Written by Ross Hunter

Last updated 17 December 2021 ·

Milestones help you stick to your big goals

How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

You’ve probably heard this before, but it’s a useful one for how we might think about our Big Hairy Audacious Goals.

When you’re creating your overall business vision, it should be ambitious, inspiring and motivational, to say the least. You might want to double your revenue, open five overseas offices, or exit your business. Or all three! This vision needs to be cascaded throughout your business, so everyone knows their aim.

The problem is that people often lose sight of their long-term goals. That may be because their new goals involve setting new habits (which are hard to maintain). Or they may be in love with the goal but not the process of achieving that goal. For example, you want to be a professional athlete but don’t want to get up and run on a rainy winter’s morning. Or they may just get easily bored – or worse, burned out.

Break it down – so you don’t have a breakdown

That’s why the Reclaro 1-3-5® breaks down your 1 big vision into 3 manageable objectives and 5 goals, or key results, per objective.

That works well enough for most people we see using our software. But for some people, especially millennials, that’s still too much. We live in a world of instant gratification. Humans now need instant feedback, immediate pleasure and fulfilment.

So the way to help your team achieve their ultimate vision is to break it down further – into milestones with micro rewards attached to them.

But how do you do that? Well, we can learn from other successful people and how they do it.

Learn from the pros

Professional athletes do this all the time. Let’s take a theoretical example of a 1,500-metre runner.

Her vision may be to win Olympic gold in four years. To achieve that, she may set herself three key objectives – one around skills, including race tactics and technique, one around fitness and one around mental toughness. And for each of her three core objectives, she may set 5 goals. For the fitness objective, her goals could be to run a sub-four-minute mile, bench press 100kg, deadlift three times their own body weight, do 20 pull-ups and sprint 100 metres in under 12 seconds.

The thing is, these five goals are challenging in their own right. So the athlete may take each of them and set smaller milestones to keep them engaged with the process of moving towards those outcomes.

For the 20 pull-ups goal, our athlete may only be able to do 5 of them today. She may set a milestone of doing 7 by next month, 10 by the end of the next quarter, and 12 by the end of the year.

She can attach rewards to those milestones to encourage and motivate herself. Have you noticed how many apps give you rewards, badges, stickers and coins for achieving small milestones? They do that for a good reason – it’s a micro reward that touches on a basic human need to have our achievements acknowledged.

Can you apply this?

Sporting analogies are often applied to business. But that’s for a good reason. There are clear applications from one to the other – they’re competitive, based on seeking achievement, and often require teamwork and communication. Setting smaller milestones around medium-term goals and longer-term ambitions is an equally useful tactic for both sports coaches and business leaders.

How might your team break down their goals into milestones? These could be things like creating weekly sales targets – with a reward of an early finish on a Friday and a few beers, increasing in the weekly customer satisfaction score, a 1% increase in profit margin against a bigger goal to increase it by 5%.

If you’re working within the Reclaro 1-3-5® OKR software, it’s quick and easy to build a list of milestones underneath each goal. Milestones can also be delegated to others with their progress linking back to your plan, so you still see your dial move you closer to achieving that all-time vision! A great way to keep yourself and your team fully engaged is to look at your goals and break these down into shorter-term milestones. Unlike the objectives and goals, being set at 3 and 5 respectively, you can have as many milestones as you like. Be mindful not to spread yourself too thin and focus too widely, as this will reduce your effectiveness. Have a go, and let us know how you get on. We love to hear your stories.

If you would like to learn more about the 1-3-5® OKR software, please get in touch by emailing or book a 15-minute discovery call with our Founder and CEO, Pete Wilkinson, today.

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