Visual Goal Setting Works (Here's How)

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Here’s a tool that will help you accomplish more in your business without working harder.

I’ve started using visual goal setting. It’s way more fun and creative than your usual quarterly goal setting. If a to-do list and a vision board had a child, it would be this method.

The chalkboard method was created by life coach Jay Prior. I learned about it from Kathleen Shannon and Emily Thompson of the podcast Being Boss. It’s a way to create intentionality, and it uses the principle “that which is measured improves.” -Karl Pearson (at least he’s one person who said it).

It’s really working for me. I’m hitting my goals and staying inspired every day.

What is the chalkboard method?

Your “chalkboard” or "goal board" doesn’t need to be an actual chalkboard. You can use a big piece of paper or poster board, a chalkboard or a dry erase board. Your board should be big and visible in a place where you’ll see it every day. My “chalkboard” is a big piece of paper taped up to the wall.

At the top of the board, write one big, long-term overarching goal that you’re working towards in your business. Your one big goal should take you from six months to 18 months to accomplish. In my course The Superpower Method For Therapists® Program, I dedicate a lesson to choosing your “one big goal.”

Some examples of a possible one big goal are:

  • Fill my practice with an average of 20 sessions per week.
  • Earn an average of 12,000 per month.
  • Consistently fill my therapy group.
  • Write my book.

Then you write a few words that will set the tone for the next three months. Choose words that represent the values you most want to lean into.

Choose between 3 and 6 smaller goals that you want to accomplish in the next 3 months that will move you closer to your one big goal. Visually represent those goals on your “chalkboard.”

Use markers or chalk in your favorite colors. Use illustrations wherever you can. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a skilled artist. If you plan to write a book, draw a picture of a book. If you’re hiring a therapist, draw a picture of a therapist. Stick figures are fine.

Create space on your board for what you want to bring into your business. If you want to bring 5 new clients into your practice in the next 3 months, draw 5 empty boxes or circles. If you want to earn $30,000, you can create a thermometer that goes from 0 to 30,000.

As you accomplish those goals, you’ll fill in the blanks and color in the thermometer.

Leave a space on your board labeled “something else” or “unknown” so that you’re on the lookout for new opportunities.

Here's what a goal board might look like. I created this one for a fictional therapist based on lots of folks I work with. 


Here's what this method can do for you: 

This process forces you to choose what you need to accomplish most.

When you stick items on a regular to-do list, you might add more than is realistic. When you visualize goals and tasks on your board, you can see exactly how much you’re planning to accomplish.

You step out of ambivalence as you choose your goals and map them out on your board. The decisive action of writing out a goal in large letters helps you commit.

The board helps you remember what’s important.

Working in private practice is isolating. You’ve got some colleagues you can talk to about the clinical stuff. If you’re lucky, you’ve got a few colleagues you can talk to about the business side as well, but no one is holding your business vision with you. With no team members or accountability, it’s easy to let your plans fade into the background. One day you’re excited about some new plans for your business. A few weeks later you can’t remember exactly what you planned, and you can’t find the excitement. Your board can serve as a physical reminder.

You’ll still need your to-do list. This goal board will be your inspiration and your reminder. You’ve got tons of everyday tasks that you need to keep track of, and those shouldn’t clutter up your board.

Every 3 months, or more frequently if you need to, you’ll create a new board. Hold this planning time sacred. Give yourself plenty of time and space. Light a candle, make some tea or have a glass of wine. This is time for just you and your business.

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Your Money Issues. Plan For Lean Times: Part 4 of 5

If you’ve got a private practice, you've got a very small business. That means that if 5 clients graduate from your practice in the same month, you’ve lost a big chunk of your income. If you get sick and need to miss a week of work, you’ve lost a big chunk of your income for that month. If referrals slow down for a period of time, you may have a lean month.

 The first time my therapy practice declined, I panicked. My inner critic let me have it, and I didn’t have enough experience to know that this was one lean moment in a growing business. Because I didn’t have that perspective, I also didn’t know how to make practical decisions about my business. I’m happy to say that I don’t panic in my business anymore. I know how to plan for the leaner times.

You can plan for those lean times too. How do you do that? 

I’ve got a mindset answer and a practical answer.

Here's the mindset answer.

You’ve got to learn not to take it personally when you’re in lean times. You’ve got to learn not to panic and not to make any impulsive decisions based on that panic. Your inner critic will grab on to lean times as an opportunity to let you have it.

 Here’s some of the (stupid) stuff your inner critic might say:

  • You were silly to think this would work out.
  • You’re never going to make this work.
  • This is the beginning of the end for you.
  • This decline in income is a reflection of your value.

Here’s the mindset you need:

  • I’ve got a strategy to make this business work.
  • I expected this to happen, and I can handle it.
  • This is a blip in a long-term business.
  • There may be something to learn from this, but it isn’t about my value.

In order to move towards that mindset, get support from a coach or from people in your life who have succeeded in business.

Now for the practical answer.

Plan for cancellations, illness, vacation, and attrition.

Cushion your schedule so that you have more openings than you may think you need. This helps you make up for those times when you will have fewer sessions. Plan to have a few more sessions than you think you need to meet your income goals. Plan to make 10 or 20% more than your goal, and that will make up for the months when you don’t hit your goal. 

Have an emergency fund.

 Financial wizard Suze Orman often says that people need at least a 6-month emergency fund. Your private practice needs its own emergency fund. As soon as your practice is full, start putting away just a little bit each month until you have at least 2 months of practice income saved. That cushion will help you make good decisions when the next lean time comes. You’re not likely to lose all of your practice income at once, so a 2-month fund will take you a long way.

Maintain your boundaries and your policies in lean times.

Don’t get loose with your policies or fees in an attempt to keep or bring in clients. Those mistakes will only make it harder to build and maintain a solid practice.

 Use your lean months to market your practice.

I talked last week about the importance of investing in your practice. In lean months, don’t cut back on marketing. When you’re sick, you eat the healthiest food so that you can get well quickly. Treat the lean times in your practice that way too.

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