Today, we’re diving into a topic that many of us struggle with: the overwhelming feeling of goal planning. That feeling when you have way too much that you want to do and you can’t figure out how on earth you’re going to get it done.
Well, I’ve been there. I remember when I first started my business, I had so much energy and ambition. I had this long list of goals that I wanted to achieve.
But pretty quickly, I found myself feeling overwhelmed and stressed out. It felt like I was juggling a million balls at once, and I was afraid that if I dropped even one, everything would come crashing down,
And who are we kidding? I still feel this way from time to time, especially if I’m tackling a brand-new project. But what I know now is that if I take a deep breath, step back, and remember to be flexible, it will all come together.
So in this post, we’ll explore how to break free from overwhelm by embracing flexibility in goal planning.
We’ll talk about identifying priorities in your business. Practical tips for flexible goal planning. And even how to overcome challenges along the way.
If you’ve ever found yourself juggling too many goals and feeling like there’s never enough time, this blog post is for you.
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The Overwhelm Zone: Setting Too Many Goals
Okay, let’s start with an exercise. I want you to close your eyes and imagine this scenario. You’ve started your day, coffee in hand, and you’re ready to conquer the world. You sit down at your desk, open your planning app, and what do you see?
A long list of goals.
And likely, they are ambitious goals because you want to make things happen. But then reality sets in. You start to feel overwhelmed. There are so many goals, so many tasks, and only so many hours in the day. You ask yourself, “How the heck am I supposed to do all of this?”
Does that sound familiar?
Well, we’ve all been there.
- Setting too many goals
- Struggling to prioritize
- Feeling like there’s just never enough time.
It’s a common pain point, especially for those of us who are solopreneurs.
It’s what I like to call “the overwhelm zone.”
But here’s the good news. The overwhelm zone is not a life sentence; it’s a phase. It can be managed. It can be controlled. And yes, it can be overcome.
So first, let’s tackle the issue of setting too many goals. Now don’t get me wrong. Having goals is great. I’m a BIG believer in goals. It means you’re ambitious. You’re driven. You’re ready to take on the world.
But when it comes to effective goal setting, quality always beats out quantity. Instead of setting a dozen broad, vague goals, try focusing on two or three specific achievable ones. Trust me; you’ll feel less overwhelmed and more in control.
Prioritization: Sorting the Urgent from the Important
Now let’s talk about prioritization. This can be tricky, especially when everything seems important. And sometimes it feels like that – everything seems important. But remember, not all tasks are created equal. Some are more urgent, some are more important, and some, well, some can just wait.
Use resources like the Eisenhower matrix to help you identify what’s urgent, what’s important, and what can be delegated or even eliminated.
Finally, remember that time is finite. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. It’s how we use those hours that makes the difference.
Effective time management will help you get out of the overwhelm zone. So break down your tasks into smaller manageable chunks, use productivity tools, and don’t forget to take breaks. Your brain will thank you for it.
The Eisenhower Matrix
So I mentioned the Eisenhower matrix a minute ago. Let’s take a deeper look at that because it’s a really powerful tool when it comes to prioritizing your tasks.
It’s named after President Eisenhower. He supposedly said, “What is important is seldom urgent. And what is urgent is seldom important.” I have no idea if he actually said that, but seriously, isn’t it the truth?
The Eisenhower matrix is all about sorting out your tasks based on their urgency and importance. I was first introduced to this concept years ago when I read First Things First by Stephen Covey.
You have a square divided into four quadrants. The vertical axis represents urgency. And the horizontal axis represents importance. So you end up with four quadrants – four categories.
- Quadrant one is tasks that are both urgent and important. These are things that you should do immediately.
- Quadrant two is tasks that are important but not urgent. These are things that you can schedule. And ultimately, you want to figure out how to spend most of your time in this quadrant, doing things that are important but not urgent.
- Quadrant three is tasks that are urgent but not important. These are things that you should delegate if you can.
- And quadrant four is tasks that are not urgent or important. You should eliminate those.
The beauty of this matrix is that it’s both simple and effective. It forces you to think critically about your tasks, and it helps you avoid spending too much time on less significant activities.
Let’s look at an example. Let’s say you have a graphic design business.
One of your biggest clients requested a last-minute design change for a project that’s due tomorrow. It’s for their new product launch, and it really can’t wait. Well, that’s urgent, and it’s important.
On the other hand, updating your portfolio with examples of recent work is important, but it’s not urgent. It’s not something that has to be done right away.
Now, what about something that’s urgent but not important?
Here’s an example, maybe you recently posted an Instagram reel about graphic design trends, and it’s getting a lot of comments and engagement.
Responding to those comments might fall into the urgent category because it helps maintain engagement with your followers, and it can help your post gain traction in the Instagram algorithm.
But it’s not as important as your core design work, right? This is something that you could delegate to a virtual assistant, or you could push it off to a low-energy time of day.
And then, lastly, scrolling through social media feeds without a specific purpose in mind. That’s not important or urgent. So try to eliminate it, or at least reduce the time that you spend on it to non-work hours.
I hope you can say how using the Eisenhower matrix can help you make sure your time and energy are spent where they matter most. It will help keep you out of the overwhelm zone so that you can stay focused on driving your business forward.
Now let’s look at identifying and focusing on your business priorities. Because it’s one thing to be busy, but it’s another thing to be productive.
So let’s back up for a minute.
What are business priorities? Well, they’re the tasks and activities that directly contribute to achieving your overall business goals. They’re the critical steps that you need to take to move your business forward. Really wrapping your head around this concept is the first step toward increased productivity and success.
Now you might be asking, “How do I identify these priorities?”
Well, there are a variety of tools and frameworks that you can use. We’ve already discussed the Eisenhower matrix, which is excellent for day-to-day task management. But to focus on the bigger picture, we need something more.
The Smart Goal Setting Framework: Setting Clear, Achievable Goals
One of my favorite tools for setting and prioritizing goals is the SMART goal-setting framework. The acronym stands for:
This framework ensures that your goals are clear, actionable, and within reach.
For example, instead of having a vague goal, like “I want to grow my business.” (We all want that, right?)
A SMART goal would be more specific. Like “I want to sign 10 new clients in the next two months through targeted social media marketing.” Now you have a clear direction, and you can focus your efforts on the tasks that will help you achieve this goal.
But setting SMART goals is just the first step.
To make sure you stay on track, you want to break down those goals into smaller, manageable tasks. And for that, nothing beats the good old-fashioned to-do list. It may seem simple, but keeping up with your daily tasks is an incredibly powerful tool for staying organized and focused.
Write down your tasks and categorize them based on their importance and urgency (we’re back to the Eisenhower matrix).
The high-priority tasks-those that are both important and urgent should be tackled first.
Then focus on the ones that are important but not urgent. And remember, this is really where you want to spend the bulk of your time. This way, you can make sure that your time and energy are spent on tasks that drive your business forward.
Now let’s talk about something super important when it comes to juggling priorities. Doing regular reviews or check-ins.
Things move fast in the business world. One minute, you’re up to date on market trends, and the next, there’s a whole new game in town. Customer behavior changes. New opportunities pop up. Things that used to work great lose their steam.
So that means you need to regularly take a step back and look at what you’re doing and make sure everything still lines up with your big-picture goals.
Every quarter, take some time to sit down and evaluate your progress.
Are you moving closer to your goals? If yes, that’s great. Keep doing what you’re doing. If not, then it’s time to reassess your priorities and adjust your strategy.
You have to be flexible and adaptable in today’s world.
If you’re familiar with my background, then you know that I spent many years working in the corporate world. And it was in those days that I learned the power of identifying my priorities.
That’s when I started 90-day planning.
Every quarter, like clockwork, I would sit down with a stack of reports and some blank paper and review my goals and activities. I’d ask myself questions like, “Are my activities aligning with my goals?” If not, “Where do I need to adjust my priorities?” It was like a mini-performance review that I conducted myself.
I learned that being successful isn’t just about working hard. It’s about being focused on the right things. Not all tasks have equal value. So I started focusing my energy on those high-value / important activities that could move my goals forward.
And what happened? Well, my career thrived. And I started achieving major personal goals as well.
Today, I still use the same principles and tools to stay productive and on track with my business. Whatever your situation may be. I want you to know that by focusing on the right things, you really can achieve your goals, no matter how big they are.
So take a moment to reflect on your business. Are you clear on your priorities? Are you focusing on the tasks that can truly make a difference?
If not, take a step back and reassess. And adjust your focus.
Practical Tips for Implementing Flexibility in Goal Planning (keyword subhead)
Now let’s look at how you can implement a flexible planning approach. Like I just said, the business world keeps shifting and evolving. So we have to make sure that our strategies keep up with all of those changes.
First off, let’s look at tools. There are so many apps and tools designed to help you stay on top of your plans and track progress. They can be invaluable when it comes to staying organized and maintaining a clear picture of where you are regarding your goals.
For instance, project management apps like Asana, Trello, or Clickup can make a world of difference. They allow you to set tasks, assign deadlines and monitor your progress in real-time.
You can see at-a-glance what’s been completed and what’s still pending. That easy visibility helps you stay focused, and it also lets you make adjustments on the fly while staying within your project scope.
But let’s not stop there. You can also use time-tracking tools like Toggl. I’ve used it for years. It can help you understand how much time you spend on various tasks. That way, you can see if you’re spending too much time on low-priority tasks and then make adjustments.
It’s also really helpful for time blocking because you’ll start to build a history of how long it takes to do various tasks. And when you have that data, it makes planning your days and weeks much easier.
You also need tools for keeping track of your ideas, thoughts, and insights. Evernote and Notion are my two go-to tools for this kind of thing. Having a place to store your thoughts – especially a place that’s searchable – is especially helpful when it comes time to review and adjust your plans.
I generally use Evernote to keep track of all of my thoughts related to goals and plans. It’s helpful to keep everything in one place because then it’s easy to find again when you need it.
Regular Check-Ins: Evaluating Progress and Adjusting
The next key point is scheduling regular check-ins with yourself. We already talked about how you need to regularly review your goals and plans at a higher level, like quarterly. But you also want to take time to assess your progress on a shorter-term basis.
I recommend setting aside a specific time each week to do this. During this time:
- review the past week
- compare your actions to your goals
- determine if any adjustments need to be made
- then plan the next week.
I do my weekly review and planning on Sunday mornings.
I have a recurring task set up in Asana. And I also have the time blocked out in my weekly time-blocking template. So I don’t have to think about when I’m going to do this. It’s built into my routine. And it doesn’t require a huge block of time. I typically spend about half an hour on my weekly review and planning.
And that weekly review is what helps you be adaptable. When unexpected challenges or opportunities come up, you can adjust your plans quickly.
The key takeaway here is that you have to be flexible when it comes to goal planning. Things change too quickly. You can’t be tied to long-term plans.
I have a deep dive into this in my 90-day Planning Bootcamp. It walks you step-by-step through creating and executing 90-day plans.
Overcoming Challenges: Embracing Change and Uncertainty
So we’ve talked about tips for implementing flexible goal planning, but anytime you change things up, you may run into some challenges. So let’s look at those for just a minute.
One roadblock you may run into is fear of change or fear of uncertainty. We’re creatures of habit. That’s not a bad thing. I’m a big fan of habits.
But fear can hold you back when you’re stepping out of your comfort zone – when you’re trying something new.
But if you’ve made it this far, then you’ve seen that being flexible has some serious upsides. It lets you roll with the punches, embrace new opportunities, and ultimately, it can make running your business a whole lot less stressful.
So, how do you kick this fear of change to the curb, especially when it comes to goal planning?
Well, remember this. Plans aren’t set in stone. I say this all the time. They’re just plans. And plans can change.
I talked about President Eisenhower earlier with the Eisenhower Matrix. Well, there’s a famous quote by him that goes:
“Plans are nothing. Planning is everything.”
That is spot on. The value of planning comes from the process, not the plan itself. Planning is all about thinking strategically and prioritizing. And that is a valuable skill to have.
But a plan? That’s just a document. Original plans will never be completed the way they were first envisioned.
So back to fear of change. To get over it, start small. You don’t have to completely change your approach to planning in one fell swoop. Just start by making small tweaks here and there. I’m a big fan of making gradual changes because you hardly notice them.
Take all the different tips we’ve talked about in this post. You don’t have to implement everything at one time. Do one thing at a time.
Maybe you start with a weekly planning session. Do that a few times to get the hang of it.
Then add in a regular weekly review.
Then try one of the resources we’ve talked about, like Asana, Evernote, or Toggl.
Get the picture?
It’s not all or nothing. As you try new things, you’ll be building your flexibility muscles.
Another trick is having a backup plan. I like to say that I always have a plan B and sometimes a plan C and D. If something doesn’t go the way I anticipated, I can switch gears quickly.
Having that backup plan can help you feel ready for any curveballs that come your way. And it can ease the anxiety you may feel about trying something new.
It’s okay if things don’t go exactly as planned. That’s the beauty of flexible goal planning. You can adapt your plans, pivot when necessary, and keep moving forward.
Recap and Take Action
As we wrap up, let’s quickly recap what we’ve covered. We talked about the importance of flexibility in goal planning and how it’s crucial in today’s fast-paced business environment.
We talked about prioritizing and focusing on the right things.
And we addressed fear of change and how you can overcome that fear by making small tweaks to your current process.
Now I want to encourage you to try implementing a flexible approach to goal planning in your own business. Start with something small. Remember, it’s not about making drastic changes overnight. It’s about gradually introducing flexibility into your planning process.
Give it a whirl, and I’m sure that you’ll start seeing the benefits. You’ll be able to adapt to unexpected situations. Seize new opportunities and ultimately run a more balanced and less stressful business.
The benefits of flexible goals include increased productivity, improved morale, greater adaptability to changing situations, and the ability to seize new opportunities. They also help reduce stress by allowing you to make adjustments as needed without being held back by rigid plans.
Flexible planning is a strategy for setting and achieving goals in an ever-changing environment. It involves prioritizing tasks, focusing on the right things, taking time to review your progress, and making adjustments as needed. It also requires having a backup plan in case things don’t go exactly as planned.