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Insider GA17 12 3 1 SWAP

By Melanie Ethridge on Jan 20, 2017

I remember the very first business skill development seminar I attended after starting my first business more than a decade ago. It was a 4-day seminar with Brian Tracy in Denver, Colorado. There were so many things that I learned in those four days that I put into practice that shaped the foundation of the work and success I’ve had since then. One of the biggest take-aways I had centered on setting and regularly reviewing goals. If you have been on Facebook since the beginning of the year, you’ve no doubt seen some variation of a graphic that looks like this:

I have no idea where these statistics came from or even if they are accurate, but for our purposes, let’s assume they are. I am pretty sure that if you are here and reading this, you are certainly not among the 80% who don’t even think about goals. Many of you, however, may fall within the 16% who have goals, which is a great start, but do not write them down. Another big portion of you likely fall within the 3% who have goals and do write them down, which even by itself is a powerful action. And finally, there is likely a small handful of you who already write down your goals and review them regularly. It’s our goal with this section of our four-part strategic planning series to move all of you into the one percenters – smart, talented business people who write down their goals, review them, adjust as necessary, and get amazing results.  

The key to setting goals that you regularly review is having a perpetual goal setting system. The reason so many people set goals and don’t write them down, or even if they’re written, don’t review them, is not because they are lazy or careless business owners. It’s often because they get busy and their goals get lost in the shuffle. The obvious issue with this is that in this day and age, it’s so easy to get overly busy doing the wrong stuff and miss hitting our key objectives. This is where having a system and a habit around goal setting is critical if you truly want to be that set apart business owner who is always growing, bringing in desired results, and making a huge impact (and I know you do)

What I’m going to share with you today is the exact system I used to take my first business to a 6-figure recurring income in just 15 months. It’s the same goal setting system I’ve used with all of my businesses and life-goals. And it’s the same system I’ve used with every business person I’ve worked with for the last decade for one simple reason. It works.

The system is called the 12-3-1-SWAP. Not a fancy name, perhaps, but it is quite descriptive of exactly what it is. The first step is setting twelve-month, or annual goals. Then you take these annual goals and break them down into quarterly goals. Your quarterly goals are then broken down to monthly goals, and your monthly goals give guidance to your strategic weekly action plan (SWAP).

When first looking at this, some people are taken aback and may think, “Whoa, that’s a lot of goal setting.” But the truth is, what we do in our weeks builds our months. What we do in our months creates our quarters. And what we accomplish in our quarters makes our years. If we aren’t intentional in the smaller pieces of this plan, it’s easy for a month, a quarter, or even a year to pass without making significant progress on our most important goals. Once set up, this practice will take you five to ten minutes per week, but will gain you hours in productive, focused work and the fulfillment that comes with knowing you are making steady, continuous progress toward your most important goals (and beyond).

So let’s dive in.

The Basics

The Big Picture

Ideally, all of the goals you set in this practice should come from your long-term goals and vision that you have for your business and for your life. If you have a clearly defined vision for what you want to create with your life and business, pull that out now and use it to guide your goals – particularly the annual outcome goals you set for yourself. These are the bigger-picture pieces of building the business and life you want.

If you don’t have a clear, written vision or if you’re somewhat new to goal setting, that’s okay. Start here with us. Set these goals as an action step toward living an intentional live, and then begin building and crafting your vision as you are making forward progress toward these goals.


You’ve likely seen the acronym SMART for goals so many times that it may make you want to roll your eyes seeing it written here. But the truth is, the principle behind SMART still holds and is a great, simple guide to keep in mind when you are creating goals.

Goals should be (S)pecific. Instead of setting a goal to, “Increase my income this year,” be specific about exactly how much you’d like to increase your income to. For example, a good specific goal might look like, “Increase my annual income by $15,000 to $100,000.” Or simply, “Earn $100,000.”

I also like to use the S for strategic. It’s far more powerful to set specific goals that are strategically moving you where you want to go than to merely set specific goals.

Goals should be (M)easurable. How will you know your goal has been achieved? How will you know that you are making progress toward your goals? An integral part of the 12-3-1-SWAP system is setting our goals up in such a way that they are automatically measurable. If you follow the system, you’ll clearly be able to track your progress toward goal attainment. Which leads us to the next letter …

Goals should be (A)chievable. The goals you set need to be something that will challenge you to be, do, and have more than you’ve already done. They should stretch you to grow, but they should also be something that you can, in fact, achieve. For example, if you set a goal to jump off a building and be able to fly, unless your company is building fly suits, this isn’t likely an achievable goal for your business. But more practically speaking, when you write a goal down, to determine if it achievable, ask yourself these three questions:

Do I have the control or influence to make this goal a reality?
Do I have the time and resources available to make this goal a reality?
Am I willing to commit to making this goal a reality?”

If you’re answer is “No” to any of these questions, you may need to back up and tweak the goal until the answer is “Yes” to all three.  

Goals should be (R)elevant. This one is pretty simple. The goals you set should be in alignment with what you do and the bigger picture of what you want to accomplish.   

Goals should be (T)ime bound. This simply means that you should have a date defined for the accomplishment of the goal. Without this, your goals are nothing more than wishes. And again, the good news is, our goal setting system automatically makes each of your goals time-bound.


I start all of my goals with a vision-oriented affirmation statement. In the first part of this series last week, we talked about creating a fresh start. One of the activities I had you do was create an “I am” statement. If you have already completed that, find the statement and include it here as a part of your goal affirmations. How you are showing up will largely determine the degree to which you achieve your goals, so reminding yourself everyday of who and how you want to be is a powerful practice in goal achievement.

Your affirmation should speak to who you are and what you are doing. For example, your affirmation may look something like,

“I am a vibrant, disciplined, and authentic entrepreneur. Each day, I show up for work and run my business like a confident, powerful CEO. The work I’m doing not only builds an amazing life for me and my family, but it also makes a positive impact in the world. I consistently show up and work with excellence to achieve all of my goals.”

The System


This system begins with our annual goals. What is it that you want to accomplish during the next 12 months in your business? Typically, these goals are bigger items and are more results or outcome focused (we dive into immediately actionable goals in One and SWAP, so hang tight for that).

For most business owners, there are four to seven goal areas that should be covered. Some of you may have more than that, but I encourage you to keep that number to less than ten so that your focus isn’t scattered in too many directions. Here are the goal areas that most business owners should include:


You can set your income goals in terms of revenue generated by your business or your take-home income. If you are a solopreneur, direct sales professional, or in a similar business, it’s usually best to set an income goal. For those of you who have your business set up to pay yourself a set salary, set this goal in terms of total revenue.

New Clients

How many new clients do you want to bring on board over the course of the next 12 months? If you have multiple types of clients that you work with, you can set individual goals for each, or if you want to bring on a new type of client over the course of the next year, this is a great place to create space for doing so.

Increased Reach

Your reach has to do with the number of people who are seeing what you do and having the opportunity to engage with your business, even in a non-sales format. For most entrepreneurs reading this article, this would include things like increasing your e-mail subscriber list, increasing your social media following, and increasing the amount of traffic to your website.

Employees / Contractors / Team

This goal is about the people you work with and varies greatly depending on the type of business you are in and the stage you are at in your business. For example, if you are just starting out, you may set a 12-month goal to have hired your first assistant during that time. Or, if you are a direct sales professional, this goal may center around the number of people in your team you’d like to attend a company event over the course of the year. Goals in this category are all about creating a win-win experience for those you are working with.


This section is all about how you are running your business. It’s the systems you have in place from lead generation to sales funnels and follow up campaigns. It also includes your personal work flow, the work flow for your product creation, development, and delivery, how any employees or contractors work, and so on. Every year, I have at least one goal in place for my business to streamline my operations – whether it’s new automated sales campaigns or making my work more efficient, the better we get in this area, the more smoothly our businesses will run.

Business Skill Development

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to you that one of our core goal areas would center around a focus on growth and skill development. One of the very first things I learned in business – and something I’ve seen proven time and again – is that your business will grow in direct proportion to your own growth. This is the place to set goals for the number of growth books you’ll read, personal development programs or seminars you’ll take, or to learn or improve a certain skill.

Product Releases

Whether you market physical products, digital resources, or services, setting product release goals provides space for a solid growth factor for your business. Take a look at what you are currently offering. Are there complimentary products you could add? Or maybe there is a new category of products you’d like to introduce? This goal sets the stage for the intentionality to get the new products created and offered to your market. Some of you will have a set list of products or services you offer. If this is you, set a goal to offer specific promotions for your products.

Your business may benefit from goals that don’t fit into one of these categories and that’s okay. Set the goals that you need to for your own business and forward movement.

Once you have your 12-month goals set, it’s time to move on to the next step.


This section is your milestone markers for your annual goals. They will mark the 25%, 50%, and 75% points on your journey to a great year in your business. Because of this, most often, my 12- and 3-month goals look fairly similar as both are more focused on the bigger picture outcomes to be achieved and not the detailed actions to be taken. (The 1-Month goals and SWAPs dive into the detailed actions and steps to be taken to create the 3-month and 12-month goal outcomes.)

To set your 3-month goals, look at your annual goals and determine what needs to be accomplished in the next three months to stay on track for achieving them. Sometimes this is as simple as taking your 12 month goals and dividing them by four. For example, if you know that you want to bring on 20 new clients this year, bringing on five new clients this quarter will keep you on pace for that goal.

For other goals, your quarterly goals act as milestone achievements for your 12-month goals. Perhaps one of your goals is to release your first book this year. Your 3-month goals for that may include hiring an agent and outlining your book.

Very occasionally, I’ll have a goal in this section that isn’t tied directly to my 12-month goals, but most often, everything in this section is about hitting the milestones to my bigger annual goals.


This part of the process will include a combination of outcome goals and action items. This section is much more detailed than Twelve or Three, and details exactly what you need to do this month to stay on track for hitting your quarterly goals.

Using one of the examples given before, let’s say you know that you are going to add five new clients this quarter. This might yield two goals for to go after this month. First, you might set your outcome goal to add two clients because you know that will keep you on track for adding five this quarter. Then, you set an action goal to support this outcome goal. For example, perhaps you know that in order to add two new clients, you’ll need to give five sales presentations, so you also set a goal to give five presentations.

Take each of your quarterly goals through this process to drill them down to the exact actions you’ll take this month.

Once you know what you need to do this month, it’s time to get super specific and plan your week. In fact, the Strategic Weekly Action Plan is where the magic will happen in your business. When you get clear about what you need to accomplish each week – and then take action on it – your business will grow like never before.

That is why in next week’s issue of Growth Advance Magazine, we will devote the featured section to setting up and using your SWAP to revolutionize your productivity and get more done in your business than ever before, so between now and then, get your annual, quarterly, and monthly goals set so you can immediately being using this powerful practice.  

**If you would like worksheets to help you set your 12-3-1 goals, click here to download them.**

Any questions or comments about setting your goals? Comment below and we'll be glad to answer. 

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