You know where I used to fail at my goals? I would write them up, plan them out, but then never stop back to check on progress and see how things were going or assess if I needed to pivot and alter my course of action.
Can you believe the year is already half over? Seems like time just keeps cruising on. Halfway through the year is a great time to stop and check in on your goals and see where you’re at, what you love, what’s working…and also what may not be going so well.
I’ll be honest—that is what this show is about, right?—it is tempting to focus on what is wrong and what isn’t working, but instead, let’s start with gratitude. I know, I know, it’s a little woo woo, a little cheesy, BUT check this out: gratitude is a powerful emotion, but, potentially more importantly, you can’t actually feel two emotions at the same time. Try it. It’s like impossible. If you feel gratitude you can’t be mad, you can’t be down, you are just in gratitude. It’s like this secret of feeling better.
Okay, so beyond the woo woo, it’s important to see what went well in your goals. Did you find it really easy to get your website built? Did you find it easy to switch your dog management routine and create more time for yourself? In entrepreneurship they always talk about all the hats you have to wear…the different jobs, not sure why they call them hats, I don’t recall there being a special hat for any position…anyways, you’ll probably find that you are better at accomplishing certain jobs than others. For me, it was really easy to build the website stuff, I mean, not easy, but I didn’t hate it, it was fun, even though I wasn’t exactly fast at it. It’s really important to take a look at the things that are easy for you, those are probably your strengths and so we should note those things so we can capitalize on them.
Go through your goals and make a mark next to them. Is it accomplished? Is it started? If it is ahead or behind where you thought it would be at this point in the year. If you nailed it, wonderful, great work. You should probably celebrate with your favorite coffee tomorrow.
Now, if things haven’t exactly worked out as you thought then let’s figure out why not.
Before we dive into tactics, I want to make a quick note…we entrepreneurs have a tendency to beat ourselves up for our failures, but it’s a waste of precious time and energy. Just like being in gratitude prevents you from being in other emotions, if we are mad at ourselves or depressed about our progress, it makes it really hard to enjoy the journey and, well, dog breeding is a journey, as it’s certainly not a destination.
If you tend to beat yourself up like I do, consider shifting away from that and channeling that frustration into something productive. I feel the best way to recover from a mess-up, mistake, or failure is to proactively fix it or at least understand why it happened so you can work to prevent it next time.
Let’s discuss some common pitfalls in goal setting and execution and how to solve them going forward.
The first pitfall is:
You don’t know HOW to tackle it.
This might be something you’re struggling with in your facilities. You might be struggling with this in your website for example or social media. Maybe you know you want to build a website, but you aren’t sure how to do it, what software to use, how to use the software you do have, maybe you aren’t sure what should be on a website.
Often we write down goals that represent an outcome, like “build website” but we don’t know how we are going to do it. When this is the case you’ll find you probably have sat down a few times to start doing it, but haven’t had any luck getting anything done, you’ve caught yourself sitting and staring at the screen and you aren’t sure what to do.
If you are in this boat, maybe the goal should be to spend a little time learning how. So maybe the to-do list needs to include “decide which website builder to use” or “learn how to use the drag-n-drop builder” or whatever it is you decide to do.
Maybe you know how to build the website, but you aren’t sure what to put on it, the pictures you need or what you need to write on the page. If you’re in this camp, please download my “5 Pages Every Breeder Website Needs” checklist.
Next, potential problem is:
You don’t know when it’s done—it’s not a clear-cut goal.
Have you sat down and looked at your list and thought…well, I’ve been working on that, I don’t think it’s done, so I can’t check it off, but I’ve done some stuff, so I am making progress…
If you’re in this boat, it’s possible that you didn’t write down a clear objective in your goal. For example, if you just wrote the goal, “get in shape” well when are you done? You have no idea, in fairness, we’re all always in a shape all the time. So when have you accomplished it?
The Army loves SMART goals. The army is all about acronyms, it sounds like a foreign language when you first join. Regardless, you’ve probably heard of smart goals before. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based.
Specific means the goal is articulated. You wouldn’t want to pick a subjective goal, for example if you wanted to be the Best Rat Terrier breeder, what does that really mean? Best for who? What makes you the best? Most puppies sold? Prettiest colors? Highest price? Sold out? “Best” simply isn’t a specific enough goal.
A more specific goal would be, I want to have homes for all my puppies by the time they are 6 weeks of age.
Specific often rolls into measurable. The measurable aspect of a goal is to define what criteria will prove you did or did not meet your goal. In the above goal, specifying that we want to have puppies all sold by 6 weeks of age is measurable, if we sell them by 6 weeks we made our goal, if we didn’t make 6 weeks, then we didn’t meet the goal.
You could also say that you want to get through two modules of Dog Breeding 101 each week for 6 weeks. This would be something that’s easy to track and you can measure the progress.
Achievable is where you have that reality check with yourself: is this feasible in my situation? For example, if you say you want to sell 20 puppies, but you only have one female, that’s probably not achievable in a year, unless she has tons of puppies each litter. It also isn’t something we have tons of control with, you can’t exactly scold your female for only having 8 puppies in a litter instead of 10. It also doesn’t make sense to say you’ll be able to cover all your household bills with the dogs when you only have one female.
Another way to think of what is achievable is what is realistic. If it isn’t realistic then there is no need to put the goal on there.
Want to Get the SMART Goals Worksheet?
Next, is it relevant?
We know breeding programs are like Rome, they aren’t built in a day, so it’s important that our little goals are branches of a bigger picture, what we’d love our breeding programs to eventually become.
How might this happen? Well, it can happen so easily. You might want to build a social media presence so you set yourself up a nice specific and measurable goal of getting 1000 followers on your instagram account. So you post things and try popular hashtags and you start growing your following, you’re getting close to achieving your 1000 followers…but you have a problem. They aren’t following you for the right reasons. They’re following you for cute puppy pictures with no intention of ever buying a puppy. You might hesitate to post a picture of the reality of living with your breed of dog because it won’t be cute, but it would be really helpful for your ideal puppy buyer. The goal of 1000 followers on instagram wouldn’t be helpful in achieving your bigger breeding program goals.
It might make more sense to make the goal of getting 4 puppy inquiries a month from social media or an average of 4 over the course of year. This goal is much more relevant to your breeding program, since it shows people taking action toward becoming a buyer. I’d rather you have 100 followers and sell all your puppies, than 10,000 followers and struggling to sell all your pups by the time they’re 8 weeks old.
Lastly, there’s time-based. You need to have a deadline, especially if you have the procrastinator gene like I’ve struggled with. You need to have a reason to start something and a reason to push to accomplish it. Adding a time limit to your goal gives you the gentle kick in gear.
In the previous example, of getting 4 inquiries a month, it might be unrealistic to have this in the first month, but it might be more realistic to say you want to be averaging 4 inquiries a month by the end of the 8th month of social media.
A third problem, beyond not knowing how and not having a clear-cut goal is:
We don’t have the right priorities.
This is related to the relevancy part of SMART goals, but really plays into how our goals align—or compete—with one another.
It sucks being uncomfortable. You can feel that inner anxiety, you know there are things you should be doing, but they’re stressful, like that stack of papers in your office you need to sort or knowing you need to start your website, but it feels like such a big task. You may find yourself trying to find comfort in other things, things that are more comfortable.
For me, cleaning the dog kennels is something I have to deep clean each week. It is relatively comfortable, I know what I’m doing, I have the right stuff, it’s a nice time to catch up on some podcasts. Sometimes writing emails is a pain in the butt, it takes longer than I wish. I sometimes find that I jump into cleaning the kennels because it’s comfortable, when I really should delay the kennel cleaning an hour so I can write the emails up.
You might notice there are things that you’ll always do, like putting the dishes away at night before going to bed. Sometimes we will do these things early, when we should probably do the difficult things first so we get them out of the way.
I have an airbnb and I know that no matter what I will get the place cleaned up by check-in time at 4 pm. I can start it at 12 or I can start cleaning at 2 and I will still get it done by 4. The problem is, if I start cleaning at 12 I will take my time, deep clean extra things that aren’t necessary, sometimes I end up wasting time if I go there early to clean. In truth, I need to delay when I start so I can use that earlier time to accomplish something else.
I had a boss back in the day who used to say, “the task will expand to the allotted time.” Turns out that adage is called Parkinson’s Law. What it means is that if you give yourself a week to do a job, then it’ll take you a week, yet if you give yourself a month, then it’ll take you a month to do it.
If we can be aware of this tendency and back up some standard tasks to necessary things, then we can maximize our time and effort. For example, if you wanted to go out to dinner on a hot date, then you could probably clean the kennels in time to do that, but if you didn’t have the hot date to get to, well, it might take you longer.
Other times, we get stuck in a pattern of doing things, but they aren’t the things that are moving us forward. You ever notice that if you write down build website on your to-do list and feed the dogs on the next line, it’s as if both items are of the same importance, the same difficulty, the same time investment? Yet, we both know that feeding the dogs is like 15 minutes, while building the website might be 15 weeks! When you’re looking at your to-do list do you catch yourself doing all the easy ones first because you get to check them off and get that dopamine hit? I do. Sometimes I’ll do a task that wasn’t on my to-do list and I’ll add it to my list AFTER I finish it just so that I can cross it off and feel good about it.
It is human nature to do this, but it doesn’t exactly help us get those big items knocked off the list.
If you see the big items lingering, week after week, then maybe it’s time to figure out why.
You can ask yourself: is something in the way of me accomplishing this?
Maybe you want to put a lot of information on your website so buyers can read that and you won’t have to send out long emails, but instead of setting that up, you end up spending all that time writing the emails out because they feel urgent, and you never sit down and write up the page for your website.
In a situation like this, to satisfy your customer, and also make this easier going forward, you could write up the answer to the customer, BUT write it up for your website. This way you can do it very thoroughly, add in more information than maybe they need, but others will need. Take the time to edit it for grammar and word choice. Then post it on your website. It’ll take you longer, for sure, yes, BUT when you’re done, you can email your customer and tell them that it was such a good question you decided to write up the answer and post it on your website for others, then send them the link. This way you are killing two birds with one stone and making things easier going forward.
In another example, facilities might be the thing you really want to accomplish, yet it requires finances, which require a litter to go home, and so even though you want to get the facilities done, your hands are sort of tied until you get the finances to fund the project. It might make sense to take the item off the list for a while so it isn’t sitting on there making you feel like you’re failing.
Speaking of taking things off the list of goals…sometimes you need to remove items from the list that aren’t serving you. I used to have organize my shed on my list for a long time. After six months of being on my list I realized that it wasn’t that important to me, and when I saw it on my list I just felt bad that I wasn’t getting it done. Removing it from the list removed the stress from me and I didn’t feel bad that I wasn’t getting it done any longer.
Sometimes things will be on there a long time and you realize that while you have good intentions you’re not actually setting aside any time to get the task done. That can really become a problem because you aren’t giving yourself the resources to get it done. It’d be similar to sending someone to clean the kennels without any cleaning products or tools.
When you find you’re never getting a moment to work on it, you need to sort out why. Generally a task that you’ve made no traction on will fall into four categories: 1. You didn’t set aside any time or didn’t have the resources, 2. It isn’t as important of a priority as you think, 3. You don’t know how to execute it, or 4. It’s uncomfortable and so you aren’t taking action on it.
Goal setting and execution aren’t as easy as people often make it out to be. It’s not like on kids’ shows where they’re like, “set a goal and make it happen.” That’s like the subtitle of a 300-page book on goal setting and execution. If you’re struggling with your goals, I hope this gave you a bit of insight as to where to make the changes. Just understanding where the hiccup in execution is coming from can be helpful to getting yourself back on track. I’ve had all of these blocks numerous times in my life—and I’m sure I’ll have them all again.