Setting business goals

4 steps to making your big dreams reality in 2017

- December 22, 2016 3 MIN READ

At the end of the year I usually see soloists in one of two states:

  1. They’re so busy they can barely scratch themselves and instead of taking time off around Christmas and the New Year, they just keep working, hoping that maybe they’ll be able to catch their breath somewhere in January.
  2. The year’s been a bit rubbish (ie work’s been slow) and they’re counting down the days till January 1, at which point they figure they’ll hit the reset button and start ‘fresh’.

The problem with both these methods is they don’t involve any reflection on the year just gone. This means important lessons are lost and important achievements are going unacknowledged.

If you have big business dreams and goals for 2017, you need to be more deliberate about how you close the door on 2016. Here’s the four-step process I recommend:

1. Reflect

It’s really important to set aside some time to ask yourself the following questions, answer them and then reflect on your answers:

  1. What did I do well this year?
  2. What were my three biggest ‘wins’?
  3. What did I learn from those wins?
  4. What were the things that most disappointed me about this year?
  5. Why were they disappointing?
  6. What did I learn from those disappointments?

2. Close the book

Whether a year’s been ordinary or great, it’s really important to close the book on it and focus firmly forward. (I’ve always been a fan of the saying ‘Don’t look back, you’re not going that way.’)

Before you can close the book however, you need to sit with the learnings from Step 1 above. Then ask yourself:

  1. Which of those learnings am I going to take with me into 2017?
  2. What am I going to leave in 2016?

For example, in 2016 you may have learned someone you trusted betrayed you. You’ll first want to process that betrayal, then take the positives that have come from the experience forward into 2017 and leave the trust issues that betrayal threw up back in 2016.

3. Set goals

Let’s talk about your BIG DREAMS for 2017 now. If you want those dreams to become a reality, you need to set SMART goals around them. SMART goals are:

S – specific, significant, stretching
M – measurable, meaningful, motivational
A – agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented
R – realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented
T – time-based, time-bound, timely, tangible, trackable {Source}

Where possible, you should also set goals where the process is enjoyable as the end destination. For example, setting the goal of ‘Getting 20 more new clients by the end of April’, would be accompanied by the enjoyable process of going to conferences, being active in relevant Facebook groups and connecting with people via your blog.

Enjoying the process is important for two reasons. The first is, when the going gets tough, you won’t opt out because even though the goal seems ‘so far away’, it doesn’t matter because you’re enjoying the process. The second is, if you ‘only’ achieve 18 new customers by April, the enjoyment you’ve gained from the process will override the disappointment of going close, but missing your goal.

4. Set up small wins

It’s not always possible to enjoy the process involved with chasing a big dream. You might not enjoy analysing your website stats to see where your traffic is coming from and tweaking headlines and articles to drive more traffic from Google. But, if you set up small wins along the way like ‘Increase traffic by 200 visitors by the end of this month’, those small wins will provide a springboard to the next small win. And the next. Before you know it, you’ll have hit your big, hairy and audacious mid-year target.


As tempting as it might be to slam the door shut on 2016 and throw yourself headfirst into 2017, you’re doing your dreams a disservice if you do so. Taking time to reflect on the past year means you can look forward to the following year with both a sense of satisfaction and purpose: two things that will provide a beautiful foundation on which to build something exciting and fun on in 2017.

Good luck!


This article first appeared on the Swish Design blog and is republished here with full permission.