Beyond the Goal: Establishing Systems That Help You Reach Your Targets
Without goals, you may float aimlessly, struggling to develop a strategy and direction. Setting goals can help set you in the right direction and give you something to aim for. Merely setting goals, however, only makes you live in the fantasy of the future. It’s not a sustainable move toward your future plans.
Setting systems to develop new habits that are aligned with your goals, on the other hand, is really what gets things done. With clear systems in place, you can often set yourself up for greater levels of success and help streamline the path to achieving your goals, both professionally and for your business.
Systems Establish Self-Control and Direction
Kurtis Pykes notes, “Systems are the moving force for the goals you set. They preserve the need for self-control and increase your overall happiness in the long run.” It’s easy to set your goal on a pedestal and assume that you are moving constantly toward it, even when you aren’t. You may create a set of standards for yourself and push hard toward those goals.
Then the inevitable happens: something gets in the way. As a business, you can have a lot of potential pitfalls that have the potential to derail your efforts. You cannot bring in enough employees to accomplish your goals. Sales tank. Economic struggles make your product less desirable for your target market.
Suddenly, it’s much harder to keep moving forward.
Systems, however, help set you up for success. They give you daily objectives to reach and a process by which you can achieve your future goals, without living in a fantasy-based future that saps your energy and commitment for the actions that will actually help you reach your goals. They introduce key structure into your outline and help you create a plan that can actually take you from where you are to where you want to be.
In Atomic Habits, James Clear notes, “Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.” Creating those systems can help you overcome potential obstacles and keep moving toward your goals, even during difficult periods.
How to Develop Systems to Reach Your Goals
Systems are the mechanism by which you actually make progress toward your goals and dreams. At the beginning of each year, ariund 38.5% of American adults, and 59% of young adults between 18 and 34, set resolutions. Unfortunately, as many as 91% of those resolutions will ultimately fail. Developing systems, on the other hand, can help more clearly establish your goals and increase the odds that you will accomplish them. Business goals can be equally difficult to keep moving toward. Not only do you have to take measures to get there yourself, you may have to get the rest of the team on board.
1. Determine what you want to achieve.
Start by clearly laying out what you want to achieve: your big-picture goal. Do you want to:
- increase profits?
- Improve response time when dealing with customers?
- Increase overall customer satisfaction?
- Break into a new market?
- Improve employee satisfaction?
- Grow the business so that you can open a new location?
Start by clearly laying out exactly what you want to accomplish. Consider the elements of smart goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-oriented. Then, use those elements to clearly define your goal. Narrow it down. For example, if you want to build your online presence, you might note that you want to have a presence on at least three social media sites, with at least 10,000 followers per site, by the end of the year. If your goal is to grow your business operations, you might have a goal of opening 1–2 new locations by the end of the year.
2. Define your “why.”
Your “why,” or your motivation for pushing toward a specific goal, is critical for your overall success. You may need to know your “why” for two key reasons.
Keep pushing forward even when you are struggling.
When you have clearly defined your “why,” it can be much easier to keep your eyes on the prize even when you’re struggling to meet your goals. Laying out your reasons for accomplishing your goals can remind you of why you’re making sacrifices or pushing yourself to achieve certain things, which can, in turn, increase the odds that you will stay focused. For example, if you want to expand your business because you have a goal of increasing profits, you may want to focus on that when things get difficult.
Understand your real goal.
Sometimes, the goals you state aloud may be different than your internal motivations, especially when you’re struggling to define them. Think about a personal weight loss goal, for example. Someone could want to lose weight for any number of reasons. It could be about mobility: getting around more easily or reducing joint pain, for example. As a result, that individual might need to focus on mobility exercises, avoiding processed foods, or stretching alongside the other goals.
The same is true of your business goals. If you have a goal of increasing sales because you want to increase overall profits, you may want to focus on bringing in more business. On the other hand, if you’re trying to increase sales to expand the business as a whole, you may have a different strategy, including a different approach for reaching out to new leads.
Working through your “why” can help you clearly define your goal so that you’re aiming in the direction of what you actually want to achieve, rather than missing the mark because your systems were not in alignment with that goal.
3. List the actions that are necessary to accomplish your goal.
In order to take a goal from dream to reality, you need to clearly lay out the steps that will help take you there. For example, suppose that you have a goal of growing your online presence. You determine that you want to create a profile on three distinct social media sites, and that you want at least 10,000 followers per platform by the end of the year.
What steps do you need to take in order to get there? Obviously, step one is to evaluate your target audience and determine which social media platforms they are most likely to use. Then, you will need to create those profiles. You will need to create regular content on each of your chosen platforms and interact frequently with your fans and followers. You may also need to devote budget to your social media expansion and put together social media ads, boosting your reach and making it easier for you to find new leads.
Whatever your goal is, break it down into the specific actions that you will need to take. Goals can’t happen without processes or systems that can help you get there. If you were trying to lose weight, simply throwing out, “I want to lose weight this year!” isn’t enough. You need specify the steps you would take in order to achieve that goal: eating healthier, engaging in more exercise, or shifting away from processed foods. The same is true of your business goals.
Keep in mind that those systems tend not to be one-time actions. In order to create systems that will help you meet and retain your future goals, you will need to create sustainable systems that change your approach permanently. You cannot simply assume that a one-time healthy meal will lead to health and wellness change, nor can you assume that making one post on social media, or even just creating the account, will help grow your brand. You need ongoing systems in place that will help you keep generating progress toward those goals.
4. State your “implementation actions.”
Your implementation actions are the specific actions you will take as you move toward achieving your goals. They are deliberate steps that take place at a specific date and time. “I will [action] at [time] in [location.”
For example, if your goal is improving employee retention, you might announce, “I will implement a cost of living wage increase for all employees in [two weeks/a month]. I will announce it at the next company-wide meeting.” Or, you might say, “I will provide insurance for all employees beginning on [date].”
Setting your implementation actions puts action to your goals and starts your system moving forward. You need a comprehensive system that is designed to help you move toward your ongoing goals. Just like you can’t write a book without a commitment to regular writing, and you cannot lose weight without lifestyle changes that include more movement and fewer calories, you cannot implement real change within your business if you do not have a system in place to achieve it. Implementation actions are specific actions taken at a set time that will help move you forward toward those goals.
5. Review your efforts regularly so that you can expand your goals.
As you set those vital systems in place, you will often find that you are able to move toward your goals at a much more rapid pace than you thought. Your systems set forth clear guidance that can help you move toward your target in a straight line, rather than deviating from it. However, that doesn’t mean that you can simply let those systems continue to run without oversight. You may want to take several steps that can help you review your current systems and get a better feel for what you need to do next.
What’s working well for you?
Because you took the time to fully lay out your goals and plans, you likely have a good idea of which systems are helping you move toward those goals. For example, if your goal is employee retention, you might hear that more employees are staying because of the promise of good benefits or increased vacation time, or you might notice that employees are happier now that they’re able to take some downtime to recharge between projects. If your goal is increasing your online presence and reach, you might notice that a specific type of post performs very well, or that you have better results on one platform. Keeping an eye on your current results can help you shape your future efforts so that they will be even more effective.
Is there anything you need to adjust about your strategy?
Your systems set out clear guidelines for achieving your goals, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot adapt them as needed. Suppose, for example, that you notice that one of the social media platforms you chose doesn’t seem to be working for your business. There could be a number of reasons for that. You might discover, for example, that your target audience simply doesn’t use that platform very often. In order to make that platform work for you, you may need to adapt your target audience — and ultimately, it may be more effective, and help you come closer to your goals, if you move away from that platform and focus your efforts on the ones that are more beneficial to your brand.
In other cases, you might discover that you need to shift the focus of your efforts. For example, you might have started out with a system of posting on social media every day at noon. As a B2C company, however, you may discover that your target audience is more likely to see those posts if you put them up after 5. Shifting your strategy — and your system — can help bring you closer to achieving those goals.
How are your goals changing for the future?
As you reach one goal, you may want to adapt and create another for the future. Suppose, for example, that you started with a goal of improving employee retention. Once you have managed to keep employees in your company for a year, you may want to increase your hiring to help grow your business. Thanks to your employee retention efforts, you might now have a better idea of what will likely attract employees in your field, so you can use those efforts to shape your new goals and further grow your business.
Do You Have a Goal of Improving Your Employee Management Efforts?
Platinum Group helps you adopt an efficient, compliant HCM system to make employee management and payroll a joyful experience. Take our free, self-guided tour here to learn more about how we can help.