Goal Setting for 2021 by Claire Winter

I don’t normally like to talk in absolutes but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that 2020 hasn’t gone the way anyone planned!  There’s a high probability that some, if not all, of your goals from last year have fallen by the wayside as you focused on reacting to the new challenges being thrown your way or been rendered impossible or impractical by the ever changing circumstances.

With this in mind it isn’t at all surprising if you are currently thinking about skipping your annual review and goal setting in favour of a “wait and see then react” approach.  As always, if that’s what you want to do then you get to do that, it’s the benefit of running your own business, but I think it would be a wasted opportunity.

Whilst we are all hoping we never experience anything like 2020 again it doesn’t mean we can’t learn from it.  It’s been an extreme way of doing it but this year has highlighted for all of us things we do and don’t like about what we do.  It has shown us the things that are important to us, exposed where we were taking things for granted and provided us with a brilliant opportunity to look at the direction we are heading in and decide if we still want to go that way.

I’d highly recommend spending some time focusing on what 2020 has taught you and what you would like to change about your pre Covid life.  Then setting your goals and planning the steps to help you make those changes.  Without this there is every possibility that as the restrictions start unwinding you will pick up with the habits you had in place before.  However much you may have said “I’m definitely making sure I have more time for friends and family when this is all over” the chances are that without a plan you’ll find yourself back where you started, working all available hours and looking back fondly on the time when your only option was to spend time with them (ok, that might be going too far but you get my point).  Of course you may have something different that you have learnt is important to you but the principle applies just the same.  Capture it, identify the changes you want to make and put plans in place to ensure you move towards it whatever happens in the world outside your sphere of control.

Add into this the fact that we probably know the extremes of this situation now and have a range of options of what we can do at each level, it means we are in a reasonable position to plan (baring in mind we don’t need to offer changes at every level as long as things are within the rules.  Just because you can, doesn’t mean you have to and having an in person, group, indoors option and an online option and nothing in between is fine.)

We do, of course, need to include some flexibility in our plans and be realistic in terms of expectations on how the year plays out but there are a number of areas we can set goals and control progress irrespective of what’s going on at a government level.


Before you start

When it comes to setting goals there are a few good “big picture” questions it is worth making sure you know the answer to.

  1. What has 2020 show you is important to you and are there any changes you want to make / things you want to keep from this year?
  2. What does a successful career mean to you both in terms of the actual work and the life it supports?
  3. What is/are the service(s) you provide?
  4. Who do you provide them to?

If you aren’t sure about these then I’d recommend making your first goal(s) about getting answers.  LTB members have resources to help (see the “What Does Success Mean To You” questionnaire on the Resource Selector page, the Practicalities course and the Marketing course for the different questions).  Alternatively, when it comes to what success means to you, then breaking things down into finance related items (e.g. wanting to live in a particular location or property type, wanting to earn a certain amount to cover bills, wanting to be able to afford certain holidays etc) and time related items (e.g. wanting to be able to spend time with your kids after school or not work evenings or have certain days free etc) can help you start to build a picture of what you are aiming for.

Things change and it is perfectly fine to change your answers to any of the above at any time so don’t stress too much about making them perfect, just start getting a bit of an idea of where you want to head.  Once you have that information you can move on to the goal setting side of things.


Part 1: Business Goals

When it comes to business goals I would look to split them down into different sections.  Service, Financial, Admin / Process are good categories but feel free to choose what works for you and your business.  You don’t need goals in every section but it is worth reviewing your business through the lens of each in order to identify areas you want to work on.

Service goals

If you haven’t already reviewed 2020 then that can be a good place to start.  Look at what you’ve added in new, analyse any usage data you have (if you don’t have any then you might want to add that to your admin/process goals), review feedback you’ve received and look at results (note: results come in all shapes and sizes and includes both measurable information and non measurable i.e. whilst it includes things like weight loss, reduction in measurements, increases in lifts, attendance levels, consistency and new skills mastered it also includes feeling better, “damage limitation”, having more confidence, learning to like exercise and other less tangible but, in some cases more valuable, outcomes).

Do a sense check / filter the “covid impact” vs what’s normal.  We still need to have a plan based around Covid and the changes it brings in terms of our clients needs so don’t discard the information you have on that basis just tag it so you are aware of which changes might be here to stay vs which changes may need changing as the situation changes again.

Take the information and narrow down the areas that you want to focus on improving and then explore your options.  Don’t feel you have to reinvent everything e.g. if you identify that part of your service is being underutilised you have a choice whether you leave it as it is, remove it, change it or market it internally to increase take up. It’s also fine to park certain areas to review at a future point in time.

Once you have identified the things you want to work on in this area then start turning them into goals.  Break down the steps and decide when you are going to get them done – it’s important to recognise you aren’t going to do it all at once!

If you are introducing something new remember to include steps relating to how you are going to introduce it to clients.  A lot of personal trainers decide they are going to add something in, create it and then are disappointed when it’s not used.  It’s important to include how you are going to “sell it” to clients, help them see its value and incorporate it into their lives.

For 2021 you need to either ensure that any service related goals are flexible and/or come with options that work at the various levels that range between completely normal and complete lockdown or be clear when they are likely to be achievable and plan accordingly.  e.g. If it’s something that relies on being able to hang out in person in a groups then it’s probably worth popping it in your plan to look at in Q2 or later unless it requires a lot of preparation work.


Financial Goals

Your goal could simply be to get back to pre covid levels, it could be to maintain or it could be to grow.  Yes, you can still aim to grow your business in 2021.  You may need to temporarily change your focus or your service model but it is doable and you don’t need to wait until things are “back to normal”.    If your goal is a big jump from where you are now then consider breaking it down into smaller steps such as x amount which is what I need to cover bills, y amount to give me a cushion, z to include some luxuries etc.

Once you know how much you want to make, break down the steps required to get there.  There are multiple options depending on your preferences and availability and the preferences of the people you work with.  Consider things like how many clients do you need to add and on what service to reach your target?  Do you have capacity for them?  Do you need to look at adding other service options in or increasing prices? What would that look like?  Sense check it against the demand side of things.  There’s no point in getting carried away on a new addition if you don’t know if anyone wants it.

If you are looking to attract more clients then you may want to break things down into sections such as referrals, reactivation of previous clients, reconnecting with previous enquirers and attracting new leads.  You can then split down your activities into sections and build your goals around tasks that tick off each category.

Now more than ever it’s important to be aware of the values, beliefs, needs and wants of your clients and target audience to be able to demonstrate, in ways that appeal and show understanding, what your service is, how it can help and how it is already helping people like them at the current time in the current situation.  It’s important to recognise that these values, beliefs, need and wants are all changing regularly and that your clients may be appreciating completely different things about your service than they were a year ago when life was very different.  You might now be a major social contact, a key part of continuity and a feeling they are in control of something or the essential driver to the only exercise they get in ways that they wouldn’t have even considered when they were out and about all the time.  If these are things your current clients are valuing then they are also things that people who are sat at home in your area / target audience will also value at this time.


Admin / Process Goals

If your admin is working perfectly then you may not need to add in any goals in this section however I know for a lot of personal trainers I’ve spoken to it’s an area that is often overlooked and at the bottom of the list.  Getting your processes in place so that you know things are under control can free up mental, physical and emotional energy, improve customer service and provide a secure foundation to build your other business related goals on.  It also has the advantage of, for the most part, being relatively unimpacted by the changes going on as a result of Covid!

If you are starting from scratch in this section then I’d suggest looking at:

legal processes (data protection is a big one here, even if you put everything in place back in 2018 when GDPR came in you should be reviewing it regularly to make sure it’s still all up to date.  If you are based in UK and work with people in EU or vice versa then you have new things you need to look into ASAP too!),

customer journey (I’d break this down into dealing with enquiries through to sign up, onboarding, ongoing service and leavers and consider what the participants need at each stage and what your service, communications and interactions look like.  LTB members can check out the Processes course for more on this area.)

lead generation and tracking (I’d break this down into the different methods of lead gen you use.  There is a webinar and accompanying tracking sheet relating to lead tracking if it’s an area you want to work on),

finances (tracking and managing income and expenditure is key for any business, can help with business decisions throughout the year and makes tax return time a lot easier!),

general admin and communications (have a capture system for queries that come in or things that come up when you are out and about so that you don’t need to rely on memory and can have confidence that everything will be dealt with in a timely fashion.  Also look at any other tasks that need doing and make sure they have a time and a place to be actioned.) This leads to the final section…

time management (have time slots in your diary for doing your regular tasks, bundle them up in ways that makes sense and fits with your deadlines for getting them done.  e.g. this might be a daily 30 min slot to go through queries that have come in/you have noted so you can respond within 24 hours or a couple of set times you have put aside each week to check in with clients.  Identify what works for you and get it scheduled so it gets done. Note: For some people it is as important to schedule downtime and non work tasks as it is to book in the work ones, particularly if you are working from home.  Make sure you have clear times when you aren’t working!).  LTB members might like to work through the time management course for help on this area.


Part 2: Learning and Development Goals

Learning and development is a good area to look at.  Other than limitations on any learning that requires an in person element, you have control over your learning regardless of changes in rules and restrictions elsewhere so it can give you an area of complete control and where you can make progress. When it comes to working out what to work on there are a couple of different options.

  • Look at business need.  If you’ve worked out your business goals then there may be areas where you know you need to increase your skills or knowledge in order to make progress.  If this is the case then that’s a great place to start.  Alternatively, if you are happy you already know what you need for your immediate goals it can be worth exploring longer term goals and what that would require e.g. if you would like to have a team one day you may want to consider exploring the skills that will be required.  Another option is to consider if anything has come up with your clients that may drive your learning needs.  maybe you want to add skills relating to a specific demographic or you have areas where you would like to know more e.g. pre/post natal, working with older clients, working with children, physical activity and mental health, working with clients with obesity or other physical health conditions etc.


  • Think about what you enjoy.  There’s nothing wrong with choosing something that you enjoy for you, irrespective of if it is relevant or useful for your business and, particularly at this time, it can be a great way of adding into your energy reserves rather than taking it away.  I know right now a lot of people are feeling drained.  If this is the case consider something that is fun and just for you, choose a book, course, video or podcast on something you want to learn about rather than feel you have to learn about.

Of course I’m biased but I think LTB has something for everyone.  If you are a member and not sure what to go for feel free to drop me an email and I’ll be happy to help you plan.   If you aren’t a member then sign up for the 2 week free trial and fill in the “request personalised recommendations” form in the welcome email and I’ll get back to you with suggestions that are relevant for your situation. 😀


Sense Check and Review

Whatever category your goals are in, run the whole lot through a few sense checks.

1. Make sure you aren’t overcommiting yourself.  Be realistic in what you have the physical, mental and emotional energy to achieve and cut yourself some slack for dealing with whatever gets thrown your way from areas outside of your control.

2. Prioritise and spread the goals, and associated work, throughout the year.

3. Set yourself up for success by making at least some of your goals simple and relatively easy to achieve.

4. Assess how up for doing it you are.  if you aren’t feeling it then, unless it’s an absolute necessity and you can’t outsource it, take it off the list, at least for now.  If it’s something you don’t want to do but has to be a non negotiable then work out how you are going to get it done.  If you have to, add in incentives or tweak circumstances to make it more appealing.

5. Break everything down into steps and plan when you are going to do it.  If you don’t have a plan there’s a higher chance it won’t get any further than being a nice idea.  Book things into your diary.  Identify potential roadblocks and come up with plans for overcoming them.

If you’re in LTB and you want a goal setting template or some accountability for your goals grab the Business Goal Setting pdf from the download page and follow the instructions.

Remember, regardless of what is forced upon us we get to choose how we react.  Whilst we might be stuck with hoping that 2021 is massively better than 2020 when it comes to factors we don’t control, it doesn’t mean we can’t do anything to move things in the right direction in the stuff we can control!

We wish you all a very happy and successful new year and look forward to continuing to help and support you in every way we can in 2021.

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