Guest Post by Megan Dougherty
So you’re standing at the base of a mountain. You’re looking at the top, you know you want to be at the top, and glorious things await you there.
Conceptually, you know you pretty much just need to go UP to get where you want to be.
But you’d rather not get trapped and have to saw off your own arm along the way.
So you need to do a little planning.
In the absence of a Sherpa, however, you’re going to have to take your own best guess.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it without a little structure.
A lot of the tasks we take on in our business are overwhelmingly huge when we get started.
BUT – there’s a tolerably simple method you can use to break the mountain down into a series of achievable sections that you can tackle one by one to get to the top.
Let’s go through them.
Do you REALLY know where the top is?
The first step is getting really clear on exactly what is at the top of your personal mountain. Is it an income goal? Is it mastery of a new technology? Is it a number of users for your product or service? Is it a funnel that works on it’s own?
Next, you need to know when you want it to be accomplished by. A month? Six months? This time next year? As soon as possible?
Nail these details down so you know what you’re looking for, and be as specific as possible.
· What are you trying to accomplish?
· When do you want it to be done?
This gives you a milestone and a deadline.
It might look something like this:
“I want to increase my website traffic to 3000 visitors per month so that I can launch a membership community. I want to have this completed in 3 months.”
Or, it might look more like “I want to learn to do my own Facebook ads as soon as possible, ideally within the next month.”
This kind of data, we can work with.
But there are more variables.
What do you know and what do you NOT know?
Let’s start with the easiest bit. List all of the FACTS that you know about your goal.
What are facts about your goal? Any information about where you currently ARE in relation to your goal, and anything you know you will need to do to get there (even if you don’t know when or how).
For our example that might look something like this:
· Website traffic can be increased with guest posting, referrals and paid traffic.
· My website traffic is currently 500 visitors a month.
· Most of those visitors come from Facebook.
· I have 5 hours a week to work on this goal.
For another goal – like learning a new skill such as Facebook Marketing, it might look something like this:
· My ideal customers use Facebook all the time.
· I know there are similar businesses running ads on Facebook.
· There are lots of training programs on how to make Facebook Ads.
· I am starting from ground zero.
· I can devote 2 hours a day to learning this skill.
Now that you know where you want to be, you need to figure out what you DON’T know about getting there. You wouldn’t climb a real mountain (hopefully) without a good long think about the things that might kill you (weather conditions, amount of food you’ll need, are there Yeti?)
The digital equivalent is taking a look at your goal and asking yourself “Do I see a clear path through the different steps I will need to take to get there?” (If the answer was yes, you’re not reading this post.)
So you need to identify what you DON’T know. There’s a few ways to do this.
1. Ask someone who did what you want to do. Ask colleagues, mentors, business owners, FB groups, anyone you have access to.
2. Google. Just google your goal along with the words “How to” This should give you at least SOME information about the things you’re going to need to consider.”
If I were asking a mentor about how to achieve the goal in the example, the might be able to tell me something like “you can expect to get 50 new subscribers from every guest post on a big blog” or “don’t bother with Facebook ads, they don’t work in our industry” or “your traffic doesn’t matter unless you’re building an email list.”
A good hour on Google could tell me similar things – so use the resources you have available. Add these new facts to your existing list.
Now you’ve got a list of things you know and a sense of where you are and where you want to be.
It’s time to plan your hike.
Mapping the Route
To the best of my extensive knowledge (careful viewing of every mountain climbing movie since 1997), experienced and effective climbers break their climb into chunks, with different stops and milestones along the way. You’re going to do exactly the same thing using all of the beautiful information you have gathered for yourself.
For the more visual among us, jotting this down on a piece of paper can be exceptionally helpful.
Start by comparing your goal to where you are right now.
If you have numbers attached to your goal, this is simple, you can break them into chunks and spread them out along your timeline between today and your end date.
· 500 monthly visitors now.
· 750 monthly visitors in 30 days.
· 1500 monthly visitors in 2 months.
· 3000 monthly visitors in 3 months.
Now for each of these, list between 3 and 5 things you will DO to hit that goal.
Getting from 500 to 750 visitors
· Write at least 4 guest posts to direct traffic to my blog.
· Join and engage on 3 Facebook Groups
· Send emails to 7 colleagues to tell them about my site and ask if they will share.
· Run an ad on Google to try and get more traffic.
Do the same for each individual milestone you have identified.
Why 3-5? That tends to be a number of things someone will actually DO. 😉 More than that is overwhelming, less probably won’t be enough work – but of course, your mileage will vary depending on your goal, amount of available time, and work habits.
Take the different steps you are going to accomplish to meet your milestone and put them in your calendar. Schedule them. They are the mini-steps you are going to take to start making progress.
When you hit the date that you should have reached a milestone, say 1 month in and 750 monthly visitors, up from 500, you can take a look at your email list and see if you have reached 200 new subscribers in the last – you’re good! On track. No need to eat your climbing partner.
For a different type of goal, like learning Facebook Marketing, you will break things down differently.
Since you are starting from nothing, you may decide you want to be good enough to at least build, promote and track your own ads within a month. So the Milestones you create might look like this:
· Step 1: Research Facebook marketing best practices.
· Step 2: Create First Ad, and tweak as you see performance.
· Step 3: Run multiple ads with small differences and compare results.
· Step 4: Compile list of personal best-practices, and see if you can replicate them.
· Step 5: Start optimizing for the best prices on clicks and likes.
Unlike a numbers based goal – for learning a new skill, it can be best to decide how much time you want to devote to each step before evaluating if what you’re doing is working.
After researching, you feel you should be able to create your first ad in under 2 hours. So when you start working on it, start a timer, and see if you are finished at the end of your allotted time.
When you stop and check in to see if you hit your market or milestone, and find you didn’t – that’s okay. You now have a lot more information to use to improve your plan, and achieve the next level on your way to the top. Go back to your list of milestones and adjust for what worked and what didn’t, then get going on accomplishing that first chunk of your larger goal again.
Let’s Recap, then set out!
High level, what you’re going to do to break down your big goal into achievable chunks is the following:
1. Figure out exactly where you want to be an when.
2. Identify what you know.
3. Try to learn what you don’t know – then find out and add it to what you know.
4. Use either numbers or other measurable goals to set smaller milestones between where you are and where you want to be.
5. List action steps you are going to take to achieve each milestone.
6. Do it, and evaluate when you start hitting milestones.
And all without having a hire a Sherpa!
Megan Dougherty (@MeganTwoCents) is teaching new online entrepreneurs how to tech their tech over at the Newbie Academy. If you’ve ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes when a new subscriber joins your list, check out the definitive explanation in “How a Stranger Becomes a Subscriber”