Are you feeling the pressure yet?

We’re down to the last couple weeks of 2016.  Have you accomplished everything you hoped for the year?  Have you finished every project you planned?

Or have you given up on 2016, and started setting resolutions in the hope that 2017 will be bigger and better?

Whichever is the case, I want to help you make 2017 your best year ever.

One of the big topics that I’ve kept coming back to this year is productivity.  Because it doesn’t matter what your skills and capabilities are if you’re not being productive, if you’re not taking meaningful action in pursuit of your most important goals.

What I’ve found is that although there are a million different approaches to “entrepreneurial productivity” — the kind that I imagine most of my readers would be most interested in — they really just boil down to a few really important steps.

Setting aside all the in-the-moment stuff like “minimize distractions,” “put yourself in a productive environment,” and other recommendations we all know already…

Here’s a 5-step process to become more productive, achieve your most important goals, and get exactly what you want out of your life and business…

Step 1: Describe your strengths and capabilities…

When you’re planning your future, you really need to start with your NOW.  Specifically, all the tools, resources, and capabilities that you bring to this present moment, that can move you forward toward whatever your goals may be.

These can be very tactical.  What are your biggest financially-valuable skills and abilities?  What are you able to do that others are willing to pay money for?

They can also be about your character and personal capabilities.  Do you have confidence in certain situations?  A good support network?  Are you emotionally grounded?

They can also reflect other areas of your life.  You’re fit and capable to handle physically moving through a demanding life.  You have healthy habits.  You’re financially comfortable enough to take on new and bigger opportunities.

Grab a pad of paper and a pen.  Give yourself 20 or 30 minutes, if not more.  Long enough that you will have thought you ran out of things to write, and will be forced to really look for more (because you will continue to discover more).

Make sure, as you write, that you describe your strengths and capabilities in present terms, such as “I am…,” “I have…,” etc.

And, make sure you’re being honest, but not too humble here.  This isn’t for the world to read.  This is meant to be an honest assessment of your capabilities, from your perspective.  It has to be at least a polished version of the truth for it to be truly useful.

Step 2: Describe the challenges and obstacles you see today…

Now that you’ve laid out all the strengths and capabilities you bring to the table, it’s time to look at what’s standing in your way.  What’s preventing you from reaching your goals.

Turn to the next piece of paper in your pad, and start to list the challenges and obstacles you’re running up against today.

Some of them may be internal.  What skills, strengths, and capabilities do you wish you had, that you feel would make you more able to live the life you want to live?  What emotional or social hang-ups are preventing you from living your fullest life?

Many are likely external.  What is going on in your life and the world around you that is making your desired success more difficult?  What about the outside world, if you could change or circumvent it, would give you the freedom to accomplish what you desire?

Some people will tell you that many obstacles and challenges you see as real, aren’t.  That the things we think stand in the way aren’t really obstacles at all, unless we choose to use them as excuses for our failure, inside our own minds.  I’m not trying to tell you that today, but it’s an interesting perspective.

What I do want you to do is take another 20 or 30 minutes and really get clear about what you see as obstacles and challenges that are keeping you from your goals.

Step 3: Get clear on all your goals for your life…

The main focus of Breakthrough Marketing Secrets is business — and within business, sales and marketing.  But whether you’re a freelance copywriter, the owner of a 100-person company, or someone’s employee, the reality is that our goals cover all areas of our life.

In fact, I was just talking to a friend today about this.  He has an app that companies give to their employees, to help them with their financial wellbeing.  He was talking about his clients’ perspective on paying for this for employees — and made a point I agreed on.  That is, that the better someone is doing in ALL areas of their life, the more value they can contribute to their employer.  So if his app can help someone address financial difficulties, they’ll be more confident with money, which will give them better relationships, which will help them focus and be more productive at work.

I believe that you need to take an integrated approach to living your best life.  Get into your financial and business goals, sure.  But think beyond that.  What are your physical health goals?  What are your mental health goals?  What habits do you want to build?

There are a lot of ways to think about this, but here’s one that gives some great perspective.  Imagine that you’ve just passed away after living a full and happy life, and your local paper is doing a feature article on your life and work.  What would you want that article to talk about?  What should that reporter write about?  What will come out in the interviews with your friends and family?

Again, spend 20 or 30 minutes getting really clear on these big goals.  Turn to a new piece of paper in the pad, and start writing about what it is you want.

If you get concerned that you’re thinking too long-term, don’t worry.  You have a limited perspective right now.  The you in 20, 30, 40, even 50 years will have the benefit of all that extra living to know the other things you’ll also accomplish.  But most people think way too small and way too short term.  This long view is mean to override that urge and get you thinking well beyond 2017.

Step 4: Work backwards from your biggest goals…

The shortest distance from Point A to Point B is a straight line.  But what if you want to get from A to Z?  Z seems so far off in the distance.  Like there’s obviously so much that has to happen before you can get there.  So start to look back from Z until you get to A, and really map out the path.

My favorite question for this is “What has to be true for [XYZ] to happen?”

Example: let’s say you want to build a six-figure coaching business.  Well, what has to be true for that to happen?  Let’s think.  You’re going to need to be able to charge for your time, services, or system in such a way that you’re able to generate at least $100,000 in business in a calendar year.  That means you need to be able to pack enough value into your offer for that price to seem like a good deal to enough buyers to support that total revenue.  For that, you’ll need some kind of skill, system, capability, or contribution that creates that value for a certain target market.  Along with all of this, you’ll need a way to put your offer in front of enough prospective clients that you’re able to make enough sales to meet your revenue targets.

I could go on, but hopefully you’re getting the picture.  We’re breaking down all the things that need to happen in order for us to get to that bigger goal.  Maybe your goal is to build a $100-million company.  Maybe it’s just to make enough to supplement your other retirement funds.  The process is the same.

This same thinking also works for personal goals.  Let’s say you want to be seen as a good parent.  What has to be true for that to happen?  Well, you probably need to be present and involved in your kids’ lives and activities.  You might need to work out some of your own issues, so you’re able to treat your kids with love, kindness, and respect.  Or there’s a thousand other things that might need to be true.  You know what’s true for you.

Start to identify all the steps along the way.  For those steps that are farther off, you’ll realize you can’t fill in too many details or action items yet.  That’s okay.  You’ll have a better idea of what you need to do as the time gets nearer to do it.

For other things, you’ll recognize what you need to focus on right away, and the specific actions you can take.  For these items, you can set quarterly and even monthly milestones you are going to meet, knowing that as you pass these markers, you’ll be on your way to accomplishing those grand goals.

And remember here that less really is more.  Most people set so many or so big of goals for a year or quarter that they always fail and they never accomplish anything substantial.  Even the biggest palaces are built from the ground up, and consistent progress toward your biggest goal is more effective than trying to make it appear from thin air and failing.

Step 5: Start documenting your progress…

Years ago, the first time I decided to shed a few extra pounds, I was part of a contest at work.  We made it a competition.  We all set goal weights.  We weighed in once per week.  And if we were either closer to our goal than the week before or at least weren’t further, we got free sushi.  (It was a nice perk of the job!)  If we were further from our goal than we were the week before, we had to earn the sushi back with physical activity.

After a few months of competition, we were all closer to our goal weights.  I actually hit mine, and had stayed successfully under it for a while.

There were a lot of motivators in this competition, but the biggest for me was the tracking.  When we track something, we are more accountable.  I know when I don’t track my weight, I put on pounds, slowly but surely, and eventually that adds up…

Which is exactly what happened over the last few years, in the time since I had that job.

Recently, it had been bugging me that I’d put on more than a few of the pounds I’d lost during that weight loss competition.  In fact, this summer I weighed more than I have in my entire life.

Then, I bought a scale and got a spreadsheet.  And I started tracking my weight.  I got in the habit of the first thing I do every morning, when I get up, is go to the bathroom then weigh myself.  Sure this is my lowest weight of the day, and I like that about this time, but the pure habit of tracking is what’s most important.

Since I started doing this 105 days ago, I’ve dropped 17.2 pounds, and am within about 10 pounds of my goal.

Even more important is I feel better, and I’ve started to have more motivation and energy to tackle other goals and overcome other challenges in my life.

Every day, you should get in the habit of where you’re taking advantage of your unique strengths and capabilities, what you’re doing to overcome your challenges and bust through obstacles, and what actions you’re taking that move you closer to your goals.

Lather, rinse, repeat…

I’m writing this essay as we approach the new year, knowing that this is the time of year where most people get most serious about creating the life they want.

But this is a process to use over and over again.  This is a process that you can come back to frequently, continuing to refine as you evolve — building strengths, overcoming challenges, and accomplishing goals.

And while I believe that with this process you can certainly make 2017 your best year ever, I also believe that you’ll just be getting started…

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr