Entrepreneurship comes with amazing victories and difficult challenges. If you have ADHD, your skills as a business owner are unmatched, but your struggles can also be potent. One of these challenges, specifically, is setting realistic goals. But, worry not! The beauty of ADHD is that there are always strategies where you can turn your unique brain wiring into a tool for success.
The Importance of Realistic Goals
As a business owner, I’m sure you know that setting goals is imperative. While your business needs goals to thrive and progress, it can also be crippled by goals that it can’t meet. Unfortunately, this is all too common for ADHD entrepreneurs, leaving you feeling stressed and unworthy of success.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “under-promise and over-deliver?” This is basically the point of setting realistic goals. Setting a goal that you know is within your capabilities gives you the opportunity to stimulate your ADHD brain by meeting, and even succeeding targets.
The thing you have to tackle with setting goals is finding the sweet spot; how can you feel challenged without feeling overwhelmed?
Strategies for Setting Realistic Goals
SMARTI: The SMART Recipe with a Twist for ADHD Entrepreneurs
If you don’t know already, a basic framework for creating a goal is to use the acronym SMART. This means that your goal will be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. This means your goal will have a specific outcome (“I will”) that’s measurable (“I will have one product developed”), relevant to your business (“I will have one product developed for sale”) and bound by time (“I will have one product developed for sale by the end of the next 60 days.”) The part that ADHD entrepreneurs struggle with most is the “Achievable” bit, turning SMART into SMRT, which isn’t really a great acronym anymore.
While the SMART framework is a great starting point, let’s add a twist to make it ADHD-friendly.
ADHD brains thrive off of stimulation. When a task is interesting or invigorating in some way, it provides with you additional motivation to enjoy and achieve your goals.
Reverse Engineering Your Goals
Now, let’s focus on making the A in SMARTI a permanent resident in your mind through reverse engineering. Imagine that your goal sits on the top of a mountain like a pot of gold. How are you going to get to the top? Instead of looking at where you are first, reverse engineering means that you’re looking at where you want to be.
Starting from the top and working your way backwards allows you to better create a roadmap for reaching your goals. Let’s look at an example. Say that your goal is to increase yearly revenue by 20 percent. Instead of looking at your current revenue, start by asking yourself: what step comes right before reaching 20 percent? Looking at it this way makes small, manageable steps clearer in your mind.
Harnessing High Energy Periods
Another way to realistically reach your goals is to set them at the right time. For ADHD minds, that means choosing a time where your energy is at a peak. People with ADHD experience fluctuations in energy throughout the day. When you notice that your energy is at a high, use that time to brainstorm and outline the goals you want to reach. When you notice that your energy is low, use that time to ensure that they’re achievable. Your ADHD is a superpower; use it to your advantage!
Accountability and Tracking Progress
Realistic goals require accountability and tracking. When a goal sits only in your mind, it’s easy for you to become overwhelmed by the volume of a task and be blind to the manageable steps or potential barriers. The ultimate result of this is that you experience stress from challenges that seem too difficult to surpass.
External accountability can be a game-changer. Tools like an Excel checklist to track your progress gives you the road map you need to reach your goals, allowing you to celebrate your progress along the way.
Having a visual representation of your progress will keep you motivated towards the task at hand. The visual cues and reminders will allow you to see that you won’t accomplish it overnight, but you will get there eventually.
If you still find yourself struggling with setting realistic goals, consider joining an entrepreneur programme, working with an ADHD business coach, friend or colleague to keep you accountable.
Small Tasks and Motivational Bursts
As you’ve read so far, small tasks are imperative to setting realistic goals. Oftentimes, people with ADHD become so excited by the prospect of a new goal, that they fail to really stop and think about the steps that are needed to accomplish it. This is why small steps are so important.
When you have a list of the small tasks, you can use your bursts in motivation to get them done instead of seeing one, huge task. Your ADHD brain thrives off of the sense of achievement from ticking a task off the list.
Regular Reflection and Patience
Now, setting realistic goals also includes the knowledge that sometimes you may need to stop, examine and adjust. This is why regular reflection on your progress and patience with yourself are greatly important.
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This is especially necessary since time can be distorted for people with ADHD. You may feel that you’re not getting things done in an efficient timespan. This is where patience and reflection come in, knowing that everything can’t be achieved in a day. Try to reflect on your goals and steps regularly to ensure that they’re aligning with the ultimate outcome and don’t need any adjustment from unforeseen circumstances.
Navigating to Success
So, you have all the information, but how can you start putting these strategies into practice? Let’s imagine that your goal is to “increase yearly revenue by 20% in the healthcare sector”. Here’s how you could apply the above strategies:
- Make it a SMARTI goal: “I will increase yearly revenue by 20% by gaining five new clients in the healthcare sector that I’m passionate about within the next 12 months”.
- Reverse engineer the goal: “What do I need to do gain my fifth client?” Work your way backwards to create your roadmap.
- Use high-energy periods: Brainstorm ways to reach potential healthcare clients during the times when you’re very high energy. Write down as many ideas as you can.
- Use low-energy periods: Refine and review your ideas to examine whether they’re manageable and achievable. If you need to, use external accountability to analyse these things.
- Keep track: Use a tool to track your progress in acquiring new clients, such as a checklist or project management software.
- Utilise small tasks: Have a list of small tasks ready to tackle during bursts of motivation, such as researching potential clients or drafting emails.
- Reflect: Regularly revisit your goal. Is it still in line with your business strategy? Do you need to adjust it to keep it realistic?
- Collaborate: Get help from others to manage your project. Maybe a virtual assistant could help you with follow-ups, a marketing expert could improve your strategy, or a coach could help you when you’re holding yourself back.
How Do I Set Realistic Goals, as an ADHD Entrepreneur and Coach?
It’s crucial to remember that we’re all unique individuals. What suits one person might not necessarily fit another – and that’s okay. We each need to find our own rhythm, our own way of doing things that work best for us.
For me, the most effective approach has been to grasp the broader picture, to understand my overarching direction, and then reverse engineer a set of achievable goals from there. However, I’m not a fan of failure, especially when it comes to not meeting set goals, so I tend to steer clear of rigid deadlines.
My preferred strategy is to have a monthly focus. Each month, I select a specific area of my business to concentrate on and establish a rough endpoint that I’d like to reach by the end of that period.
The key to this method is realism. I avoid setting exact, rigid goals.
You won’t catch me saying, “I must achieve exactly this by this date.” Instead, I work towards my goals at a pace that feels right for me, giving myself the flexibility to adjust as needed.
Setting realistic goals is an essential aspect of entrepreneurship, particularly when journeying with ADHD.
By adopting strategies like SMARTI goals, reverse engineering, harnessing high energy periods, and introducing external accountability, you can navigate your journey more effectively.
Over time, these strategies will help reduce stress, increase self-confidence, and foster a healthier entrepreneurial journey.
Happy goal setting!