There will likely come a time in your career that you fall into a slump. The walls you may hit could be related to your professional development goals, success as a solo entrepreneur, business plan, or changes in the marketplace. Your sales might be stagnant, expansion is taking longer than you planned, or you aren’t hitting your goals as quickly as you thought you would have. These slumps can feel discouraging and like they drag on forever.
Identifying the reasons for your slump and finding ways to break out of it will help you to move past the plateau and get your goals back on track.
Are your goals SMART?
SMART is a mnemonic acronym that is usually attributed to Peter Drucker’s Management by Objectives concept. The acronym is an effective way for you to set goals that are achievable. You may find yourself in a slump because you’ve lost sight of your goals, your goals are being met at the pace that you anticipated that they would be, or you’re working without a clear vision in place.
In order for your goals to be reachable they should each be:
When your goals are not SMART, they are more difficult to achieve in a timely fashion. If you feel as though that your goals do not fit the criteria listed above, you may need to reframe your goals and your vision for how you will meet them. Your goals should be specific and clear so that you can focus in on the steps that you will need to take in order to reach it.
Goals that are measureable have incremental “mini-goals” or steps that you meet throughout the process of working towards your overall objective. For example, your broad goal may be to increase sales. A measureable goal would be to increase sales by 10% during the first quarter, where you will track sales and leads to build out a sustainable sales pipeline. Attainable or achievable goals are realistic for your resources, skill set, and time frame.
Realistic goals are ones that align with your overall business plan, strategy, or vision. Time-related goals have fixed intervals, such as beginning and end dates. For example, the SMART goal of growing your team with two new hires in the next year has a fixed end date that allows you to gauge your progress throughout.
Adapting to Meet Your Goals
Having SMART goals can help you to avoid hitting the slump associated with unattainable goals, but it can’t predict every hiccup that may come your way. Here is where adaptation is key. Your goals may be SMART at face value, but they also need to be flexible enough to be tweaked in response to outside factors, such as changes in the marketplace, new competitors, and changes in available resources.
Adapting your goals to meet your current circumstances does not mean that you need to scrap your plan and begin from square one; rather, you should ensure that the measurements you have in place to track your progress take into account the current state of the union.
Identify the Cause
While not all plateaus are the effect of some cause, you may be able to trace your current issue back to a few catalytic moments. Most causes fall into some combination of these two categories: internal or external. A goal plateau could be attributed to internal stressors such as overworking yourself, or they can be internal in that the problem is from within your company.
For example, a slowdown in sales could be attributed to a lack of bandwidth or capacity for new business development. An external factor might be a shift in regulatory focuses or a turn in the stock market.
Even if you are unable to identify a moment in time when your momentum started to shift, the process of analyzing and becoming more aware of events that have led to your slump will help you to disentangle its outlook. If you identified the issue as an internal one, take some time to pause and assess. Your slump may be a symptom of or a precursor to a larger problem, such as burnout.
Reframe the Issue
The slump that you’re experiencing may be rooted in a perception issue where you fail to see the small steps that you’ve taken and are currently taking to reach your goals. Jump start your creativity to look at your goals in a new way. It is far too easy to become weighed down by the idea of failure and become unmotivated.
Resist the temptation to give up and instead, look for different ways of reaching your goal. Finding a new source of inspiration or an innovative way to approach the problem may be the push you need to break out of the slump and succeed.
Gain New Perspective
Some slumps are predictable. If your business is seasonal, you generally expect to have a slowdown in growth and sales during the off seasons, and your business plan should work around that. Some business slumps, especially periods of light sales activity, are temporary and will reverse themselves in time. That does not mean that you should ignore them though.
Give them your attention and stick to tried and true methods of promoting sales, such as targeting the demographics laid out in your business plan, instead of jumping to riskier and speculative strategies.
Some kind of slump is almost inevitable when you’re an entrepreneur or involved in a start up. While it is tempting to panic or double down on efforts, it is important to take the time to assess your goals and the steps that you need to take to reach those goals before taking any drastic measures.