In theory, setting and accomplishing goals is easy. Like getting fit or losing weight, we all know what it takes. Exercise and eat healthier. Then why is it that such a small percentage of us complete on our New Years resolutions, or talk about what we “wish” we had and want for so long without ever actually getting there. Mostly, it’s not because we don’t want it rather we don’t know what it takes to achieve it. Wish in one hand and spit in the other, see what you get first. The point is, wishing and hoping will only do so much. Having clarity and a system to follow dramatically increases your ability to succeed. One solution is the S.M.A.R.T goal setting process.
The S.M.A.R.T goal setting process was first penned by George T. Doran in the November 1981 issue of Management Review. The principal of the acronym simplifies achieving goals through a S.M.A.R.T goals setting process by making sure your goals are Specific, Meaningful, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Two additional steps have been included since the creation back in 1981, improving on the methodology over time. Simply put, it’s good to be S.M.A.R.T about setting goals, but… It’s great to be S.M.A.R.T.E.R.
Step #1: “S” – Specific
Step one in S.M.A.R.T.E.R goal setting is be Specific! The more specific you are the better. As you’ve probably heard before, we are our own worst enemies. When a goal is too generalized, our minds have the ability to justify, excuse, or avoid what wasn’t clear. After all, it didn’t really matter that much to us anyways…
No matter what method you choose to follow to achieve your goals, accomplishing them is far simpler when you are specific about what they are. Never be afraid to be too specific. For example; A goal could be to “make more money” however putting a specific number as your goal, Increase revenue by $100,000 in 12 months for example, defines and makes it measurable.
Step #2: “M” – Measurable
Which brings us to step two in setting S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goals. Make them Measurable. When you can measure it, you can track it. When you track it, you have the ability to know with absolute clarity that you are on track or off track. As you work towards achieving measurable goals, when you are off track, you are aware and able to adjust actions to get back on track or in some cases, readjust your expectations! Measuring goals makes them real and ensures you are conscious about the feasibility, progression, and completion.
When you aim for nothing, you’ll always hit it, and you excuse yourself from being responsible because there are no measurable results to achieve. Believe in yourself. Create measurable goals, and hold yourself accountable to reach them.
Step #3: “A” – Ambitious
This is why step three is crucial in setting S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goals. When you’re setting them, ask yourself, is it Achievable? Those of us with a “positive mindset” would suggest that whatever you put your mind to, you can accomplish! But there is a notable difference between a hope and a plan. If you’ve never sold $100,000 in products or services before, aiming for $1M might be a little unrealistic. We are not suggesting you aim low. We are suggesting that if you intend on reaching $1M, by when? Next month or next year might be unrealistic depending on where you are right now however, maybe a 3 year, 5 year, or 10 year plan could be achievable. Year one might be to grow by $100,000, with a measurable growth plan to achieve your long term target of $1M.
Set your goals a little out of your comfort zone. Something within reach, that will take a little extra to achieve. Remember, it’s important that goals are achievable. When you set milestones and small goals that are aligned with your big goal, you build momentum. The milestones serve as motivation and positive reinforcements that what you are doing is effective, and on track with where you want to be.
Step #4: “R” – Relevant
If you don’t know where you want to be, stop now, and figure that out first! Because this step in S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goals is to set goals that matter. Think about how the goals relate to your life, where you want to be, and what’s Relevant?
Really think about it… Maybe you want to spend more time with family which is why you want to work less. In order to work less, maybe you need to grow your business by $100,000 to hire an employee so you can take time off with family. When your goals are aligned with what is relevant and truly matter to you, failure will be unacceptable. You will do everything in your power to reach your objectives and every challenge becomes an obstacle to overcome! Achieving it will be a matter of when, not if.
Step #5: “T” – Time-Bound
If you want to grow by $100,000 in 12 months, that means your quarterly target will be $25,000, with a monthly target of $8,333.33. The first 4 steps covers where, what, and why. The fifth step in setting S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goals is all about when. Because you are clear on what, where, and why you want to achieve your goals, being Time-bound puts your focus on actions that need to be taken for you to achieve your goals in the next 30 to 90 days.
Without making goals Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound, it’s impossible to see progress. Ask yourself, “Do I have a clear goal?”, “Can I clearly communicate the goal?”, “What do I need to do to achieve it?”, “How close am I to achieving it?”, and “When will I achieve it?”. Business owners and professionals that experience stress, a lack of clarity, direction, or consistent up’s and downs, can’t answer these questions… Can you?
Step #6: “E” – Evidence
When you set S.M.A.R.T goals, you will experience a shift from hoping you achieve what you want, to having confidence in knowing how you will in a matter of time. However, even if you have come this far, without Evidence, how do you really know? Consider our example again, increasing the revenue by $100,000 in 12 months. Be S.M.A.R.T.E.R, define the Evidence that proves you are on the right track? For example, the most successful organisations, big and small, have weekly meetings to evaluate the evidence for their company targets and goals. If on track is achieving $8,333,33 each week but evaluations only occur at the end of the month. It’s too late to do anything when you notice you’ve only hit $15,000 on the 30th day of the month.
Implement a system to review and monitor where you are based on evidence. The purpose isn’t to add more work and make life harder. It’s important to deal with reality and to understand the work that needs to be accomplished, with clarity. To work S.M.A.R.T.E.R, not harder.
Step #7: “R” – Recognition
As business owners, and professionals, we are so focused on work that it’s easy to forget why we do it. We concentrate so hard on taking care of business that we have a habit of forgetting to look after ourselves in the process. Everybody has one story about doing something great, exceeding expectations, or going above and beyond, getting not so much as a thank you, a job well done, or any acknowledgement whatsoever.
That is why the final step, one often neglected yet equally as important as any other step, is Recognition. If we do not recognise, and reward ourselves for the commitment and effort, what’s the point!
Many professionals have said things like, “I can’t afford to right now.”, or “when I make X more, then I will.”. The truth is, you can’t afford NOT to. Recognition and rewards aren’t the same thing as treat yourself to the most expensive restaurant in town or buy a new car. It means to show some recognition. For example, a consult once said, when they closed their biggest contract, or exceeded their monthly target, they would go get their shoes shined to remind them it’s important to “polish” themselves up every now and then. One lady who owned a retail store would treat herself to a nice cut and color at her favorite salon when she beat her monthly sales target. Recognize and reward yourself for setting your mind to and achieving goals. If you’re like most people, you are the first to beat yourself up when you do something silly or make a mistake. Be the first to acknowledge yourself for your accomplishments too!