This past festive season was a time for everyone to take stock, look in the rear-view mirror at the year past and plan for the road ahead.
Consider it a forced break for even the most dedicated and hard-working founders and an opportunity to have a rest from business goals, pipelines, metrics and funding rounds to ensure you’re equipped to deliver in the year ahead. This means doubling-down on what you need to achieve in your personal life to be set up for business success.
Why is this important? Because there is a strong link between founder mental health and startup performance, the business case for ensuring peak personal condition is extremely compelling.
After the turn of each year, I go through a planning exercise in preparation for the year ahead that’s useful for any founder. It lets me set personal goals, change or develop new habits and set up myself up for success in five areas.
- Relationship and family. This might be taking time out for a monthly date night, signing up to a book club to meet new friends or reconnecting with family members.
- Professional development. Learning new skills, joining a mentoring program or working through a reading list.
- Life events and development. Planning an upcoming wedding, anniversary or celebrating a significant birthday.
- Lifestyle and fun stuff. Running that marathon, seeing a new movie every month or planning an exotic holiday.
- Spirituality and society. Focusing on meditation, religion or what can be given back to the community, such as volunteering.
Like the spokes of a bicycle wheel, it’s important to ensure these five areas are fulfilled and given the attention they deserve in equal measure. If one spoke is too short, it makes for a bumpy ride in the year ahead.
But before goal setting, it’s useful to look over the last 12 months to understand the impact of life events have had on your emotional wellbeing.
Charting events according to emotional impact can be useful. Start by listing each major personal event over the last year and plot these on a timeline against emotional impact.
This allows us to see the highs and the lows and set goals to either generate more of the same high points, or take the steps needed to avoid low points. I recently had a founder tell me their highest point of 2019 was taking time out to visit a quiet countryside cabin without internet access, while another recounted the pain of cancelling a much anticipated holiday due to the pressures of founder life.
For each of the five key areas above, it’s important to set measurable goals. Some might choose to create a vision document that visualises the future and answers the question: ‘Where do I want to be in 12 months’ time?’ And then asks: ‘What do I need to do to get there?’
This will help to set realistic targets — perhaps even SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound) goals for the metrically minded — that help inch towards the end goal.
Like in business, regular reviews of personal goals are important to track progress. I review them during the first weekend of each month, which allows me to celebrate what I’ve achieved and assess whether I’m on track for the rest of the year. Set aside the time and book the time out in your diary to give this the attention it deserves.
Some key questions to ask in this self-review could include the following.
- How do you feel you are doing in each of the five areas?
- What were the highlights and lowlights of the month and in which areas did you excel?
- What were the biggest challenges and problems?
- Are you on track against your metrics? Did you spend time on the right things and if not, how will you improve next month?
- What is the focus for the upcoming month?
Having an accountability buddy can help keep us on track to achieving these goals. Like a training buddy in fitness or a co-founder in business, having to face up to a friend every month can keep us focused on achieving. There is also an abundance of clever apps and tools to use for personal goal setting. One of the best is Strides.
A final piece of advice is to stick with goal setting. Those who dedicate the time and approach this with the same passion they do their business will find that their startup will also thrive with a happy and fulfilled founder at the helm.
All the best for a professionally and personally successful 2020.