Design Domination Podcast Episode #54: Stop “Should-ing” All Over Yourself—Set Goals

Experts always say we should set goals to be successful. But do you avoid setting them because you don’t see the point or you’re afraid you won’t achieve them? Do you ever look back and think, “I should have done this or that”? Stop procrastinating and get motivated, and learn how setting goals can help.

Hi and thanks for tuning in. I’m Colleen Gratzer and in this episode of Design Domination, I’m talking about goal setting. Stick around to find out why it’s important, what happens when you don’t do it, and how to do it.

This is not going to be the same stuff you hear all the time, where you’ll say, “Yeah, yeah. I know I should.” There might be underlying reasons why you’re not doing this, and I’ll get into some of my own past personal mindset issues with setting goals.

I’ve heard for years from all kinds of experts—as I’m sure you have too—to set goals, right? I never really got serious and detailed about it until after talking to Chris Do and Matthew Encina from The Futur.

I used to think goal setting was hogwash. I mean, I’ve made six figures every year from the first year that I went full time in my business (which was in 2004). And business, for the most part, has always been booming. I’ve been successful, so do I need to set goals? Shouldn’t I just keep doing what I’ve been doing?

Well, the downside was that my income was stagnant for several years. I put up with a lot of crappy clients. I worked too many hours. I took on work I hated. I was super stressed. I was frustrated. I cried a lot. I never felt like I was doing enough, and I was overwhelmed. This was not what I had signed up for working for myself!

I had become complacent.

It took me years to take action to resolve these problems, and I worked with a few coaches for various things. But now I look back and wonder if setting goals would have helped alleviate these issues faster.

All kinds of experts talk about them. My coaches had talked about them. But, like I said, I hadn’t done anything with them until more recently.

Why You Should Set Goals

So let’s talk about why you even would want to set goals in the first place, other than the fact that many successful people say we should.

I mean, what happens when you don’t meet your goals? You’re just going to be disappointed, right?

That was another one of my thoughts surrounding goal setting: “Why bother if I’ll just be disappointed when I don’t meet them?”

But I’ve come to realize that setting goals serves many purposes other than potentially disappointing us.


Goals help us stay focused on specific things we want to achieve. When we’re not focused, we can procrastinate, we can waste time on Facebook, or we might take on work or clients that aren’t a good fit.

Or maybe we have a list of goals but they never get achieved because we’ve assigned no particular date to them. They are a moving target. They get tossed to the side, and then more pressing deadlines get met.

But when we’re focused on our goals, we can prioritize easier on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis.

We know what clients and work we should take on and which ones we should say no to. For instance, if you want to become known for logo design and branding work, make them front and center. Talk about logos and branding on your website, on your social media accounts, when you meet people at networking events, and so forth. Show that work on your website and social media accounts.

Minimize the talk about other work that you might do, if you talk about it at all, you know? If you hate website design, don’t talk about it. If you happen to get that work, ask for a referral commission from a colleague and refer the client to them. Or maybe you subcontract the work to them.

But don’t feel you have to take it on, especially if it will distract you from your goal that pertains to something else.

That just gives you more time to keep your efforts focused and go after the type of work you want to get.

That’s just one example.

Focus also keeps us from procrastinating or having a deadline that’s a moving target. For example, I’m about to release a website accessibility course I’ve been working on, on and off, for almost a year.

I never set a date for its release, but I didn’t really light a fire under myself until people were asking me when was it coming out, they couldn’t wait and I was like, “Wow. It’s been almost a year. I guess I need to get this done!”

But had I set a deadline as part of this, I would have been paying it more attention and finished it sooner.

So goals with specific deadlines help us do that. We don’t want to lose track, then look back years from now and go, “Where did the time go?”

Track Improvement

Goals help us track improvement and push ourselves to do better. What we focus our efforts on improves. Unless we set goals, we don’t know how little or how much we’ve improved over time.

We can periodically monitor our progress and adjust our efforts or the goal as needed.

You may have heard the saying by Peter Drucker, who’s known as the “father of management,” which is:

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”

I’d like to add to that: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it—or get excited about it when you do!”

There’s another saying, “If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you’ve gotten there?”

If you just keep on being busy and going about your day to day, you miss recognizing your accomplishments sometimes.

I remember this one point in time, many years ago, being completely stupefied discovering that I hadn’t raised my rates on a few long-term clients in five years. Five years! Had I set goals, like one for increasing my income a certain percentage, I would have been tending to that data. I would have realized, “OK, to make that happen, I need to raise rates by this much.”

More recently—and this has to do with this podcast actually—I was thinking, “I don’t feel I have improved my reach, had many more downloads per month over last year.”

But when I went back and looked at some actual data—as opposed to just going by my wrong assumption—I saw that I had four times as many listens over the first year. I mean, that was really awesome!

It validated that I’m doing a lot right in that sense. Had I just gone by what I assumed, I would have felt l like what I was not doing enough or that I need to do more or do other things.

Build Confidence

Goals help us build confidence. For most of my life, I struggled with acknowledging small wins because, for one, I grew up being told that getting B’s in school wasn’t good enough and I was always questioned why they weren’t As—and I even got mostly As.

I mean, it was hard to feel like I had accomplished anything. Even the good stuff was questioned. And I was in the mindset of focusing on the destination, not the journey.

So if I’m not going to go big or go home, why would I bother setting small goals or celebrating small wins? They don’t matter.

But they do.

Those smaller goals help us reach the bigger ones.

Chris Do, who is like a jedi master with goals, has said:

“Instead of having large, out-of-reach goals, have smaller, quick wins. They’re confidence boosters and set you up to win!”

And that’s so true. When we see that we’ve accomplished something, even small in nature, we get excited and it motivates us to do it again!

It’s kind of like why I love checklists. The feeling that I get from crossing something off that list, you know what I mean? The satisfaction…

What Happens When You Don’t Set Goals

I can hear you moaning already, “But, Colleen, I’m just trying to get through the day every day.”

Look, I get it. I’ve been there.

But there’s a gap between those who set goals and those who don’t.

According to Workboard, a goal management solutions provider, people lose 30 percent of their capacity and performance potential by not focusing on goals.

According to the University of Scranton, 92 percent of people who set New Year’s goals never actually achieve them.

That sounds really frustrating. I mean, do we want to be reminded that we failed at doing something? Definitely not!

But, again, the purpose of goal setting actually isn’t necessarily about reaching those goals. It’s about keeping our eye on the prize, and staying motivated, and building and maintaining confidence, and learning what works and constantly improving.

Why You Might Not Be Setting Goals

So have you been setting goals? If not, why not? Because you might fail? Sure. We all do. I get that. But we have to view failure differently than we do, and this was a particularly difficult thing for me to accept because I was raised in the opposite mindset: that failure is just not OK.

But failure teaches us lessons. It gives us information about what doesn’t work. And we can take what we learned and retarget ourselves and our goals.

So now what’s holding you back from setting goals? I see a lot of creatives say things like:

  • “I want to make more money, but I can’t charge more.”
  • “I want better clients, but they’re all taken.”

Why can’t you charge more? Why can’t you get better clients?

You can, but you need to take a look at what you’re doing and what’s working and what’s not, and what your expectations are.

What steps are you taking to make more and get more clients? If you’re not doing anything, or you’re not doing anything differently, you can’t expect them to—poof!—just show up and hire you.

How to Set Goals

So let’s talk about how to set goals. Now, the start of a new year is a good time to look back on the prior year and assess some things and figure out if—and where—you need to readjust or refocus. But there’s no need to wait around for January each year to do this, and it’s best not to.

So whether you want to look back at the prior year, the prior quarter or prior month, there are a few things you might want to take a look at. For instance:

  • Did you make as much money as you had wanted?
  • Did you work too much?
  • Did you deal with a lot of problem clients?
  • Did you take on work you despised or aren’t good at?
  • Did you not get the type of work that you wanted?
  • Did you put off starting your own business?

Did you reach your goals? If not, why not? You could have had a legit matter come up that kept you from doing something for a bit, such as getting sick or needing to be a caregiver, experiencing a death in the family, or so forth. I mean, things come up.

Otherwise, think about the efforts that you may have made and how they could be adjusted, such as:

  • Are you reaching out to people via e-mail? Are you building relationships with potential clients and colleagues on LinkedIn? If so, what are you saying when you approach them? How are you coming across? Are you trying to sell them on your services in the introduction? If so, that’s not realistic, and it will turn them off from you instead. We’re not introducing ourselves and then saying, “Hey, let’s go on a date.” We’re going to have a conversation first.
  • What do your website and social media accounts look like? Are they professional?
  • What’s your work like? Is it professional? Have you had a mentor or colleague critique it and give you feedback, so that you can step up your game?

These are all things you can assess and ask yourself, “Why didn’t this work?” See what needs improvement then set some specific goals such as:

  • “I want to charge $5k for logo design.” (And, BTW, you can get my brand style guide template to help you do that.)
  • “To get 10 new clients this year, I will reach out to 5 prospective clients or colleagues by phone, e-mail or LinkedIn every week.” (The numbers, of course, are just examples.)

You could also say:

  • “I will find one new client to replace a problem client by March 1.”
  • “I will make 10 quality LinkedIn connections by February 1.”
  • “I want to double my income this year” or
  • “I want to make an additional $1,000 every month.”

Write them down and put them where you will see them, so they won’t get lost and you’ll be able to be constantly reminded of them to keep you focused.

You can always tweak them if needed. I mean, goals are like a roadmap. You can reroute if you need to, but these will keep you focused.

Another thing I just did this year was take an inventory of several stats for this year, documenting the number of my:

  • e-mail subscribers,
  • Facebook group members,
  • social media followers per channel,
  • podcast listens,
  • mentoring sessions I did, and
  • digital products that I sold.

So while I set goals for this year, I also took note of what I had done last year, so I had them as a starting point to compare.

Track Wins

Another thing you can do is track wins. That goes hand in hand with goal setting. Both can show us any progress that we’ve made, but wins don’t necessarily have to do with your goals. They might help us in other areas, such as our confidence, and that can help us reach other goals.

I once had a coach tell me to keep a file on my computer or a notepad on my desk solely for the purpose of keeping track of wins, which could be anything, related to goals or not:

  • winning a new client,
  • winning a project I was really excited about,
  • having a former client come back after taking a job in house,
  • getting likes and comments on a LinkedIn article,
  • getting a compliment from a colleague,
  • getting a compliment from a client,
  • finishing a course,
  • finishing a book.

It made a huge difference in my mindset. It showed me how much progress I was making, and that really gave me a lot of confidence.


So what do you want to accomplish, and what’s been stopping you?

Make this the time you stop looking back and thinking, “I should have done this” or “I should have done that,” but it went by the wayside.

Set some goals and assess them periodically. If you need help with setting goals, apply for some one-on-one private coaching with me, and let’s find out. Let this be the year you make something more happen.

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