Science has taught us that human beings are genetically hardwired to do one thing at a time with excellence.

But in the world of a startup you’re typically wearing multiple hats and caught up in a blur of day to day activities. Without having a few overarching strategic goals to work towards, your day to day activities and inbox can totally carry you away. You may be a multi-tasker extraordinaire but before you know it Q1 is over and you’re not able to reflect on and measure what you’ve accomplished, because you didn’t set any priorities. Nor have you pushed the company forward in any significant strategic way.

We all know that Steve Jobs had a big company to run with Apple, and he could have brought many more products to market than he did; but he chose to focus on only a handful of wildly important products. The point here is that his focus was legendary and so were his results.

Basically your company will be much better off if you, as a leader together with your team, take the time to identify a couple wildly important goals per quarter. These goals are the ones you must achieve with total excellence beyond the circling priorities of your day to day. You must be willing to make the hard choices. To determine your goals ask yourself “If every other area of our operation remained at its current level of performance, what is the one area where change would have the greatest impact?

It may help to understand why you might currently be driving your company to take on too much, rather than focusing on one or two clearly defined goals:

  1. As a leader, you tend to be ambitious and creative. The problem is that creative, ambitious people always want to do more, not less. If this describes you you’re almost hardwired to violate the first discipline of execution.
  2. Another reason you might lead your team to go after too many goals is to hedge your bets.  You figure that if your company pursues everything, then it seems likely that something might work.
  3. And finally what makes it harder is that these good ideas aren’t presented all at once, instead they filter in one at a time.

Perhaps it’ll be easier to take a step back if you can relate to any of those examples– at least now you’re aware! The success of your company in the long-term will depend upon your ability to focus on the right things.

If you’re struggling with identifying the right goals and executing them, you should check out The 4 Disciplines of Execution.

Since you’re probably busy dealing with your whirlwind, I’ll help you out by revealing key steps here:

  • Discipline #1: Focus on the wildly important.
  • Discipline #2: Act on the lead measures (not the lag measures).
  • Discipline #3: Keep a compelling scoreboard.
  • Discipline #4: Create a cadence of accountability.

How have you succeed or failed in setting the right goals?