The Most Common Mistake Business Owners Make (and How To Fix It)

Kirstin O’Donovan is a productivity coach, helping individuals to accomplish more with less and design their desired life. We asked her to pinpoint the biggest management mistake business leaders make (and offer some tips as to how to avoid it).


Despite all the excitement and fulfilment that running your own business can bring, most entrepreneurs would probably agree that exhaustion and stress also come with the territory. One of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make that lead to higher levels of stress and wrong decisions is not setting their goals properly.

There’s a fine art to setting, planning and managing your goals – and how well you do this impacts your whole entrepreneurial experience.

Setting clear goals from the get-go helps you focus and work on the most important tasks instead of doing what “feels” right every day, jumping aimlessly from one task to the next.

In this article I present a four step solution to creating goals that can be effectively managed and ultimately achieved!

The Four Step Solution to Setting Better Goals

Most entrepreneurs have no problem identifying their big, fundamental goals. However, important as they are, fundamental goals such as “setting up the best vegan restaurant in town” tend to be grand in scope, and therefore quite vague.

The actual achievement of these goals depends on how well you organise your smaller instrumental and/or complementary goals around the fundamental goals. Instead of hurriedly creating them as you go along, setting them up beforehand will result in more strategic business practices, and will help you to make the most advantageous decisions for your business.

When planning/deciding on your goals, use the four steps below to help you create a list of realistic, manageable goals that fit appropriately into your schedule and that can be arranged in a way that will help you make the most of your time and energy:

Step 1 – Break down your big goals

The more you break down goals into smaller parts, the clearer and smarter they become. Create detailed, smart lists of goals and then daily objectives to reach around those goals.

Think carefully about where you place them on your to-do list and how long it will take to complete it. Make sure that you are prioritising those actions that support your goals and that you’re not just working on tasks that give you a sense of “being busy” (without leading to real results).

Step 2 – Prioritise

It’s easier said than done, but prioritising has a very direct effect on your results. Misplaced priorities often result in time wasted and leave you more open to distractions from your goals.

Once you analyse each task, you’re bound to discover than not every task is as urgent or important as the other. Every time you take something on, take 2 minutes to reflect on why this task is important and how it is connected to your goals.

If you fail to reflect on why you chose to do one thing instead of another, you’ll soon be facing missed deadlines, repeated efforts and unfulfilled goals.

Step 3 – Delegate

Ask yourself this – which goals would you benefit from working on yourself, and which goals do you think it would be more advantageous to delegate to others?

It’s only natural that after setting up your goals you’ll feel very attached to them – but developing a DIY fixation and trying to micromanage everything leads you into taking on way more work than you can handle. Making a distinction between what you should do yourself and what should be delegated will save you a lot of time and effort in the long run.

Step 4 – Consider Your Habits

You can set all the goals you want to, but if you don’t have the right habits you are certainly going to undermine your efforts in reaching your goals. The extent of your success can be looked at as your good habits minus your bad ones.

Consider these questions:

  • What habits do you have that stop you from achieving more than you currently are?
  • What habits do you need to develop in order to reach your goals sooner?
  • What plan of action can you put together to start to create the habits that will support you in reaching your goals sooner?

Take a step back

Many entrepreneurs get caught up in the technicalities of their businesses and don’t give themselves enough time to reflect, analyse and set strategic goals. Hectic jumping from task to task with a sense of urgency rather than strategy can keep your business going but can prevent it from growing into the successful business you envisioned.

Take a step back – get crystal clear on what you want to achieve with your business, what you need to be doing every day to achieve this, work on what you need to (and not just on want you want to) and cultivate the right habits to support you on your journey.

Don’t waste time and money working on the wrong things and you will achieve more in months than you would in years!

By On September 9, 2015