BEFORE YOU START: Ten pre-start steps for goal setting

Published on 27 February 2020

Photo of Elize and Tanya Rutherford.PNG

In the final February Hub Live dedicated to time management, goal setting and productivity, SmartHub business manager Elize Hattin is joined by entrepreneur Tanya Rutherford who shares her 10 strategic steps to take before getting to goal setting.

Like many entrepreneurs, Tanya Rutherford couldn't stop at one start-up. She is the founder of a coaching and facilitation business focussing on coaching mum-preneurs as well as Learn2Learn; helping students transition to higher education by giving them the mindset, study strategies and confidence to succeed and avoid dropping out.

Tanya has also written a book on the topic of goal setting and how to set goals for life and business. For her, it doesn't matter whether it's business, working for someone else, whether you are studying or balancing your personal life, everything interrelates, which is why she advocates on whole of life planning and time management.

"It's really easy to focus on the things that we think we're spending time on, but when we figure out how much time we spend travelling and doing the little nitty-gritty things, those all add up and we suddenly find we don't have the time that we think we do," Tanya explains.

Elize agrees, acknowledging we don't have a proper picture of all of the tasks that we have to complete in a day.

"We think that we have it all under control, but at the end of the day, we're left with things left on our to-do list and often feel overwhelmed and tired.

"Mums will know just the process of picking up your children and getting them in the car after school can take hours," Elize says.


When talking about whole-of-life goal setting, Tanya says people often fall into the trap of saying they want to achieve X by Y timeframe, without considering their personal lives and the other things going on.

"Many will be familiar with SMART goal framing … but there's a lot of stuff we need to sort out before that stage. 

"What we tend to find is we've got this goal that's almost sitting out in the middle of nowhere, it's not actually connected to anything, it's not connected to where we're wanting to go, it's not connected to all our motivations … so it can quite easily just drop off.

"If you don't know where you're going, you won't know when you get there, or if you're on the wrong track," Tanya advises.

Tanya explains her own experience of dealing with the personal aspects of life and how this helped her goal setting.

"I was feeling very frustrated. I mapped out where I was spending key portions of my time; family, work, this job and that ... I felt I was being torn in a lot of different directions and my energy was being drawn in a lot of different directions.

"I started questioning what was my motivation and what was I trying to achieve in each of those areas?

"I realised I had this common thread of helping people realise their potential and bring out their best. I could see that in each little area that I was working on … that was the common theme," Tanya recounts.

Once she had identified this, Tanya said she was more manageable within herself; making it easier to handle these perceived conflicts.



Tanya says step one involves having clarity about where you are now and knowing what you do and don't want.

"When we set goals, we're looking at a towards date to move to, but also an 'away' state.

"If we're wanting to move away from where we are now and into an ideal future, we want to know what both of those things are," she says.

When completing this first step, Tanya suggests writing down everything you do and do not want, what you like and do not like about your current situation and see what comes.

"They can be small and big. Often if we're not in a really good space, then all of our framing tends to be around what we don't want.

"We need to achieve a bit of a balance by opposing that. For example, rather than saying 'I don't want to work with people who I don't connect with on an intellectual level', flip this to 'I want to be working with people that I enjoy being with, can have conversations with and we understand what we're talking about.

"It's reframing it and thinking what that nice ideal state is, as well as what we're walking away from," Tanya says.


Tanya explains this step investigates what is stopping us from wanting to achieve and what things that are going to hold us back?

"Change at any point, is very uncomfortable. Whether we're moving from something unpleasant or something pleasant, our whole bodies are trying to stop us from moving away from it because we know that space. It's familiar, whether it's good space or not is totally irrelevant," she says.

Tanya maintains understanding and reflecting on the emotions that emerge when we begin looking at what we want to change, is integral to the process.

"We need to accept we do encounter emotions when we're going through a change process, and we also need to reflect on what message these emotions are trying to tell us.

"Often sadness is about losing something, whether it's a loss of how we're feeling or a loss of where we've been.

"Anger is usually fear-related, so thinking about the things we're actually afraid of, may not be rational - quite often they're not.

"Being aware and identifying the things coming up, allows you to take steps to ensure they don't jeopardise your goal," Tanya encourages.


Tanya advocates celebrating all achievements, because everything we have done in the past has brought us to where we are now.

"It's so easy to think achieving the goal is going to be the success point for celebration, when in actual fact, coming up with what your resistance is … that's a big win!

"It doesn't have to be a big hallelujah kind of moment, it's the little things, because the small hole can sink a big ship. If we celebrate the small wins, and we're plugging our small holes, we're going to be in a much better space to transition to wherever we want to go in the future," Tanya advises.


While reflecting is naturally an ongoing feature of the goal setting process, Tanya says it is wise at this point to stop to assess and be clear on your current status and progress to date.

"It's almost like looking at ourselves in the mirror, it's not the same picture that other people see. Sometimes asking other people what they see, what qualities they see in you, that kind of feedback is so critical," Tanya explains.


One of Tanya's favourites steps, identifying values is often not done well, despite the countless workshops and resources on the topic. The fall down is limiting these to 'surface values'.

"Quite often when we do a values exercise, we think about our surface values. We think about 'I love spending time with people, I love my family', different things that are important to us. It's not until we get to a pressure point where our true deep-seated values present themselves.

For Tanya, this came during a time while working in an unpleasant work environment.

"I was working in a team with a group of people who were not very nice to me, and I had experienced quite a bit of stress. I'd moved into a different office when one of the new team members said 'I was talking to the girls about why they don't like you, and they said it's because when one of the girls was unwell and had to go to a hospital, you just told them to be quiet…

"I was gutted, it didn't matter that those people didn't have opinions that I really respected, because they had been so awful to me, it didn't matter that it wasn't true, none of that mattered. It absolutely cut me, really, really deeply," Tanya recalls.

It wasn't until she started reflecting on why this was affecting her so much that Tanya realised being helpful and a supporting, caring person, was a really deep-seated value of hers. This incident at work was in direct conflict with how she saw herself which is why it had such an impact on her.

Tanya encourages being gentle with yourself during this reflection process, as things that come can be confronting.


This involves having the mindset of being ready to make the change.

Tanya says this may include coming back to your time, identifying what you need to let go of to make space, questioning what are the things that are holding me back so I can actually move into that new state?


When making significant goals and change, Tanya insists on having supporters, and having different supporters for different elements of our lives.

"When I talk about this in terms of study, I look at it as we'll have people in our lives who are supporters of us, because they know who we are and they believe in us, and they can say, "you've done this before, you've gone through this, you can do it again."

"Then you've got the people who understand you from a study context, they can say things like, 'remember when you did that last assessment, and you did really well, or remember that skill that we were learning?" she says.  

Tanya cautions against having a one-stop-shop supporter, as this rarely works and it puts too much pressure on that person to be more than they can be.


This step is not actually defined as a goal but looking at the bigger picture and using tools like vision boards that work for you. 

Rather than creating a vision board with images, Tanya prefers to articulate the things that are important to her with words, as a constant reminder. A big 'word' on Tanya's vision board is 'choosing her own adventure,' after realising she had been trying to live up to a lot of other people's expectations.

"My first degree was in accounting. I wanted to be a teacher, my parents were teachers but they didn't feel it was a good place to be at the time, so instead I ended up an accountant, which is actually what my Dad would've liked to have done.

"I started noticing that I was following these patterns of living other people's lives, so that's why that one in particular was so important to remember," Tanya says.


Tanya believes you need to be ready to take the action before you go about setting the goals. Having worked with countless corporates, she has witnessed (too many times) people coming up with grand ideas, setting goals … but nothing changing.

"Being ready to actually take the action means you've got whatever resources you need in place so you can start moving us towards those visions.

"There might be several goals that we need to develop to step us along the way - it helps us to be realistic and keep our goals within reach.

"Small bites can get us through an elephant," she coaches.


Goal setting is an annual process for Tanya, who then breaks these into quarterly goals; saying three months is a 'really good chunk of time' to make change.

Scheduling is crucial for goal setting, otherwise nothing is achieved. Tanya prefers to use a diary-styled planner rather than a specific app or tool for scheduling.

"For each quarter you actually set what your focus is … it might be five things you want to achieve to get you towards that big goal. Then you actually break it down into little action steps, and you can put it on a plan or app or whatever else you might like to use, to actually keep track of the action steps that you're taking, and making sure that they are still aligned.

"I write down what I'm doing, the key things that I'm working on each day for the week, and then I look at what I have achieved by the end of the day.

"At the end of each week, I look at whether I am moving towards my goal, how am I travelling and am I keeping up?" she says.

Tanya maintains goal setting is a work-in-progress and practising over time helps to embed these practises. She gives the example of 'having the perfect week'.

"Overall it felt like it was in flow, everything just felt like it was lining up for me.

"When you have those moments, do appreciate them, because you're recognising, you're stopping your thinking, you're making the most of those times.

"When you want something really badly and you do whatever you can to get there, you will get there, whether that's a job, all the things that we want to achieve in life, the important stuff, we can get there if we want it enough," she says.

Tanya's final word of advice to start-ups and entrepreneurs? "Believe in yourself, you are enough," she reassures.


  1. Healthy habits – get plenty of sleep, water and nourishing food.
  2. Creativity – get arty with the kids or find an activity that gets your creative juices flowing.
  3. Be joyful – Tanya takes the approach of asking herself, 'if I was joyful, how would I be walking out the door, how would I be driving in the car with my children while they're having a fight in the back seat?'
  4. Good vibes only - how you want to show up in the world and having the right energy so your body is healthy and your mind can focus
  5. Find your focus – set devices on silent or vibrate, elect the no interrupt option on your computer, stop pop-ups and block out your time. Meditation music for concentration focuses the mind really well.

Tanya Rutherford is a SmartHub member and Turbo-traction Lab participant. For her, the SmartHub is a great place to meet business people who are genuine about helping other business people.

"Everyone is more than happy to stop what they're doing and to give you a hand with something … it is such an amazing environment.

"I liken it to being in a really great working team where you don't actually have to manage anyone else's stuff, you can just do your own thing and celebrate each other's successes," she says.

The SmartHub encourages entrepreneurs and business owners to adopt technology and modern based business practice to make the entire business journey more profitable, more enjoyable, more effective and more efficient.

Being part of the SmartHub gives local business owners opportunities to meet with and learn from mentors as well as to help them learn the discipline required to succeed in business.

If you’d like to learn more about becoming part of the SmartHub, contact us via the following channels:



Phone:             07 4936 8444

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