We all know we’re supposed to set goals.
There have been numerous studies that show the benefits of setting goals. Setting goals makes it more likely that you’ll do .. anything. Goal setting turns dreams and wishes into plans and action. But how to set a goal so you actually achieve it? SMART goal setting makes goals doable.
It’s not enough to just set a goal. The kinds of goals you set, and how you actually set them, makes a difference in how likely you’ll meet your goal, or even attempt to do anything to get there. You need to set SMART goals.
What is a SMART goal?
A goal is something you want to achieve or accomplish. A SMART goal is one that is very Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timed. The difference is huge.
If you set a goal, you’re already ahead of those who merely wish for something to happen. If you write down that goal, you’re much more likely to achieve it. SMART goals are a way of writing down those goals to help you map out exactly how you will get there.
SMART goal setting was originally created by corporate management consultant George T Doran. His little book “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives” has been quoted in countless business articles, educational blogs, and by self-help gurus and life coaches everywhere. And that’s because it works.
SMART is an acronym that describes how to set a goal.
How to set a SMART goal.
Let’s set a goal of “I want to make more money.” This is a common goal, but how will we actually do this? And how will we know when we’ve achieved it?
SMART goals answer those questions, and make attaining the goal easier.
First, make your goal specific.
It’s not enough to want to make more money. Where is the money to come from?
So let’s specify this goal:
I want to make more money from my online business.
This is a lot more specific. Where are we getting this money? From the online business.
The more specific you are when you set a SMART goal, the easier it is to see how you’re going to get there. Now I know where to concentrate my efforts: on my online business. I’m not going to take on a part time job. I’m not going to make more money just hoping either. I’m going to focus on my online business and achieve my goal through that.
Second, make your goal measurable.
Now we know where, but how do we know what “more” means? Does $1 more count? That’s not really a goal worth putting the work towards. So let’s make this goal challenging, and find a measure for it.
I want to make $500 more from my online business.
Remember that setting a SMART goal means getting specific. Adding in specific numbers helps to know when you’ve achieved your goal. It also makes it easier to figure out the steps to getting there.
$500 is a specific number and lets me break it down into milestones that I can track. I can use a chart or a graph to be able to measure how much money I’m making and if I’m on track to make more than I have before.
Third, make your goal actionable.
To be actionable, you need to be able to actually do something about it. You can’t set a goal based solely on what someone else will do, or based on getting lucky. After all, you can’t make it a goal to win the lottery! It’s not up to you if you do or don’t win!
Is my goal actionable? Can I make $500 more from my online business? Is that up to me to be able to do?
For this goal, say I sell packages worth $100. If I want to make $500 more, I need to sell just 5 more packages than I already do. I can now reverse-engineer my actions, and I can figure out exactly what I need to do to sell these extra packages.
Fourth, make your goal realistic.
Realistic goals are ones that aren’t going to overwhelm you . They are doable, even if they require you to work harder than before.
In my example goal, $500 more is a realistic goal, but $5000 is probably not a realistic goal, given the time and resources available to me.
When you set a SMART goal, check that it’s realistic. Consider how much time you can devote to it, how much energy you have, and what you may have to give up in order to achieve this goal. Are you willing to give up those things for this goal? Or do you need to rethink your goal first?
Finally, make your goal timed.
The last step to setting a SMART goal is to add a timeline. When you put a deadline on something, you have that extra motivation to work towards your goal, even when you don’t feel like working. We tend to procrastinate, so knowing when you want to achieve your goal helps you curb that and put your time to good use.
So let’s add a timeline to this goal.
I want to make $500 more this summer from my online business.
Seasons make great natural boundaries for setting a SMART goal. When seasons change, often our obligations and commitments change too. So that means we may have different levels of action and availability to work towards our goals.
Set your SMART goal the right way.
Two final thoughts on how to set a SMART goal:
- tell someone.
- write it down.
When you write it down, it’s much more concrete. It’s like declaring yourself instead of merely wishing and hoping. You’re much more likely to remember your goal, and work towards it, when you write it down.
Telling someone helps you stay accountable. Set your SMART goal and share it with someone. Tell them exactly what your goal is, when you’re going to achieve it by, and why it’s important to you.
Bonus: make your goal emotionally connected.
If you truly want to make a difference in your life, set a SMART goal that is emotional for you. Tie it to your emotions. Dig deep and figure out what will make it worth the work for you.
For my example goal:
I want to make $500 more this summer from my online business, so I can buy my daughter her first car!
Now I have a reason for the goal. It’s not about the money anymore — it’s about making my girl happy. Is that going to motivate me when I get discouraged. You bet!
Do you have a plan for those SMART goals?
How will you know when you’ve achieved those goals you’ve just set? Every entrepreneur needs a plan. You need a plan for what you will do that will allow you to reach your goals, earn the income you want, and how you will fit those all those things into your life. There are many different ways to plan, both short term and long term.
What kind of goal-setting do you need?
You need a long term goal and the plans that go with it. This is your business plan, or your life plan. These kinds of plans are set over years, often 3-5 years, but sometimes even longer.
You need a short term goal list. This is your next-actions list, or your to-do list. This is the list of tasks, appointments and commitments you’ve got that need to be done in the next week or two. Or maybe just in the next day or so?
Most people stop here. They have the long term and the short term plans, but sometimes it’s hard to translate one to the other. How do you get from the big picture to the tiny details?
You need an Intermediate Goal!
Many experts advise setting goals and creating a yearly plan. And for some, this works well. But for others, we live seasonally, and so a year-long plan is too big. Things change too quickly, too much over the course of the year, for us to predict what will happen by Thanksgiving — in January.
Setting a goal monthly is too short for the intermediate goal. It’s too hard to build momentum and to actually see progress. Often, monthly goals are too small to be exciting, or too big to be achievable.
So what time period works? For me, the ideal is a 90-day quarter. Ninety days is enough time to build momentum, to set a goal that will give you noticeable progress towards my big goals, but isn’t so overwhelming that I get lost or forget what I’m doing. It’s also easy to plan around, because it fits inside the seasons of my life, with kids and their activities.
90 Day Planning Starts with Setting a Goal
To start your 90 day plan, begin by looking at your long term plans. What are your income goals, achievements, or accomplishments that you want to do in the next 3 or 5 years? Make sure you’re clear on what those are, because your 90 day goals will be the milestones that mark your progress towards them.
Once you have your chosen focus, drill down to the next milestone that pushes you towards that goal. If it’s an income goal, what needs to happen to achieve that income? Or what level of income do you need to get to this year in order to make progress to your long term goal? For example, if you have a long term goal of 6 figures annually, your short term goal might be to break the five figure mark.
Choose your goal the SMART way, by being Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed. The more specific you are, the more likely you’ll be able to develop a plan to actually get there. Making sure you can measure your goal means that you’ll know if you’re there or getting close. Keeping it achievable and realistic will keep you from getting too caught up in fantasy or wishful thinking. And having a timeline will help you stay on track with your goals.
90 Day Planning Continues with Listing the Steps to the Goal
Break your goal down into 4-6 different tasks. What needs to happen to get to the goal? This is where making sure your goal is a SMART one helps. The SMART aspects of your goal will tell you what the steps are to get there.
If we go back to our income example, break your numbers down. To reach a five-figure mark, how many products, services or packages do you need to sell in order to get there. How many new clients do you need to sign or enroll? If your main product or package is a $500 product, to reach the 5-figure mark, you’d need to sell 20 of them in 90 days.
Reverse engineer your numbers to break it down further. How many contacts or leads do you need to have in order to sell 20? Go back over your past performance, and figure out the exact numbers. If your sale-closing percentage is 10%, that means you’d need to connect with 200 different leads in 90 days to achieve your 20 sales. Is that doable?
90 Day Planning Finishes by Assigning Due Dates
Grab a pen and paper, or a large calendar, and mark off the next 3 months. 90 days is approximately 13 weeks, give or take a few days. Lay out the next 12 weeks and assign your steps due dates.
What needs to happen every week in order for you to meet your goal?
For our income example, 20 sales in 12 weeks works out to 3 sales every two weeks, or 1 and 2/3rds sales every week. So some weeks you need 2 sales, some you need 1 sale. You’d set your goal to 2 sales per week. That way, if you don’t make that 2nd sale every week, you’ve got some breathing room. But if you make your goal every single week, you’ll surpass your 90 day goal easily.
Why 12 weeks? 12 weeks makes for easy planning — it’s easy to subdivide into monthly, biweekly or weekly goals. And having that 13th week be extra allows for last-minute catch up in case something happens, like unexpected illness. Also, if everything does go smoothly and exactly as you’d planned, you get a 13th week as a break and a review week, giving you some well-earned vacation time as a reward for all your hard work. Plus, you’ll get that time to determine what worked, what didn’t, and to set your next 90 day goal planning easily.
Is 90 Day Planning Right for You?
Well, that depends. Maybe you’re an organized planner by nature, and even your sock drawer is color coded. You may not need the extra step in between your daily to-dos and your long term goals. Or maybe you’re the spontaneous, creative artist, and you’ve got an almost magic touch that turns every day into success, and you don’t have any long term goals. Then planning may only cramp your style.
90 Day Planning is for the rest of us. It’s for those of us who are trying to carve out a career and an income, Between the day job, the kids’ activities, and regular life in general, finding the time to focus on an independent business or at-home income can be tricky. Having a plan that helps us keep both the daily details and the big picture in mind will keep us focused on our goals.