90-Day Plan, SMART Goals, and Sprints — Which 2 Do You Need?

Oct 4, 2023

90-Day Plan, SMART Goals, and Sprints — Which 2 Do You Need?

by | Oct 4, 2023

Have you planned Q4 yet? Do you have (or will you have) SMART goals as part of that plan? Do you ever incorporate sprints into your 90-day plan? 

I actually only recommend two of these things. Let’s take a look. 

The following is excerpted from  Focused: Reclaim Your Time, Ditch Overwhelm, and Do Less Better, Part II: Is Your To-Do List Sabotaging Your Productivity? – What to Focus On. 

The Why Behind 90-Day Plans

While it might be traditional to set yearly goals and plans, it has been proven that shorter time frames, specifically 90 days, is a more effective way to accomplish your goals. Ninety days, or a quarter, is long enough to put a plan in place and see it through to the results, but it is short enough to keep your eye on the finish line the whole time. Especially for small business owners, quarterly planning allows you to be agile and make shifts as other parts of your business and life shift. Ninety days is also a great milestone for marking progress. Setting aside time each quarter to review your accomplishments and plan your projects for the next quarter is a proven way to build momentum in your business and life. 

Why I Don’t Recommend SMART Goals 

You've probably heard the acronym SMART when it comes to goal setting. It stands for making sure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. I actually don't believe your goals need to be smart; I believe they need to be inspirational. Your goals need to motivate you to do the work it's going to take to accomplish them. If your goals aren't giving you the chills when you say them out loud, it's going to be harder to find the motivation to complete them. Save the smart details for the project level.

Now that you know the difference between a goal, a project, and a task, you can choose only tasks for your focus time. Instead of sitting down to “work on book,” you can “edit chapter 1” or “approve design.” 

Having a clear task is important for focus, and those tasks fall into three buckets.  

  • Visioning & Planning
  • Deep Work
  • Clearing the Deck

Use Sprints to Actually Move Your Plan Forward

Have a really big project? Consider breaking your project into two-week time containers called sprints. Creating a two-week sprint tells you where you're going to focus your attention for a finite amount of time and helps you build momentum to complete larger projects.

Begin creating your sprint by looking at the container you have. Look at your calendar for the next two weeks and think about how much time you can realistically devote to your project. Remember, this isn’t all your available time — this is the time you can carve out for this project, without neglecting the day-to-day operations of your business. Make sure you take into consideration all the other things you need to do, like eating, taking care of your family, and having downtime. You can make strategic decisions to work outside of your normal work hours or get extra help if needed, but make sure to do it consciously.

Once you know how much time you have, pick a project that fits that container. Then break down all the tasks to get you to that milestone and schedule them. Remember to leave yourself a little buffer time on the project. 

You can certainly plan back-to-back 2-week sprints, but I like to give myself a little time in between sprints. Dedicating a 2-week sprint to one project each month or quarter is a great way to make significant progress and build momentum for after the sprint ends. 

You can learn more about the three buckets I mentioned in the Focus Planner in Focused Book Bonuses. Then pick a bucket, and check out a Focus Session to try it out. We do 90-day planning and 2-week sprints called Focus to Finish as part of Focus Planning, no SMART goals required. 

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