When you first start a business, there are countless products you can develop. There are countless services you can provide. You can come up with countless product-service combinations.
When you decide on a product, service, or product-service combination, there are countless ways of implementing it. There are numerous platforms, tools, and channels you can use to develop and promote your business.
There are various niches, segments, and audiences you can target. As a result, you have virtually infinite possibilities when you start a business. This might sound like good news, but it has many disadvantages in reality.
Three Disadvantages of Having Infinite Possibilities
First, you might have a difficult time making decisions. You might wonder which product, service, or product-service combination is the best one. You might wonder who your target market is.
You might wonder which tools and platforms you are going to use to develop your business. You might wonder which channels you are going to use to promote your business. As a result, you might end up being paralyzed and not start your business at all.
Second, you might start a business, but you might jump from product to product, service to service, niche to niche, audience to audience, segment to segment, channel to channel, and platform to platform. As a result, you might end up with no results with any of them.
Third, you might look at the infinite possibilities at your disposal, project them to your potential, come up with all kinds of vague goals, and get depressed when you find yourself nowhere near those goals.
If you find yourself in any of those three conditions, this post is written for you. Read it carefully, apply the principles in your business and life, and you will overcome the challenges posed by the infinite possibilities.
This process might not be as fun as jumping from product to product, niche to niche, platform to platform, but it will provide you with a solid framework to make progress toward your goals.
Crystal Clear Goals
The first step is to define a long term goal. What is your long term goal? What do you want to achieve at the end of the next three years or more? Maybe you have a goal that you can achieve in the next three years, five years, ten years, or more. That’s all good.
The catch here is to have a crystal clear goal that any third party could verify.
In order to do that you need two components, a date and another number or numbers.
By when are you going to realize this goal? Three years? Five years? Ten years? More? Just set a deadline for your goal. If you are going to achieve your goal in three years, then your deadline from now is April 2, 2021.
The second component is to attach a number or numbers to your goals. “I want to achieve financial independence by April 2, 2021” is not clear enough.
What does financial independence mean for you? How does it translate to numbers? Does that mean $2M USD in savings? Does that mean $100K USD in annual passive income? How do you define passive income? Do you define it as a four hour working week? Or do you define it as a two hour working day?
You need to define your goals so clear that when another person observes your reality, they could say whether you have achieved your goal or not without a single doubt.
Here’s an example: “I will have a $2M USD in savings, $100K USD in annual income, with 10 hour working weeks, and four weeks annual vacation, by April 2, 2021.” Anyone who looks at that goal and to your life on April 2, 2021 would testify whether you have reached your goal or not. There’s no room for doubt.
Reverse Engineer Your Goals
The second step is to start from that goal and come back in time. What do you need to achieve before that goal, so that you can achieve that long term goal? I explained this process in detail in my post about reverse engineering and scientific method. Don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as it sounds.
Here’s an example: my midterm goal is to have a 100K Medium followers and 20K email newsletter subscribers by July 1, 2019 (15 months). Anyone who looks at my Medium profile or newsletter stats on July 1, 2019 could verify whether I have reached that goal or not. There’s no room for doubt or confusion.
Here comes to important part. How does all of that translate to weekly goals? Which goals do you need to achieve by the end of this week to achieve your midterm and long term goals?
In my case, I need to grow my Medium following and newsletter subscriber list by 10% by the end of this week. As I have written in a previous post, the best way to make progress with your startup is to work toward weekly growth goals.
I need to achieve my 10% growth goal every week for the next 15 months to reach my midterm goal. Again, my weekly goal is a crystal clear goal that can be verified by any person who looks at my Medium profile and newsletter stats.
Break It Down As Much As You Want
If three steps are too few for you, you can add more steps in between. You can have a life goal, a decade goal, a five years goal, a three years goal, a year goal, a semester goal, a quarter goal, and a month goal or goals.
There’s nothing wrong with breaking down your goals, but at the end, you need to translate all of that to crystal clear weekly goals and daily action lists.
Daily Action Lists
Your weekly goals are slightly out of your control. For example, I can’t login to the emails of other people and subscribe to my email newsletter or follow myself on Medium. That’s out of my control. However, my daily action list is 100% under my control.
Here’s my daily action list.
- Publish a blog post
- Answer emails, Medium responses, blog comments, and tweets.
On top of my daily action list, I evaluate my weekly results and determine a list of extra actions to take in that week. Here are a few questions I ask myself every week. I believe in asking the right questions achieve goals and to succeed.
- Did I reach my goal this week?
- If yes, why?
- What contributed to my success this week? Do more of this.
- If not, why not?
- What prevented me from success this week? Eliminate these.
- What can I do this week to succeed at the next week’s goal?
How to Clarify Vague Action Lists?
When I go over these questions, I come up with a specific action list for that week. Those action steps are specific. That means any person looking at my work can testify whether I have completed them or not.
If I come up with a vague action step, I translate it to something exact. Let’s say, my action step is “to improve my landing page.” That could mean different things to different people.
If an action step is vague, I ask follow up questions to clarify it. “How can I improve my landing page?” Then, I come up with several answers to those questions.
- Remove the distracting links from the landing page.
- Add a few sentences about the no spam and one-click unsubscribe policy.
Focus, Consistency, Clarity, Motivation, and Accountability
Having crystal clear long term, midterm, and weekly goals and working from a crystal clear daily action lists prevent me from getting lost in infinite possibilities.
At any given moment, I’m crystal clear about my goals and action lists. There’s no confusion. There are no doubts.
Moreover, my weekly goals motivate me to the level of obsession, because that goal is right in front of me. It’s exciting. It’s just around the corner, but still out of my control.
If you add to the mix a mastermind group, I not only get excited about reaching a goal, but I also get excited about having to report to my group.
If you take into account that I don’t have infinite resources, I can’t jump from product to product, niche to niche, or platform to platform, to achieve my weekly goals. One week isn’t that long of a time to experiment with dozens of ideas.
If I have to experiment with a different idea, then I choose one of them and experiment with it in that week. The focus is on getting results, not on jumping from idea to idea.
Having infinite possibilities when starting a business can be a challenge for first time starters. You might wonder which option to choose to start with. You might jump from option to option. Or you might be discouraged by your results when you look at all the options at your disposal.
If you want to deal with all of those challenges, don’t look at all the possibilities at your disposal. Shift your focus from possibilities to crystal clear goals. Clarify your goals by adding deadlines and exact numbers to them.
Reverse engineer your goals from long term goals to weekly goals and daily actions list. Focus on your weekly goals and daily actions lists and you will make progress like you have never made before. On top of that, you won’t be bothered by the challenges of infinite possibilities anymore.
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.