April FoolsToday is 1 April.

To some it is April Fools’ Day – a day when people play pranks on each other and enjoy a few good laughs.

To others, though, it is an opportunity for sober reflection. It is a sign of the passage of time. It marks the end of the first quarter of the year and entry into the second quarter. It means instead of the 12 months we had to pursue our dreams on 1 January, we now have nine months left.  It is a wake-up call, a reminder that time is moving and, as Freddie Mercury sang, “time waits for nobody.”

Today, have fun while playing pranks on others, but take time to reflect on your goals and achievements.

What goals did you set for yourself this year? What do you hope to achieve? Do you have an action plan? How far have you gone in achieving those goals? Are you on track with your action plan?

If you have made some progress, well done, keep going. You still have another nine months, continue so use them wisely, just don’t relax or lose track.

On the other hand, if you have not made much progress, let today be one of reflection. Revisit your plans. If you are not making progress, look at where you have gone wrong. What is hindering you from fulfilling your dreams?

The range of possibilities is very broad. It could be that the goal was unrealistic in the first place, or the action plan is impractical, or one had not planned properly for the required resources.

Unrealistic goals

goal is a desired result that a person or a system envisions, plans and commits to achieve: a personal or organizational desired end-point in some sort of assumed development. Many people endeavor to reach goals within a finite time by setting deadlines.

It is always great to dream big. However, implementation is not always as easy. Bear that in mind as you pursue your goals because being overly ambitious can sometimes work against you. Perhaps you set unrealistic goals that cannot be achieved within the allocated time, or perhaps your goals are fine but you need to work on other factors. Relook at your goal and see how you can make it more practical and achievable. Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic goals that you won’t even come close to achieving.

For example, assuming you decided to launch a new business but have not made much progress because you dreamt of having a huge fashion boutique in a prime location yet you  don’t have a client base and can’t find shop space. You may need to make adjust some aspects as you inch towards your ultimate goal. You can still run your business, but perhaps from a different location.

Assess your options and go for what works well for you. It is important to start moving, rather than wait until everything is in place, so start where you are and work with what you have to make your dream a reality.

Impractical action plan

Perhaps your goal is great but your action plan is impractical. An action plan is a detailed plan outlining actions needed to reach your goals.

A lady I know decided to start a business that required use of a truck all day, every day during the harvest season. What I did not know was that the whole plan was based on the use of my truck. When everything was in place she asked for my truck. As I was hiring it out to clients who were already scheduled, I could not release it to her. I asked her how long she intended to use it then calculated the charges accordingly but she was reluctant to pay me. She had planned to use the truck all day, every day for free throughout the duration of the project.  In all this, she had not considered that the truck was in itself a business that was bringing in income. Harvest time was also a peak season for me as farmers required transport to the market. By lending her the truck, I would miss out on income which I could not forego unless she was willing to compensate me at the same rate.  I was not her only inconvenience. Her entire plan rested on the free use of other people’s resources. Naturally, the plan crumbled because no one was willing to lend their assets over a long time while losing much-needed income.

My advice to her was simple. As much as you can, use your own means. Indeed people are willing to invest in projects with potential and help a friend in need. However, this has to be within reason. Very few people will forego their income to support a prolonged experiment with little promise success.

Inadequate resources

Resources, whether financial, material or human, are important in helping us to fulfill our goals. For a myriad of reasons, you may find yourself under resourced. Perhaps the economy is not performing as well as projected and inflation has eroded your financial base, or you overlooked some costs that cannot be covered by your contingency funds, or perhaps a personal crisis has forced you to rearrange your priorities, or one of your partners is not as honest as you assumed. Anything is possible.

I know a man who planned well for his business, prepared in advance, quit his job and started working for his own company. Unfortunately, he entered a partnership with someone who had not planned so well for his life and the consequences were disastrous. Although their business should have been thriving, they had to file for bankruptcy within months. My friend had not realized that his partner was not only heavily indebted, but also had bad spending habits that were of great cost to the business. In no time at all, whatever profits the business should have been enjoying were absorbed by the partner’s debts. The two parted ways and my friend, who had lost everything he invested in the business, had to start from scratch. It took him some years to recover, during which he had to make major adjustments to his lifestyle and rebuild his credibility to regain his clients. He has since recovered and is running a successful business concern, this time on his own.

Whatever financial situation you find yourself in is no excuse to abandon your goals and sit on your laurels. Make adjustments and keep moving.

Not conducting regular reviews

How can you be confident that you are making progress if you do not conduct regular reviews? It is important to frequently look at how far you have come, what is working well, what has gone wrong and how best to address challenges along the way. Some recommend quarterly reviews. The frequency is entirely up to you. If you have not been evaluating yourself regularly, let today be the starting point. The timing is appropriate as it marks the end of the first quarter of this year.

Also, set milestones. This will help you to see whether or not you are making progress. Remember, it takes a number of spoonfuls over time to fill a bowl.

As you inch towards achieving your goals, celebrate the successes and face the challenges head on.

Now, keep moving

Whatever happens, don’t be discouraged. You may have lost three months, but you still have another nine and can make use of them. You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve once you set your mind to it.

Focus on your goals, adapt your action plan, build on the lessons learnt and keep moving. In some cases, your action plan may require a minor change like waking up 30 minutes earlier than usual so you can exercise, or adjusting your budget so you can invest in further studies, or dropping sodas from your diet so you can lose some weight. However, in other cases, major changes that affect the lives of other people might be required, such as a family relocation to another country. Whatever the case, remember that the human race has evaded extinction because of our ability to adapt to change. Make the necessary changes knowing that they may cause some discomfort, but will not kill you. Invest in your dreams and if you cannot afford it, there are also plenty of free online resources that can help you to set goals, develop an action plan etc.

This April Fools’ Day, don’t be the fool, make time for honest reflection and chart your course towards making the rest of this year more productive!