Continuing the series of blogs on how to ensure you create a plan you will actually see through to successful completion, this blog is about the importance of Milestones – and how you can use milestones for momentum in all of your plans to increase your chances of success.
As mentioned in the first blog, (which outlines the key aspects every plan needs to have), if you have ever lost momentum, hope or interest in a plan or part-way through a big project, milestones are your new best friend.
If you have a big goal that you are planning to hit in 3,6 or perhaps even 12 months, keeping momentum and energy up for that length of time is HARD. It takes a lot of willpower and energy. And there will be far too many things that will seem much more appealing, fun and easy to take your attention away from the tough stuff.
Milestones along the way, help you keep that momentum and energy going because instead of one result at the end of a hard slog, there are lots of results all along the way.
Celebrate your successes
Many of us are great at coming up with things we’d like to do. We end up with endless to do lists to march through, ticking them off and moving on to the next. It reminds me of reading my mom’s knitting patterns as a child – tick one, next one, tick one, next one (my memory may not be very accurate but I always think of knitting patterns in the “knit one, perl one” format!!) Also pretty apt that I never managed to produce anything other than endless lengths of rectangular knitting, that was supposed to eventually become a something but a something never materialised.
To do lists are a bit like my endless knitting, you can just tag on some more wool and keep going, just like you can tag on more items and keep going ad infinitum.
No matter how many we tick, the lists never get any smaller. There are always as many (if not more) things to tag onto the bottom of the list, as there are being ticked off at the top.
So first off, it may take a bit of de-toxing and going cold turkey but Quit the To Do Lists. Just Say No.
(If something on your To-Do list is not attached to a goal, why is it on there?? There may be a few exceptions like things that keep you and your family alive… but if you can’t articulate why something on your to do list is helping you achieve something important, it’s time to question why you’re doing it.)
If it’s helping you achieve a goal, then it should be part of your plan. And if it’s part of your plan then it needs to be part of a milestone.
Milestones have two benefits.
Firstly, they are a mini-goal in their own right so we are justifiably entitled to celebrate completing them and who doesn’t love a reason to celebrate? The best part about milestones is the celebrating so we may as well start there!
Celebrate v Reward
I used to use the word reward at this stage. But then working with one of my coaching clients in 2017 made me change my thinking and now I think celebrating is a very important distinction.
What comes to mind when you think of the word reward? Loyalty points perhaps? Medals, certificates? A nice treat? If you look up the word, the definition is usually around a thing being given in recognition of doing or achieving something.
Now what comes to mind when you think of the word celebrate? Special occasions? Parties? Other people?
You are free to disagree but I tend to find celebrate is more active, more public and more emotive.
And there have been so many studies that show experiences trigger stronger and longer reactions than objects. And the stronger the reactions and the memories you associate with achieving your milestone, the greater the momentum you will generate.
So I say, make like the pineapple and party!
I often advise clients who have just achieved something to sit in the feeling for a while. To soak it all up and really take in what it actually feels like. Because the more they can absorb them, the easier it will be to call up on and recognise those feelings when they need motivation later on. The conversation usually goes something like – “Remember when you achieved that goal we set? Remember how you felt? Now imagine what it would be like to feel like that again when you achieve this?”.
Have a little go yourself right now.
Take a minute to remember the last time you celebrated achieving something and really felt amazing. It doesn’t matter what it was.
Now think of something you want to achieve in the future? (Big or small is fine)
Now, imagine feeling like that again because you’ve actually achieved it!
Awesome right?! How much do you want to crack on with that goal now?
Celebrating your milestones means you get to have that feeling a lot more often, which means you feel ready to crack on a lot more often too.
If you struggled a bit with doing this, that’s ok too. It probably means we should talk 🙂 At the very least, it might be a prompt to think about how you are celebrating your successes and to make sure you actually are.
The second benefit of Milestones
Ever got lost? With sat nav and smartphones, it probably doesn’t happen as often as it used to. But if you can remember what it was like, it’s not much fun.
My worst memory of getting lost was in Amsterdam with two friends many years ago. We had decided to walk to dinner one evening. We hadn’t got a particular restaurant in mind but knew an area we wanted to head to, where there were lots of good places to eat. So we read a map in the hotel reception and set off in the direction we thought best.
I don’t even know what happened but an hour later we had no idea where we were or where we were going. Suddenly one of my friends just lost it. She was in tears, she was furious, she was hungry, tired and probably a little bit scared. And the worst part was, we didn’t really have a way to make her feel better. We couldn’t tell her how much longer was left or how long it would be until dinner. We just had to try and figure it out and keep going. We asked a few people for directions and tried the next random restaurants we came across. We found one with space eventually. The food wasn’t great, although the service was friendly. We ate in almost silence and the mood carried through to the rest of our weekend.
This was pre smartphones (yep, I’m that old) so GPS wasn’t an option. With hindsight, we should have paid closer attention to whether we were going in the right direction instead of chatting. We probably did admire the sights along the way but, we should have known whether they were the sights we should have been expecting to see en route. And we should have been able to notice that we hadn’t passed the ones we should be seeing, long before we simply realised we had been walking a while without getting anywhere. Then we could have changed direction and asked for help a lot sooner. Our whole weekend would have remained exciting and dinner would have been in a nice restaurant, in a fun part of town.
This is how milestones work. They are the sights along your way that help you know you are making progress that is actually taking you where you want to go. The last thing you want to do is spend a long time, a lot of effort and, usually, a reasonable amount of money on a project or plan, only to suddenly realise you are way off track, it’s not helping you achieve your goal and you are left choosing whether to go back to the beginning or take your chances with what’s in front of you now.
A good milestone will appear just when you need it to and point you in the right direction to your overall goal. It’s not just a box to tick, it’s a navigation aid.
How to identify your milestones?
As already explained a milestone should be something you can celebrate achieving, so it should be significant step in your plan. But it should also be something that points you in the right direction for your next steps. Examples of milestones could be:
Decision points – having researched all of your options or gathered all of your information, your milestone could be that you have chosen and initiated a particular solution. For example, if you were creating or updating your website, choosing your website host, could be a milestone. To achieve it you would have had to research different hosting platforms and providers, evaluated their services against your requirements and selected the best one for you. Once you decide that, it would tell you how next to proceed with for example, buying your domain or designing and building the website itself.
Major completion points – another way to think of a milestone could be to “chunk” your work together. Taking the example above, your website might be a workstream within an overall plan or a plan in its own right. Each step of creating your website, would have it’s own milestone, such as Domain Purchased or Content Written.
As far as you know how to go – I originally wrote this blog without this category of milestone. But in early 2019 I read the brilliant book “Stick with it” by Dr Sean Young Phd. I felt he gave such a great distinction between dreams and goals, I thought this would be a useful category of Milestone. If you are working towards something big or towards something you’ve never achieved before, the chances are you will come to things you have never done before. There may be things you have no idea about at the very start.
So this category is all about breaking your plan down into steps you have done before.
When your plan has a goal you haven’t achieved previously, your plan’s steps need to be the actions you have done and do know how to do. For example, if the goal is to sell 100 items and you haven’t sold 100 already, you can’t know for sure how to sell 100 items. Instead, the plan can be broken down into steps you do know how to do, such as post regularly on social media, email existing clients etc. You may not know exactly what will get you to 100 sales but you know how to do those things. Your milestone is when you have completed those steps. It may or may not mean you have achieved the end goal but you will have made progress worth celebrating and you will have the knowledge that helps you identify the next steps and milestone.
This has been quite a long blog – thank you for staying with me! To summarise all of the above, milestones are important because they help you:
- Celebrate your success – and keep your energy and momentum high
- Stay on track – making progress in the right direction
Choose your milestones at key points along the way, where there are:
- Decision points – to help you take the right next step
- Major completion points – where you have finished a core piece of work
- As far as you know how to go – the steps you know how to do because you have done them before
- A combination of all 3!
Have fun with choosing your milestones and if you would like support to create your big, bold plans to take your business to the next level, please get in touch using the form below.