So far, you have made several important resolutions. You’ve promised that you would commit to doing better this year, that you would achieve better health, that you would perfect a financially valuable skill, and that you would make yourself a more interesting (and interested) person. That’s a good start. Today, we’re going to focus on your business/career goals. What is your ultimate ambition? To become CEO of the business you are working for now? To have your own business? To be a great teacher/doctor/lawyer?
Think in terms of business/career objectives. What exactly do you want to accomplish? Is there some financial target you’d like to meet? Or is there a specific role you want to play? Some recognition you’d like to win? My overall business goal last year was financial. I gave myself the objective of earning a certain amount of income. It was quite a lot of money, but not arbitrary or fantastic. It was based on business I was already doing and plans that had already been made.
It wasn’t my No. 1 goal for the year — you may remember that I changed my priorities (in terms of my four Life Goals) in the middle of the summer — but it was important. I’m happy to say that I was able to achieve it despite its secondary status by using a little trick I invented just after I decided it wouldn’t be my top priority. Here’s the trick: Every day, early in the morning, as I spent my 15 minutes thinking about and planning my priorities, I’d force myself to come up with one significant thing to do that would significantly advance my overall business goals. It couldn’t be just any “urgent” thing. It had to be something important and relevant — some specific action that would directly advance my overall business goals. Sometimes, it was forcing myself to have a difficult conversation. Sometimes, it was writing a memo to push along a key project. Sometimes, it was having a meeting that needed desperately to be held. And sometimes, it involved numbers.
Generally, it fell into the Important but Not Urgent category — and it almost always took at least a half-hour to accomplish. Some days, I had to spend five or 10 minutes coming up with a viable idea. But it was always worthwhile. It made a big difference. Day by day and week by week, I pushed the big, moneymaking projects forward. Goals that might have taken a year to achieve in “the old days” were done and finished in a matter of months this year. Tasks that could have lingered for weeks a year ago were done in days. The bottom line: Despite a worse-than-expected economy and all sorts of challenging disappointments, I reached and exceeded (by a considerable margin) all of my major business goals this year — and I credit this little technique with a lot of my success.[Ed. Note. Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]