Last year at the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Sole Practitioner & Small Firm Section Symposium, in the midst of a presentation about goal setting, I gave my audience a task: to write down three goals for the next week. The purpose of this exercise was to force the attendees to formulate and memorialize their goals, and thereby increase the chances that they would actually achieve those goals within the next week. Goal setting in your practice should not be overlooked. It is easy to become distracted in your practice by the day-to-day minutia that arises. Goals provide you with direction, aid with organization and efficiency, and help you remain focused. You should ascribe long and short-term goals for your practice.
The best types of goals are SMART goals:
Your goal should be clear and unambiguous. What exactly is expected of you? Why is it important? Who is involved? Where is it going to happen?
Your goal should provide concrete criteria to measure the progress toward accomplishment of the goal. For example, if your goal is to lower your overhead, by how much will you lower your overhead? If your goal is to increase your referral sources, how many new referral sources do you plan to add?
This one should be obvious, but you would be surprised. Being overly idealistic can set you up for failure. Ask yourself whether the goal is possible, and if so, how you will reach the goal. By achieving goals, you gain a sense of accomplishment that will help motivate you to continue to set and realize future goals.
Think about your goals in light of your entire practice. If your goal is to increase business, you better have a good marketing plan to enable you to achieve that goal. Ask the question: is now the right time for this goal? If not, maybe your goal is to finish that marketing plan or increase collections before you work on developing new business. Again, don’t set yourself up for failure.
Ground your goals in a time frame. Set an ultimate deadline and then schedule incremental deadlines to assess the completion of those tasks leading toward the goal. Make sure to calendar the deadlines and set reminders. You might even try one of the many technological tools available to assist with task organization.
Finally, always revisit your goals. Schedule time on a monthly basis to revisit and reassess your goals along the way. We all have that one task that stares us in the eye each day and just won’t go away. If you are having trouble making progress toward the goal, you need to revise the goal. Now, go get those goals! (And, if you were one of my audience members (you know who you are), I’ll be back to haunt you this year to ensure that you’ve followed up on your goals.)