It’s fundamental to set yourself objectives and goals in every area of your business and life, but we tend to overgeneralise our goals. Learning how to set SMART goals and have SMART objectives can transform the measurable progress you make every day.
Many people struggle with having SMART targets and goals for three reasons:
- There is no deadline attached to them
- The goals are not measurable, whether this is a number or an event to be achieved
- Their goals are not realistic
In this article I’ll share what SMART objectives are, discuss the importance of SMART goal setting and provide SMART goals examples that you can use today in your business and life.
Setting SMART objectives
The key to setting SMART objectives is to get crystal clear on exactly what you want to achieve.
SMART goals must be measurable and have a deadline attached to it so you are emotionally invested and intellectually engaged in the outcome of achieving that goal.
When setting SMART targets, ensure that the goal is achievable but exciting enough to motivate you to take action on achieving your goal.
Write the goal down to make it feel tangible.
Then lay out a specific action, decision or communication you can take to move forward on achieving your SMART goals.
SMART goal setting gets you clear and confident about the ideal future you want to create for yourself, and helps you filter out activities that don’t support your specific goals.
What are the 5 SMART goals?
By ensuring the goals you set follow the SMART criteria (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) you have the clear focus to create an action plan to achieve those goals.
Setting both long-term SMART goals and short-term SMART goals are essential for every aspect of your business and life as they help you get greater clarity and focus on exactly what you want to achieve now and in the future.
In my article Goal Setting: An 8 step process for achieving your goals I went into the importance of smart goal setting in greater detail.
I’m an avid writer of SMART goals.
In my 20 year corporate career I headed up the strategic planning of the marketing agency I worked for, so writing SMART goals and 90-day outcome goals was a part of the job I loved to do.
I now help my business coaching clients to follow a similar SMART goal setting process: writing down goals for 3 years and 90 days.
By learning how to set SMART objectives for yourself, you are telling yourself what’s most important to you right now and then giving yourself specific, measurable targets to aim for.
The importance of SMART goal setting
Learning how to have SMART targets creates a greater sense of clarity and focus.
By having SMART objectives for yourself, you give yourself a great opportunity to be intentional and make specific, measurable progress.
When you achieve your goals this fills you with confidence, inspiring you to set bigger and better goals.
How to set SMART goals
Let’s start with looking at how to set SMART goals.
SMART is an acronym that stands for:
Specific – General goals are just a wish. The goal must be specific so everyone involved is clear and focused on the end result.
Measurable – The outcome of the goal must be measurable, either a number or an event.
Achievable – Many people fail with achieving goals because their desired outcome is so far away from what they have previously achieved. Build up your goal setting muscles by making the goal achievable.
Realistic – This component follows achievable. It must be realistic and not an impossible dream.
Timely – There must be a specific deadline attached to your SMART goals. Whether this is 7 days, a month or my preferred 90 days into the future.
Therefore, writing down SMART goals incorporate all of these criteria to help simplify your focus, get you clear on what you want to achieve and give you a roadmap for achieving the goals.
Use the SMART criteria for goal setting
Let’s get into a little more detail on SMART goal setting and how getting clear on your SMART objectives, your vision if you will, will set you up for achieving your goals.
Set goals that are specific
Imagine the bigger and better future you want to create for yourself.
Spend some time really thinking about how you want to be in the future, so it feels like a technicolour vision in your mind.
Be really specific about what you want, why the goal is so important and the difference achieving the goal will mean in your life.
When the goal is really specific, your brain will become more focused on achieving the goal.
You will become more committed to achieving the SMART goal you have set.
Be intentional with your SMART goal setting
When you have written down your SMART goals, ask yourself:
Which people will be involved in achieving the goal?
What specifically do I want to accomplish?
Why is this goal so important to me?
What is the ideal outcome when the goal is achieved?
What difference will achieving this goal make in my business and life?
For example, a general goal may be “I want to be a speaker.”
A more specific goal would be “I want to speak on 10 stages in the next 90 days.”
Set goals that are measurable
Goals that are not measurable are just a wish. It is therefore essential to learn how to write SMART goals.
For it to be a SMART goal there must be a criteria for measurement in place.
If there is no measurement, how do you know when you have achieved the goal?
Having a measurable SMART goal allows you to track progress on a daily and weekly basis.
The measurement must be a number e.g. get 100 new leads in the next 90 days or an event e.g. speak at X, Y, or Z event.
Having clear measurements in place give you clear indicators of your progress.
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Set goals that are achievable
SMART goals must be achievable and attainable. Think about this when writing your own SMART goals.
There is no point creating a SMART goal that you have no chance of achieving.
If you create that kind of goal and you don’t achieve it, it can have a huge impact on your motivation and confidence.
To build up your SMART goal setting muscles start with small, achievable goals and then build from there.
The sense of pride and confidence that come with achieving your goals can set you up to create even bigger and better goals in the future.
Set goals that are realistic
A SMART goal must be realistic.
You have to look at your new SMART goal in relationship to the goals you have previously achieved.
For example, if you have previously achieved monthly revenue of £10,000 per month and your new goal is to achieve £50,000 revenue in the following month that is going to be very difficult to achieve.
Go for goals that you believe you can accomplish. Be committed to achieving the SMART goal you’ve set and then once you’ve achieved it, set a new bigger goal.
Set goals that are timely
A SMART goal must have a deadline attached to it.
If there is no deadline, and no energy and focus to achieve that goal in the specific time-frame you will lose your sense of urgency and motivation to achieve the goal.
Your deadline could be at the end of the day, end of the week, month, 90 days or a longer period of time.
The other key here is to set a small number of SMART goals within any given period.
For example, a goal might be to increase your email list by 500 people in the next 90 days, or appear on 5 podcasts in the next 90 days, or increase revenue by x from your top 20 clients in the next 90 days.
Why writing down SMART objectives matters
Many small business owners, entrepreneurs and leaders I speak to have created either general or unrealistic goals and, because they haven’t achieved their goal, shy away from setting SMART goals.
If the goal is specific, measurable and time bound you will have a clearer sense of direction and focus.
Creating SMART goals in your business can set you up for success by making it specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.
SMART goals example
In order to give you examples of SMART goals, I’ll give you an example from one of my coaching clients, Jill.
Jill was letting outside events and projects and people influence how she felt about herself and what kind of SMART targets she could achieve.
She was reacting rather than creating. She was not in control of her day or her time.
Jill had big goals for the future but was struggling to achieve her goals, because they weren’t specific, measurable or had a deadline.
She didn’t have the internal belief or commitment to move forward to achieve those SMART goals.
During our time together Jill went from being overwhelmed, stuck and unsure of what path she should follow to setting very specific SMART goals, that allowed her to create real momentum in her business.
SMART targets creates a positive mindset
By learning how to set SMART targets, Jill’s mindset shifted and her energy level increased.
She began thinking about herself and working differently in her business by taking control of her present and future.
Rather than being reactive, she became totally committed to her future success and the SMART goals she set for herself.
People began to notice the difference. They could see the new found confidence and belief in Jill.
Her commitment was internal, not external.
They were her SMART goals.
The goals did not depend on any outside factor or circumstance for Jill to begin acting and living as the best in her profession.
The whole point of this transformation was that she set internally driven goals and achieved them.
Like many people Jill set SMART goals and then started worrying about achieving them.
Her goals were for 3 years ahead. A long time into the future.
Boost confidence by achieving your goals
Sometimes it’s really hard for the mind to hold onto and focus on long-term goals because they are so far into the future.
Have you experienced a similar thing with achieving your goals?
One of the ways to overcome this obstacle is to have a longer term vision and then set shorter SMART goals.
Jill started setting short-term 90 day goals that she always finished and felt good about. This gave her continued confidence and belief.
She didn’t have to worry about “sticking with” something. These smaller outcome goals also encouraged her to focus on and enjoy the present moment.
She was creating and succeeding in the present rather than having her head in the future.
How to achieve SMART goals
The great thing about creating your ideal future in the present moment is that you can have more fun. You can try different things.
To make this work for you, the SMART goals you set should be very specific.
Here are a few examples of SMART goals you could try:
- Spend thirty minutes a day writing a new piece of content
- Have one new sales conversation every day
- Create £10,000 in new proposals this week
- Speak to five new people this week.
To make this even more fun treat it as a game. When you succeed, up the stakes for the next week.
If you’re competitive, create a challenge with a friend or fellow small business owner. You could even collaborate on a specific goal that would excite and motivate you both.
When learning how to set goals, get creative and have fun with it. Create things and have small adventures that lead you to the bigger future you want.
Don’t pressure yourself writing down unrealistic goals because this is when you may fall off the wagon. And, celebrate those process goal wins.
Don’t hold your present happiness and success hostage to the achievement of a long term goal. If you do that, your happiness is always in the future.
So, figure out where you want to spend your time.
Achieve your short term goals.
It is that achievement right now that will boost your confidence and belief in creating your longer term ideal future.
For more guidance on SMART goals and SMART objectives setting check out:
James Clear – Goal Setting
Mindtools – Personal Goal Setting
More on Goal Setting
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