How to stick to your business goals when the going gets tough

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Did you read my earlier post about how I set my first 10 design business goals?

It’s been less than a year since I first wrote them, and already I have reached some of them (and set new ones)! (PS: Preston also posted a video blog about the importance of setting annual goals.)

Okay, okay, so you know you should have business goals, and hopefully you developed some great ones, but now months have passed…

are you sticking to them?

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Equally as important as writing goals is sticking to them.

Making sure you don’t cut corners, shred them when times are tough, or scribble them out and replace them with easier goals can be a real challenge in self-control.

So when you’re starting to feel lazy and those goals seem more like dreams, follow these tips to get you back on track!

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Think about what works for you.

If you like to cross goals off of your list, write more short-term goals.

If you need to be reminded why you can’t buy the latest $500 gadget, set a goal to look at your business financial picture before you’re allowed to shop, or set a goal to only take enough cash (and no cards) to buy the item you need at the store.

The point is, the goals that work for me aren’t necessarily the goals that work for you.

Set goals that meet your psychological needs and you’ll have a much easier time sticking to them.

Rewrite vague or broad goals.

Goals must be specific with concrete, measurable details…how else do you know whether you’re achieving them?

If your goal says “a lot of,” think about what “a lot of” means to you, and write that number in instead.

Also, break your goals up into sub-goals if need be. “Learn more about graphic design this year.” is a BIG goal. Break that down into:

  1. “Take one class/seminar about typography.”
  2. “Hire my web guru friend/consultant for tutoring in basic HTML and CSS.”
  3. “Read three books – one about the business of graphic design, one about improving my color technique, and one about whatever looks interesting to me at the time.”

Post your goals publicly.

Its easy to cheat on your goals when you’re the only one looking (or not looking), but its harder to explain to a partner or spouse why you crossed out weekly and wrote annually.

It’s okay to alter your goals, but your reasoning should never be “because I don’t want to fail and I think I might,” or “because it’s really hard to stick to this one.”

Hang them in your office, next to your computer, or in the bathroom so that you (and a spouse, coworker, or roommate) see them every morning when you brush your teeth.

The more you read them, the more you’ll be thinking of ways to achieve them.

Give yourself an incentive.

If you have a particular goal that’s really tough, or that is really important and you want to be sure you stick to it, dangle the proverbial carrot.

Reward your business (not yourself…remember, these are business goals) when you reach that goal – purchase a piece of equipment you’ve had your eye on, take a long weekend, or brighten up your office with new décor.

Failing is okay…learn from it.

Often times we learn more from the failures in our lives than we do from our successes.

Do you remember the client that burned you because you didn’t write a contract? (I do.) Learn from your mistakes, and set goals to prevent you from making those same mistakes again.

How do you stick to your goals? What methods work for you? Leave a comment on this post and tell us how you remain diligent, or how you’re getting back on track.

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About April Greer

April is the Director of Projects at Reliable PSD, a design-to-code company for designers, by designers. She’s the glue keeping everything together, organized, and right on time, and giving everyone a fantastic experience while she does it.


Leave a Comment



  1. As someone who was inspired by your previous article to actually sit down and write out my business goals for the first time ever (18+ years as a business owner), I cannot stress enough how important is to have people who will hold you accountable to making progress on your goals. I am lucky to belong to a business mentoring group and we spend time every month checking each others progress on meeting our goals. We all have a copy of each persons goals.

    • Michael,

      Wow – so pleased to hear my advice has been heeded! 🙂

      Can’t agree with you more – accountability in the form of peers is second to none. Your business mentor group sounds like a fantastic way to keep yourselves motivated and progressing. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Great advice on goal setting.

    Sometimes the best way to stick to a goal is to take full advantage of online tools/apps. You may want to check out, a very nicely built web app designed for tracking goals and todo lists, and supports time tracking too. It’s clear, focused, easy to navigate, worth a try.

  3. Another great post, April.

    I just finished reading Success is Not an Accident (Tommy Newberry) and one of the things he teaches about goal setting is to state it in the present tense (e.g. “I earn $__ this year”), effective because it allows us to visualize the goal clearly and believe that it’s possible. The reasoning behind it is that since there is an obvious difference between reality and the goal, the mind is alerted to everything that can help to achieve the goal and fill that gap. Seems to work in my short experience so far.

  4. Hey, I wrote out goals for my “summer vacation” away from school. First one reached: clean the gross fish tank. Second on the list: buy a ceiling fan for my bedroom. Bought it yesterday, just need to install it. Goal for today: mow the lawn. Hey, even moms have simple goals! Smile!

    • Don’t forget to create more goals as you cross off your to-do list! If you start to run out, I have plenty of things around my house that need doing!


  1. […] How to stick to your business goals when the going gets tough …By April GreerReach design business goals graphic design blender. Did you read my earlier post about how I set my first 10 design business goals? It's been less than a year since I first wrote them, and already I have reached some of them (and set new …Graphic Design Blender […]

  2. […] How to stick to your business goals when the going gets tough […]

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