A Goal Without a Plan Is Just a Wish by Jay Geier

A Goal Without a Plan Is Just a Wish 


by Jay Geier


“When they say they’re going to do something, they do it!” Can you say that about anyone you know? Can anyone say that about you?

We all say we’re going to do this, or go there, or buy that. Lots of times, we don’t really mean it, so of course we don’t follow through. But most of the time, people don’t follow through because they never get started. In other words, they don’t transform their wants and wishes into clearly defined goals with specified time frames and detailed action plans.

As the saying goes, a goal without a plan is just a wish. As an independent practice owner, you probably think this on a regular basis: “I wish I was more profitable.” “I wish I had more new patients.” “I wish I had a better team.” “I wish I could hire more team members.” “I wish I had more office space.” “I wish I didn’t have to work so many hours.”

Truly successful people in all walks of life turn their wishes and wants—professional and personal—into concrete long- and short-term goals, then go pursue them with great intention. And it’s a lifelong process; they continually achieve goals and then set new ones. Wouldn’t you like to have people say that about you?


The goal-achieving process

We spend a lot of time taking our clients through a powerful goal-setting and action-planning workshop that teaches the process of achieving goals. In our workshop, we address both professional and personal goals, but here I’ll focus on only business goals. There are seven basic steps:

Step 1: Green-light potential goals.
This step should be fun and liberating. Instead of feeling mired in short-term challenges, force yourself to think 10 years into the future. Write down all your wishes and wants that come to mind, in no particular order or priority, without worrying about how you’ll make them happen. Don’t even try to categorize at this point, or it will slow down your brainstorming. Think big, bold and optimistic, with no filters, because all these unknown details will stymie your positive, hopeful thinking.

Step 2: Prioritize top five goals.
Goals should be powerful. We urge clients to prioritize those with the most impactful long-term ripple effect—more profitable business, happier patients, more patients, more jobs, greater job satisfaction for everyone on the team (you included), more freedom of time and money to give back to your community, and enjoying more quality time with family and friends. Goals aren’t set in stone; you can and should change them if your priorities change. But always have your top five defined so you can keep them top-of-mind and stay focused on executing those action plans.

Step 3: Set desired time frames.
For your top five highest priority goals, assign time frames, such as three, five or 10 years. One year is OK, but most should not be this short-term because those are unlikely to be the most impactful to your business long-term or have the greatest ripple effect. The action plans will necessarily be shorter range, but think longer term for the goals themselves.

At the same time, be optimistic you will be able to achieve a goal within the shortest reasonable time frame. If you miss the date, don’t be discouraged. Reset the date and action plans while also celebrating your progress; realize that you are further along than you would have been had you not set an aggressive time frame to begin with.

Step 4: Attach a measurable result.
Each goal must have a measurable result attached to it—a number you can monitor so you always know how you’re doing against the goal. This lets you and your team celebrate progress along the way and tells you if you need to adjust your action plans to stay on track with targeted time frames. Don’t worry if you don’t yet have the necessary tracking mechanism in place; that simply becomes one of the action plan items.

Some example goals:
  • Increase new patients by X% by Y date.
  • Schedule and execute four team trainings over the next 12 months.
  • Increase production by X% by Y date.
  • Have X number of doctors working for me by Y date.
Step 5: Create detailed action plans.
The most challenging step in this process is defining the right action plans needed to achieve each goal. The more detailed and specific your action plans—including due dates and people to whom you may choose to delegate—the easier it becomes for you to manage the business, because they create focus for you and your entire team on what you’ve decided is most important.

As a clinician, you know how to think logically and sequentially about all the steps necessary to perform a certain procedure or treatment. But when it comes to goals you’ve yet to pursue with this level of specificity and intention, you don’t know what you don’t know.

Make the process easier on yourself—and more effective and successful—by availing yourself of a reputable coach to help you through the action-planning process. Learn from people who already know the necessary steps and become part of a community of like-minded practice owners who are on the same journey as well as those who have already achieved the same goals you’ve set. Fig. 1 shows a sample action plan.
A Goal Without a Plan Is Just a Wish
Fig. 1


Step 6: Be intentional about execution.
Obviously, action plans don’t execute themselves just because you’ve written them down; you have to be intentional about allotting your time and applying the effort, energy and financial resources necessary to get things done. These two strategies will help you do that:
  • Establish a home office in which you can work uninterrupted and maintain focus—especially in the morning before going into work. With the exception of those action items that involve team members to whom you’ve delegated and preplanned time together, trying to accomplish action plans while at work fractures your focus that should be on patient care and satisfaction, along with team performance and motivation.
  • Create an annual business calendar as an indispensable multipurpose planning tool. Well before the start of each new year, enter holidays, your vacations, team member vacations, team trainings, patient appreciation events and community events. Ideally, you would do this for the whole year, but schedule 90 days out at an absolute minimum. This also serves as a great communication vehicle for your team. You may have started your office with only a few employees you talked with throughout the day, but as a business grows, informal communication becomes less effective; team members are inadvertently left out of the loop or get misinformed through the grapevine. The team will appreciate the effort you put into a calendar so they, too, can better plan their lives with their families and friends.
Now it’s time to get intentional about executing action plans by scheduling plenty of “prep days” on your calendar. These are the days you will work on and follow up on the myriad tasks that will get you to your goals. Many action items will involve others, so plan ahead and schedule time with the necessary players so they can be prepared. Impromptu “Hey, where do we stand on XYZ?” meetings are unfair to others and often a complete waste of time.

Step 7: Create accountability.
You’ll feel greater accountability for reaching your goals if you regularly remind yourself that you do indeed have them and you put a lot of effort into planning how to achieve them. Post your goals on the wall of your home office, and review the list every morning before you go to work. Keep a copy in your wallet. Keep a copy in your desk. Cross off a goal once achieved, but leave it on the list so you are constantly energized by your successes. Then add the next priority goal so you’re always working on your top five.

Scheduling time on your calendar for action-plan tasks is an essential strategy for forcing accountability on yourself. But human nature can make it easy to ignore ourselves or make excuses about other things getting in the way. Consider doing what many of the most successful athletes and business moguls do: They work with coaches or mentors who will push them to be their best by holding them accountable. A coach or mentor can help you stay focused on the goals and priorities you wanted to achieve and do what you said you would to achieve them.


Get a jump start on your new year

Do you work to live or live to work? Are you a business owner, or does your business own you? In both cases, it should be the former.

Of course, your practice is immeasurably important in your life. You probably spend more time at the office than at home and see your staff more than your family. But actually, work is the vehicle through which you should be able to achieve a fulfilling, satisfying and balanced life—while providing a good life for your family and doing something you love to do.

In other words, your business should be the means to an end, not the end in itself— it should be your means for achieving all your wishes and wants and goals, professionally and personally. So define what those are, identify the necessary action plans and be intentional about following through. This is the ideal time to get a jump start on your new year by focusing on goals that will have the greatest impact not only on next year but also on the years ahead.

Author Bio
Author Jay Geier is a world authority on growing independent practices to keep for a lifetime of revenue or sell for maximum value. He is the founder and CEO of Scheduling Institute, a firm specializing in team training and doctor coaching to help people live up to their full potential by uncovering blind spots that hold them back and limit their growth and profitability. To hear more from Geier, subscribe to his "Private Practice Playbook" podcast.
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