Atomicon 21: How to stop procrastinating about going for your business goals

I have a difficult relationship with setting business goals. I have them, of course I do, and I also know I’ve successfully completed many challenges I have set for myself. At the same time, there’s a lot of emphasis on goal setting in business and it can feel insurmountable at times. What are you going to do for the next 90 days? What are you going to do next year? It feels like extra layers get added on top of everything else you need to do.


How do you achieve what you would like, be that working less, moving house, or hitting a revenue goal, without overwhelming yourself with pressure? Here are 9 insights from Atomicon 21, Andrew and Pete’s epic conference for small business owners, that will help you stop procrastinating about going for your business goals.

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1. Fear Drives Us Forward

Andrew and Pete opened Atomicon 21 by talking about the fear paradox: fear of failure can motivate us to succeed, but we can also be so worried about a negative outcome that we don’t start, or we make it a lot more complicated than it needs to be. We want to create a polished ‘perfect’ outcome which takes much longer to produce. Is fear of failure the biggest barrier to success, or fear of not getting out of the starting blocks?
Andrew and Pete. Photo by TyneSight Photographic Services

2. When You’re Comfortable, It’s Harder To Make Yourself Be Uncomfortable Again

Have you got a goal in mind but it’s a want rather than a need? It’s a nice to have. You’d like to do something but you know it’s going to involve a lot of work, or there’s a risk it might not turn out as you wish. Things are going well for you at the moment. A business friend or mentor asks, ‘what’s next?’


‘Oh,’ you say, ‘I was thinking of doing x.’


‘How’s x going?’ They ask a couple of weeks later.


‘Oh, haven’t started yet.’


Yep, that’s a genuine conversation people have had with me and you can guess which one of the participants I was.


If you are comfortable where you are, there is no urgency. There’s nothing pushing you to go for the next thing. So what can you do about it?

3. Create Constraints For Your Business Goals

It feels a little odd in an article about business goals to talk about limits but they’re a powerful tool. Andrew Davis shared The Cube of Creativity during his keynote Embrace The Constraints. One aspect of this is to add at least two constraints to whatever you are working on.


One is a time constraint. Set a deadline. When do you need to do this by? Tomorrow? Monday? 6 weeks’ time. Apparently businesses managed to fast forward their digital programmes by 7 years during the pandemic! Something which hadn’t been a priority suddenly was. How can you make your goal a priority?


The other constraint is creative. What’s a way you can do this that no-one else could?


Ann Handley gave a fabulous talk about storytelling and she shared how she had sold two sofas on Facebook Marketplace. She ran two ads. One was straightforward and she gave them away. The second was more creative. She drew on the fact it was autumn, and thought about who was going to buy them and what their life would look like when they owned the sofas. Then she put that in the copy. She also put a price tag on them. The more creative approach won – and she got paid for something she had been willing to give away.


What’s your unique perspective? Or something you have to contend with which influences how you tackle your challenge?

Andrew Davis. Photo by TyneSight Photographic Services

4. Get Rid Of Two Things You’re Doing Every Time You Take On A New One

As I said at the start, one of the issues with goal setting is that you give yourself at least one more thing you need to work on. Your task list, which you never reach the bottom of anyway, now has extra activities tacked on the end, possibly in very small writing where you’ve squeezed them on to the bottom of the page (just me?)


Andrew said: “What if every time we take on something new, we kill two initiatives: the easy one and the hard one?”


You know there’s something you could ditch, possibly because you weren’t doing it much anyway, or you didn’t like it. But there’s also going to be something you do that you love, that you really believe in, but that’s not actually contributing towards where you want to go.


You have 3 options for every activity in your business.

  • Kill it
  • Keep it
  • Contract it out

5. Whatever You Do Doesn’t Feel Good Enough Because You Keep Raising The Bar

Every time you achieve something and think, ‘right, what’s next’, you reset the bar. That amazing milestone you just passed goes from being the top of the climbing wall, to the ground you are standing on as you contemplate how to scale the next one. Have a think about how many walls you are standing on top of right now.

6. Record Your Tiny Triumphs

Laura Robinson spoke about how to ‘feel fluffing amazing about yourself and your business in five minutes or less’. So often we think wins have to be big. You need to hit that goal and then you can celebrate. But how often have you had a day where something happened and you felt amazing, and then later on, something else happened and your mood sank? There might not even have been a trigger. You just realise you’re no longer elated. Or your brain decides it’s going to go over and over something you wish it would stop banging on about.


Laura’s strategy is to bank those marvellous moments. When you have a tiny triumph, be it an enthusiastic email from a client, a moment when you’re having a good time, or you said yes to something (or were asked) make a note of it. You could have a feelgood folder. Laura has a wall of awesomeness. Maybe you write it down and put it in a jar and then when you need a pick-me up, put your hand in and read back on something which made you feel amazing. You’ll be surprised what you had forgotten about.

Laura Robinson

7. There’s A Lot Of Ground Between Success And Failure When It Comes To Your Business Goals

There’s this little voice in our head that if we don’t hit the goal, we’ve let ourselves down.


Andrew and Pete said: “This is a big problem with goal setting and just thinking bigger in general, because as business owners and entrepreneurs we set ourselves these big goals, these big expectations, we think about all these awesome things that we want to do. But then there’s this little voice in our heads that tells us, if we don’t reach that goal, if we don’t manage to get our business to the place we want it to get to in the time we’ve set ourselves to do it, then we’re a failure. We’re a failure, essentially. And so if we can’t succeed and then what’s the point of even starting, right? That’s why we procrastinate.”


But is that really true? Andrew and Pete spoke about the business goal of reaching 1 million followers. If 999,999 more people signed up, would you think that was a bad outcome? No!


The act of giving it a go means at best you’ll hit that goal, and at worst, you will be further towards it, than you were.


Rather than being worried about whether you will reach that goal, you are making progress.

8. You Can Progress Or You Can Settle

Which looks more attractive to you?


One of the things that’s helped me with goals is thinking about ‘in an ideal world’, then looking at how to make that happen. Progress can be whatever you want it to be.

9. Get More Right Than You Get Wrong

Deborah Meaden spoke about how she had always wanted to run her own business and be in control of her own life. One of the things she wanted to do was “make my own mistakes”.


She said: “All you’ve got to do in life is get more right, then you get wrong.”

Deborah Meaden. Photo by TyneSight Photographic Services

We tend to fixate on what’s gone wrong but if you think about it, those events are exceptional. We get a lot more right than we get wrong. Rather than fearing something won’t work, think about the positives and tiny triumphs along the way. Own the fact you don’t have resources, or you have limited time or budget, or that you want people to pay for something others would give away for free. Free up your time and give yourself a deadline. Give it a go and see what happens.


Tickets for Atomicon 23 are on sale now. Find out more about Atomic* and how you can join.


What does progress look like to you? Let me know in the comments.

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Rachel Extance

Award-winning journalist and blogger. I help service-based business owners communicate who they are, what they do, and why. If you struggle to talk about yourself on your website or your content marketing, get in touch with me.

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