I love September! Everyone comes back from vacation rested, happy and determined to make this last quarter of the year the best one of the year. Unfortunately, many of these ideas will fall flat. Why? It’s the law of diminishing returns.

The law of diminishing returns tells us that the more goals we set, the less likely we are to achieve them. One goal distracts from another, leaving us likely to accomplish nothing.

As entrepreneurs, we are wired to generate a phenomenal quantity of ideas – it’s in our DNA!

So, if you find yourself with many projects on the go or you’re finding that you haven’t achieved what you wanted to achieve up to now, here’s an exercise that I do with my private coaching clients to get them back on track and focused on what needs to happen to reach their goals.

No. 1: Make a list

Make a list of everything you want to accomplish between now and year-end. Write everything down in no particular order, just as they come to mind. Each item must be action driven. For example ‘increasing your revenue by X’ is the result of specific actions – they are not actions themselves. Focus on the actions that will bring forth an outcome – number of calls, numbers of follow-up, etc.

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No. 2: Apply the Pareto principle (80/20)

From your initial goals list, add up the number of items on the list and divide that number by 5. This will be your 80/20 number. For example, if there are 20 items on the list, your 80/20 number will be 4. If there are 50 items on your list, your 80/20 number will be 10.

No. 3: Select your “top 3”

Prioritize your list and select your top 3. This is what you will focus on until the end of the year. Now I know some will find this last step deadly, as you want to do everything (we’re high achievers after all). But don’t worry, you’ll do this exercise again in January to plan your next 12 months.

For now, trust me and stick to 3 goals you want to accomplish.

There are 3 key components for reaching your goals:

  • Write them down – studies show that you are 42% more likely to achieve your goals just by writing them down.
  • They need to be realistic – this does not mean ‘comfortable’, goals need to be out of your comfort zone but should not be delusional.
  • Regular measuring and monitoring – this is the most important one: you need to review them regularly, ideally weekly.

Each week, as you plan and schedule your time, ask yourself this question ‘what do I need to do this week in order to move towards/make progress towards my 3 goals?’

And each week, take small and consistent steps towards them.

From a leadership perspective, the law of diminishing returns tells us to keep things simple. Too many goals tell those you lead that nothing is important (you might want to read this sentence a few times to really let it sink in).

And as Stephen Covey said: ‘The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities’

Now go out there and make things happen today!

Sara Gilbert

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