Best Year Ever: Reach Your Goals With The 411
The year 2023 has officially entered the chat. Starting a new year has a way of making us want to take a step back and look at our goals, priorities, and strategies—or GPS—for the months ahead. And while we spoke in depth about the GPS in our last newsletter, let’s talk about another tool we like to use when we want to focus on our goals and get our plans into gear: the 411.
The 411 is a productivity tool that helps us organize and visualize our priorities for the week, month, and year ahead. It represents 4 weeks, 1 month, and 1 year of goals. Using the 411 for both your work and personal life can allow you to break down your biggest goals into bigger, achievable things. We call these big goals our Big Rocks. And if we commit to holding ourselves to our 411s, we can focus on the Big Rocks that will take us where we want to go. What would be possible if every week you had absolute clarity on your priorities?
Organizing those annual Big Rocks into monthly and weekly action items gets us clear on what we need to do to succeed. And when we use these 411s in action, aka commit to following them and sharing them with our teams, we know what our roles and responsibilities are. This enhances our performance as a team and as individuals, creates accountability, and gets everyone moving in the right direction.
Success isn’t about doing everything, it’s about doing the right thing. Our tasks and to-dos can take over our days. We get lost in checking off items on our list instead of focusing on the big things that will allow us to reach our goals.
To move toward success, we need to figure out what matters most to us.
Find Your 20 Percent
Before we begin filling out our 411, we have to get clear about our priorities. Like we said, a 411 isn’t a “to-do-list” for us to fill up with every little thing we must do on a day-to-day basis. It’s a success-oriented list. The only things that belong on your 411 are the personal and professional action items and goals that, when completed, will allow you to live the biggest life possible.
You’ve probably heard of the 80/20 Principle. But if you are unfamiliar with it, it’s a principle that postulates that 80 percent of our results are derived from only 20 percent of our efforts. The idea was conceived by economist Vilfredo Pareto in the early 1800s when he noticed that 20 percent of landowners owned 80 percent of the land in Italy. And since his observation, the relationship has been found in numerous other areas from our businesses to the frequency we wear certain clothes in our closet.
The point is nothing matters equally. There are things that outweigh others when it comes to what’s important in our lives. Your 20 percent items are your Big Rocks in your 411. Once you find your Big Rocks for the year, you can Goal-Set to the Now and plan your weeks and months accordingly. This will hold you accountable to your big goals.
Create Your 411
Once we know what our 411 should consist of (our Big Rocks), we can fill it out. You can find a template for 411s here. What’s important is that you first fill out your annual goals, and then each week and month you create your smaller 411s that are in line with those big goals. Keep business and personal in two separate categories in the same document.
Everything you list under “Annual Goals” is a big-ticket item. You should also list things in order of importance, so take your time when coming up with yearly goals. If you read our last newsletter about the GPS, this is a good place to start. If you know your big goals and priorities, your annual 411 should be easy to fill out. One thing to think of when you are creating your 411 is whether these goals are accountable. You can find out if they are by asking these questions:
1. Is the goal written as a specific, measurable activity instead of a result?
2. Does it have a clear deadline or time frame for success?
3. Is it within my control?
4. Can an objective third party clearly see where the finish line is?
Keeping your goals accountable makes your success formulaic and allows you to focus on doing the right activities and building habits to reach these large, specific goals. It lets you to measure your success so that you can track standards and progress along the way.
Once you feel good about the annual goals you have set, you can then start thinking in months. What’s the biggest thing you can do this month to get you on track to meeting your yearly goal? For example, if your yearly goal is to take a trip to Greece, you wouldn’t list a monthly goal as “fly to Greece.” You would break down what needs to happen in order for you to take that trip and set measurable goals toward achieving it. First, you may want to focus on making sure you have the right finances for the trip. This could include checking your annual budget for recreation. If you make sure that your monthly goal is seeing that your finances are in line for your trip, you are sure to be on track to reaching that annual goal.
After you’ve filled out your monthly goals, you can apply the same idea to creating your weekly goals but in smaller steps. What do you have to do this week in order to make sure you have the right amount for a trip to Greece? Maybe you need to call your accountant or have a family meeting with your spouse to go over your budget. Whatever will put you on track toward achieving your monthly goal should be at the top of your weekly 411.
When all of these steps are complete, make sure they add up. Are these steps really getting you to that big goal? If they’re not, reassess your plan and priorities. If they are, then you need to start time blocking your activities to make sure you get what you need to get done, done.
Time Block Your Productivity
Time blocking is the strategy of scheduling and protecting your time so that you spend your most productive hours on your most productive tasks. You can write your big rock at the top of your weekly 411, but if you don’t have actual, scheduled time on your calendar to work on it and follow through with your intentions, all your hard work envisioning your best life goes to waste.
We will be doing a deep dive on time blocking in our next newsletter. Subscribe here so you don’t miss it.
As Gary Keller likes to say, no one succeeds alone. This applies to our 411s, too. We tend to achieve our goals when we hold ourselves accountable to them. In this case, we encourage you to meet with someone at the beginning of each week to go over your 411. Hopefully, it’s someone who has a stake in your success. This could be your manager, your boss, your spouse, your counselor, or even your kids. The more involved they are, the more they will challenge your success and failures and work with you to find solutions to any problems you encounter.
Remember, there are two parts of your 411: personal and business. If you feel comfortable, sharing your personal goals first is the best way to start your meeting. If things in your personal life aren’t falling into place but your business is thriving, you may need to rethink the importance of your goals. When you are succeeding in your personal life, it also allows you to really focus on your business when you are in business mode. And vice versa—when we succeed in our work, our personal lives should be enhanced. Here are some questions your accountability partner can ask you when running through your 411 to keep you on track:
1. What was your goal last week?
2. How did you do?
3. Based on how you did, what are you going to do differently this week?
4. How do you feel about that?
If you commit to creating your 411 and being accountable to it, you will be able to truly track the progress of your biggest goals imaginable.