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This is the time of year for both reflecting on the past and planning for the future. As the calendar year winds down, many small business owners use this relatively slow time of year to set goals for the year ahead with an annual goals meeting. 

Coming up with budgets, forecasts, and goals for an entire year can feel not just ambitious, but impossible. How will you know what your business will look like in June, much less December of next year? 

Setting annual goals is important, however, even if you fall short of your own expectations (or blow right past them). Without benchmarks for each team member or the business as a whole, you’ll lack a sense of direction, or the strength to push on when the going gets tough. You also won’t know what expenses you can forgo the next year, or what investments you need to make to get your numbers where they need to be. 

So if you’re feeling daunted by the task of setting and running an annual goals meeting, it’s understandable—but don’t despair. Here are six tips on how to run a goals meeting effectively:  

1. Dedicate a full day to your annual goals meeting

Setting goals for the next 12 months is serious business and requires your undivided attention. But because planning for months down the road doesn’t feel like it’s productive in the moment (i.e., it’s not making you any sales this week), some people try to jam it in alongside the rest of their work. Have a few minutes before a meeting? Why not update that spreadsheet for next year? 

This “context switching,” however, kills your productivity: It can take you 25 minutes, on average, to get back to a task after you let something interrupt you, from taking a phone call to tackling a different project altogether. 

Rather than drawing out the process of annual goal planning, not to mention disrupting your daily workflow, put aside an entire day dedicated solely to this task. That may seem like a lot of time not spent “working,” but this investment of your time is worth it. Accept the cost of bringing employees in on an off day, or suspend normal operations during the work week, but whatever you do, get people to come to this meeting with a clear schedule. This might also mean catering breakfast and lunch to keep people in seat and focused. 

If you finish early? Great. If not, you’ll be glad you gave yourself all this time to plan. 

2. Create an agenda and stick to it

As the leader, it’s up to you to dictate how you’ll spend this valuable time. Don’t just gather everyone in the conference room, plop down, and say, “Great, so what are we doing?” 

Set an agenda before the meeting, outlining the amount of time you’ll spend on each task, when you’ll break for lunch, and what you’re expecting each person to have ready when the time comes to discuss each topic. When it’s time to move on, move on—you can return to outstanding issues once everything has been covered. Otherwise, you might find yourself needing yet another day to plan. 

3. Define your OKRs and outline a plan for hitting them

Objectives and Key Results, also known as OKRs, is a common framework for setting big-picture goals that everyone in the company can work toward. Companies like Google and Twitter are known for using OKRs. 

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