It’s that time of the year when we look to the year ahead. Goal setting is great for individuals and companies alike to figure out where to focus energy over the next 12 months. They also hold you accountable and keep you motivated.
Ellen Donnelly is a careers coach for founders and startup operators. She is the founder of The Ask, which helps founders and operators set and achieve goals around their careers and businesses. In our Startup Life newsletter, Ellen shared her wisdom on how founders can set goals for the year ahead.
How to set goals for 2023
Set boundaries with goals
As a founder, your goals need to resonate both emotionally and professionally. Performance-based goals that do not have an emotional "why" are rarely achieved as founders tend to naturally push for goals they truly care about hitting — and resist those which they don't. Consider the impact achieving a work goal would have on your personal life; if a company priority is to expand internationally, it might involve more travel, which might impact your family life. So set boundaries, like a travel quota for yourself, to ensure you don’t feel guilty about the goal. Here’s a template to help you do it.
Choose tangible goals
You need to measure progress. Have a handful of big annual goals for the entire company that keep your team clear on the overall outcomes. These goals could be revenue targets, customer acquisition goals or charitable giving numbers. Then have sub-goals — these ladder up to the annual targets — that are checked quarterly. Being able to complete a goal creates motivation and satisfaction. Use whatever way of measuring goals you’re most comfortable with: objectives and key results (OKRs), SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timebound) or key performance indicators (KPIs).
But also set a North Star metric
Ask yourself, “If I were successful in achieving just one goal next year, what other goals would fall into place more easily as a result?" This bigger, loftier goal is one that sets a super clear purpose for the year ahead — you could have one for the company and another for you as the founder. It helps focus and define what your other goals should be.
Set a few goals, not many
Focus is the most important part of goal setting. Every additional goal splits time and energy — the more resources you have to achieve a goal, the better placed you'll be to achieve it. Figure out how much time you think each goal will take — is it realistic to set more goals that size? Do you need a few smaller goals?
Review goals to make sure they’re still relevant
Things move quickly in startupland — you have to remain agile in the face of customer feedback and market conditions. Schedule a quarterly review in your calendar right now. Don’t let that time be booked by something else. You want to use the time to ensure that each goal still makes sense. If not, switch it up. Goal setting isn’t just for the end of the year.
On the subject of... setting goals
🦍 Set a big hairy audacious goal. It can give your team motivation and clarity, says the founder of food sharing platform Olio.
How (and how not) to run a startup.
🔦 Here’s what you need to know about OKRs. When your startup is growing fast, the execution challenges can grow even faster. You lose direction, responsibilities blur and teams build silos. OKRs can help you break through that and regain focus.
🌟 Give yourself a gold star. A rewards system will help you stay motivated and boost your productivity.
⏸️ Get your goals to compete with each other. Author of Atomic Habits, James Clear, breaks down why you need to press pause on less important things and focus on one goal at a time.
🌱 How to set sustainability goals. Make 2023 the year to improve the impact your business is having on the environment. Is there a more sustainable alternative to tech you’re using or a better way to run your operations?