting now. Cats or dogs?
Tom: Pizza or pasta?
Tom: Why do you love me?
Ariana: Lots of reasons.
Tom: Do you like chocolate?
Ariana: Who are you asking that question to?
Tom: What’s your favorite book?
Ariana: I don’t have…that is impossible to answer.
Tom: Who’s your favorite child?
Ariana: What? Horrible father of the year award.
Tom: I’m so bad at this game. Oh man.
Ariana: You are horrible at this game.
Tom: That was the worst 30 seconds of my life.
Ariana: And you had to look up help on the internet.
Tom: Hey, what’s the internet for if we can’t look up help on it?
Ariana: Oh my Lord. Okay, so to jump back into the show for this week.
Tom: So what are we talking about today?
Ariana: Goal planning.
Tom: Awesome. Your favorite subject.
Ariana: My favorite, favorite subject. We did not start off our life together with goal planning, not at all, not even a little bit. We kind of did stuff as it came along. We both had jobs. We didn’t really look too much further past that. And everything we did was kind of spur of the moment back then.
Tom: And you know, let’s look at this. So I actually did a lot of goal planning but my big problem is I never shared any of it with Ariana. So I…part of our frustrations I think early on and why we struggled to have success and to do some of the things we wanted to do is we each had our own goals or thoughts for what thing should be but I don’t think we ever communicated this as clearly as we should have.
Ariana: No, we didn’t. I don’t think we communicated them well at all.
Tom: Well I saw 15 years for us to retire. That was a pretty good goal. But you know, I think a lot of people, a lot of couples go through this. You talk about your day to day stuff but you never take a step back and really say what are we trying to achieve together? What are some of the goals that maybe I have that you don’t have and vice versa so that if nothing else, we have awareness to them?
Ariana: I mean yeah. We never really looked at the big picture together. We didn’t say okay this is our goal, how are we going to get there with the whole retiring in 15 years plan.
Tom: And I remember, there is a blog post that I’ll reference in here that seven and a half years in, so a couple years ago, I actually took a look back and said how are we doing on that 15 year goal and the results were pretty uninspiring. For the most part, because we had started multiple businesses and they were making money but we were investing all of that money back in and what kind of became clear to me at that point was it was great that we had these businesses, it was great that we were making money, but we didn’t have measurable steps to say how do we go from where we are now to get to that goal of retiring? And because we didn’t have measurable steps, we weren’t able to actually say here’s the next things we want to do, one which would allow me to focus and not do a million things, but then two, realize that if we were off track we could actually make some adjustments on it.
Ariana: Yeah and to jump back to one of the stories we told in the intro, was Tom going out and spending that $7500 in credit card debt to get the real estate training without talking to me about it and also his plan to buy a duplex instead of a house when we got out of college – a lot of that came back to the fact that we didn’t set goals and we didn’t talk about them with each other so it was hard for me to see the end result of the real estate goal because Tom didn’t sit down with me and say, okay, here’s why I think we should do it. Here’s my plan. Let’s see if we can get this thing started. So instead of coming out and saying, oh I think we should buy a duplex for our first house, you know we would have sat down and talked things over and I probably would have been a little bit more receptive to that idea.
Tom: Yeah and as we go through this, this show is titled why you need this in your business and in your life, and what we found I think overall is everything starts out with our life and how we do it there and if you can master it in doing it in your life, you can probably master it in business.
Tom: But a lot of times what people will do is skip over what they think these initial things are. You know, it takes some time to really get aligned on goals, get aligned on how much money do we have and where should we be spending that money. A lot of people just want to jump in and start a business but for example, if you go and spend $7500 on a credit card for real estate training without telling your wife, you’re probably not going to have too much success in the business because you’re starting off on a bad foot. Thankfully I have an amazing wife and I would still say that if she wasn’t sitting right next to me. But we were then able to talk through and say well now let’s figure out what we’re trying to get to and when we’re going to spend money and time, when we’re not, and make sure we agree on that together, and not just have one of us go out on our own.
Ariana: I know and we do have a specific process for the goal planning that we suggest once it’s down and does.
Tom: And we’ll say that it’s taken up multiple years to actually get this process honed in and we’re still changing it every time we meet, there’s usually something that we’ve either learned or we could improve on. So when we started this out, we simply got together every six months or once a year and we just wrote down in a Microsoft Word document individually what we each wanted over the next year and then we got together and said here’s my goals, here’s your goals, how do we combine them? And to be honest, the first couple times we did that after we talked about them, we forgot about them for the next year. So what we realized and I think a lot of this actually came back from Ariana trying to pull me back in from starting five different businesses at once, was really realizing that we needed to understand where we wanted to go long term and short term and then make sure that what we were doing when we were starting the next business or when we were growing a business was directly aligned to that.
Tom: So the process that we use now is we started out with a vision and what that vision is in our 30 days to launch course, we actually recommend people, literally get a board or a sheet out and just put pictures of what you think your life should be like and describe it in a paragraph because that’s really the picture of where you want to go and where you want to be, but it’s not a specific goal. But once you have that vision and we recommend people do this individually. So for example I would do it, Ariana would do it and then we would pull it together and we would make a single board vision paragraph of what we would want our combined lives to be like. Then what we do is we set out a whole bunch of goals and we like to align these over various time periods. So we tend to go out ten years and say okay, ten years from now, what are some of our big goals?
Tom: And then we work backwards from there and say okay, in order to achieve that in 10 years, what do we have to do in five years, what do we have to do in three years to achieve the five year goals, two years, one year, and then for the current year, we like to go every three months or every quarter and basically say what are the major things that we’re going after that quarter to then lead into the things the next quarter and so on? So we do annual planning, a big planning event once a year where we look out at the whole year and then really the whole ten years, and say are our goals still aligned to the right time periods? How did we do last year? And then what things do we have to move on that board as time goes on? And then we also do planning once a quarter at the beginning of the quarter to say, were we able to achieve what we targeted the last three months and then what have we got to focus on in the next three months? And then once we’ve done that quarterly planning, we get together once a week and kind of review the week.
Tom: How did this past week go? Did we achieve what we wanted to? Do we have to shift anything for the upcoming week? And then what goals or what tasks are we each going to take in order to actually get our things done and move our business and our lives forward?
Ariana: Yeah and so I’m going to talk about…step back here and talk about how we apply these. One of the big ways we do it like Tom said is we’ve brought it down to the small scale of the weekly planning where we get together and we talk about things but the most important part of the annual planning is really making sure that you’re including everything. Tom has the tendency to focus more on the financial aspects of our yearly goals and the business aspects of our yearly goals whereas I like to bring it back to some of the smaller stuff, but maybe it’s not necessarily smaller but non-business items. You know, household improvements, if you’re going to need a new car, if you have plans to go on vacations, anything like that.
Tom: So this is where Ariana gets the title of reality checker from.
Ariana: Again, multiple times I get that title.
Tom: Yep, because once again I look at all the businesses, all the stuff we can do to get to our goals and to our vision, and then she pulls it all back into everything else that we’ve got to consider.
Ariana: Yeah so I mean you want to make sure that you’re including everything; all aspects of your life should be in your goal planning process because you want to make sure everything is out in the open between the two of you. If you have a goal that your spouse may not have or may not have thought about, you want to put that out there so that you guys can really look at your sequence and see, okay does this make sense to do it here or should we push it, delay it to this time of year when we have less going on? Or you know, maybe you’ve got some taxes coming back and you’ll be able to afford a home improvement item that you’ve been waiting to do, stuff like that. You want to see. You want to plan everything out. You want to put it where it makes the most sense for you. And that way, every quarter you’re coming back to look at it or six months in, you want to go back and look at your year plan, something might have changed for you.
Ariana: Maybe you lost a job or you got a new job or you want to move things up, or push things back. You know, it allows you to stay on the same page with your spouse and make sure that you’re not, nothing is falling through the cracks and you’re getting it all on there and to bring it back, Tom mentioned Word documents and that we used to do our goal planning but he has recently bumped us up to a goal wall which is he’ll talk about later and I think we have a picture of it somewhere, a small scale picture of it somewhere.
Tom: Yeah we’ll include it on the show notes and I like to call it a mega-wall.
Ariana: Yes, it is the mega-wall. It goes along with our mega-desk.
Tom: Everything we do here at Serial Startups is mega.
Ariana: So yeah we’ll include a .pdf or a how-to on how to create your goal wall with this show.
Tom: And so where can people find the show notes?
Ariana: Another thing we want to talk about are the impacts in your business with goal planning.
Ariana: And that’s something that now that we do that in our personal life pretty well, we’ve also put that into our business planning, making sure that we have any important dates in there, making sure that we have any goals that we want to hit for that business, put them down, put them somewhere where you can see them. Give yourself a reminder. Put it on the calendar. Do something so that you’re putting that stuff out there and you’re not just letting it fall behind. Like Tom said, those Word Docs, they were great to start off, but we would forget about everything halfway through the year. Now that we have the goal wall and we’re reviewing it constantly, it makes it a lot easier for us to see all those goals. And we actually like to have different tiers on our goal wall. You know, we have a personal line. We have a business line, so that we can kind of split that stuff out but we’re still seeing it every week and every quarter when we’re coming back to review it.
Tom: Yeah and one of the things I like because we split out the personal and the business is at a quick glance, especially because it’s literally on the wall, we can see, are we spending too much time let’s say in the business and then we’ve got to make sure, maybe we pull back some time for our personal and our family life. So just by being able to have it broken out that way, we can clearly see where our time is being spent and make sure that’s where we actually want it to be. The other thing I think is we’re able to look at where do we spend our money and we know why we’re spending it that way. So there’s certain times where we have to have a big investment in our business, whether we’re buying equipment or a new tool or something like that and because we’re doing this planning, we can look at how much money is coming in, and then with what we’re planning to spend out, how is that going to impact us overall and then going forward, what results are we expecting to get and then we can track, are we actually getting what we’re expecting out of that?
Ariana: Yeah and if you’re interested in really diving in and doing some major goal planning, we do offer our 30 days to launch course on our Startup Academy, SerialStartups.co and click on Startup Academy. And if you do become a member, you’ll have access to that 30 days to launch program and I think the first section is pretty extensively about goal planning but even if you’re not ready for that, we are going to offer a smaller, simpler goal planning kit as well. So we’ll link to that in the show notes.
Tom: And you know it’s funny. In our 30 days to launch course, we’ve had a lot of people go through this, a lot of times they’re surprised that the whole first week, we don’t even talk about business. The whole first week, the focus is on getting aligned like with your spouse or with your business partner, whoever you’re doing this with, and understanding what are your goals, how much money do you have to invest, how much time do you have to invest, and kind of getting that stuff solidified before you then dive into a business. So I always just find it interesting that people are very shocked when they’re doing a course on how to start a business and we actually start talking about goal planning and those types of stuff.
Ariana: Yep, and now for our tip of the week.
Tom: So I can’t emphasize this enough and I’ve done a lot of consulting with organizations and one of the biggest impacts we’ve had is putting things on the wall to make them visible. And it’s such a thing that we overlook but when things are out of sight they’re out of mind and there is so much that draws our attention today with our smart phones and with our computers and everything else that…
Ariana: Everything is technical on.
Tom: Absolutely. So the reason we have a goal wall is so that we’re walking by it all the time and we can see those things and when something looks off, we can adjust it. So our goal wall and once again we’ll put some pictures and some guidance in the show notes at serialstartups.co/show4. And our goal wall is basically the blue paint that you can get at Home Depot.
Ariana: Tom is the king of post-it notes. We should buy a stock in the company.
Tom: Absolutely. Post-it notes and then just a marker and we’ve aligned the wall to lay out all of those time periods, broken up by business and by personal and then it’s a very quick and easy way for us to actually talk about our goals and we actually do our goal planning in front of that wall.
Ariana: Make sure you talk to your spouse before you put the painter tape on the wall.
Tom: Absolutely. So it’s not to say you guys need a goal wall but the recommendation is make sure wherever you put this, it’s visible so that you’re looking at it from time to time, not just doing it once a year and then forgetting about it until next year. So with that, I think that’s pretty much it for this week’s show. And we’ll see you guys next time.
Ariana: Yep, bye guys.