A friend of mine recently came up with the idea to start a home stationery business. As we got talking about the business and her vision for growth, we agreed that she needed to put her vision on paper for more accountability and clarity. Naturally, one of the first things that came to mind was to create goals so she can measure the success and growth of her business. Among others, here is what she wrote as her goal:
- Be the one-stop shop for all things in home stationery.
Let me add here that this is the first business she plans to launch. I applaud her for that. It takes guts! She quit her full-time job as a graphic designer 7 years ago to stay at home with her then-newborn daughter. Today, when her daughter has grown up and spends most of the day at school and after school activities, my friend found herself with a lot of time on hand and she did not know what to do with it. Instead of wasting it on binge-watching a show on Netflix for the rest of her life (someone, please tell me it gets boring after a while!), she decided to use her design skills to start her own business. Yay to that!
Coming back to the goals…here’s a little background on my professional experience. I am an instructional designer, which means I analyze, design, and develop online and offline courses for corporate employees. An integral part of being in the education business is to know how to identify the goals and objectives of any program (or business, or any project really). This is what I do for a living and I couldn’t hold back. We spent the next two hours thrashing out goals. A tried-and-tested strategy to draft goals is to use the SMART methodology.
What is the SMART Goal Setting Methodology?
A SMART goal stands for a goal that is:
- Specific: Your goal should be as specific as possible. It should have an expected outcome attached to it. Explore the what, why, where, how, who of your goal. Making your goal specific to the last detail helps you identify the component(s) that you want to track. It helps make your goals clearer and more manageable, and consequently easier to accomplish. For example,
- Vague goal: I want to grow my email list.
- The problem: The aforementioned goal is vague because it does not address several questions, including (but not limited to):
- Why is it important to grow your email list?
- How many subscribers do you want to gain every month?
- How will you grow your email list?
- Do you have the necessary tools in place to grow your email list?
- Specific goal: Grow my email list to 100 subscribers by October 31 so that I can pitch my eBook for sale.
- Measurable: How will you assess and measure the success of your goal? How will you know that you have achieved your goal? Identify the metric and benchmark against which you will measure your specifics. Vague words such as “successful blog,” “life-changing post,” “awesome email list” are neither specific nor measurable. For example, if your goal is to grow your list of email subscribers from 0 to 100, every new subscriber will be a metric to measure. That each of those subscribers is “awesome” is an added bonus J
- Attainable (or Actionable): It is important to remember that the goal must be realistic and achievable. While it is good to be ambitious and positive, it is somewhat unrealistic to set a goal of growing your email list from 0 to 50,000 in the first month. Another example is to aim for a goal for which you do not have the necessary resources available. “Aim for the stars” is a great motto but unless you are part of NASA or Elon Musk’s team, it’s pretty unattainable, don’t you think? Draft goals that set you up for success, not failure!
- Relevant: Often, it’s easy to get carried away and lose track of the big picture. Does the goal align with your vision/big picture/ultimate goal? For example, gaining email subscribers may not matter for bloggers who analyze current affairs. Generally, such bloggers do not aim to sell anything on their blogs. A more relevant goal for such bloggers may be to have a high traffic rate.
- Time bound: Finally, the goal you draft should have an end-time so that you know when to measure efforts. In other words, define the range of time within which your efforts will come to fruition. This is the time when you will consider marking your goal either a success or failure. For example, if your goal is to grow your list of email subscribers from 0 to 100, determine an end date to this goal—such as, by October 31, 2017. This way when the time comes, you will know to measure your growth. Additionally, be realistic about the period. Keep your personality and circumstances in mind when deciding the end date.
Why should I use the SMART Goal Setting Methodology?
Why should you? Here’s why. A well-defined goal will act as an effective road map for you to gauge your growth. It is a productivity tool that helps:
- Convert vague goals into actionable objectives/tasks
- Visualize success
- Monitor progress
Convinced? Here’s a little bonus resource for you.
But, if you need more convincing, keep reading 🙂
How to Achieve Goals Consistently
The great footballer (soccer, for Americans J), Pele, once said, “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” Sure we all want to be successful at what we do. Sure we want to accomplish everything the universe has to offer. But success takes a lot of work and it is in our favor to define and approach success in a way that’s challenging but not overwhelming. Here is the step-by-step process that that can help work accomplish your goals consistently.
- Identify your big SMART goal: Before you do anything else, do a brain dump on a piece of paper or use a digital worksheet…whatever works for you. Come up with ONE big goal that based on the SMART methodology. One ring to rule them all 😉
- Break down the big goal into smaller goals: Think of it as a funneling process. Identify the smaller goals (further filtered to task level) that will collectively help you funnel up and accomplish the big goal.
- Set deadlines: Assign due dates not just for the big goal but also for each individual task you identified in the previous step. This will keep you accountable and help prioritize. Also, small wins. Yay!
- Build-in review checkpoints: Have you ever set yourself a lenient deadline and still found yourself scrambling for the finish line on the last day? That’s Parkinson’s Law at work. ‘Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.’ Let that sink in for a moment. Guilty? Here’s what you can do: set up 2-3 checkpoints between the start and end date of the big goal. Hold yourself accountable for meeting these smaller “deadlines” on your way to the checkered flag.
- Reflect, evaluate, and modify: At the end of a goal’s life cycle, it’s time to reflect and evaluate. Think back on the process you followed. Determine what work and what didn’t. Identify the roadblocks and think about how you can work around or eliminate those roadblocks from the next cycle. This kind of evaluation will help you modify your process rock solid going forward.
Set Yourself Up for Success
While the process will help you achieve goals, there are a few additional tips you can keep in mind when brainstorming your goals.
- Set goals at regular intervals: January 1 is not the only date when you should think about reflecting and setting goals. No, I am not saying you should not set goals on that date…do it; it’s been a long-standing tradition and it’s good to follow some traditions. But please understand the logic behind this tradition…it plays on the word “new year” that is supposedly a clean slate to work on. But ultimately, it’s asking you to reflect on your wins and losses and determine how you can leverage that knowledge to succeed at your next mission. One year is a LONG time to not evaluate yourself or your goals. But, if you choose to follow this “tradition” every quarter or every month and line up fewer and smaller goals, leading up to a big goal, isn’t that more realistic, empowering, and achievable?
- Set fewer goals: We are ambitious and success is great for our confidence. But are we setting ourselves up for failure by adding too many things on our plates? You bet we are! Take my example, I am a stay-at-home mom to a preschooler, I have a freelance writing business, I have a home to run, I have a family to care for, and now I have a blog too. That’s a mighty lot. But there’s a lot I don’t do—I have a help who dusts, mops the floor, cleans dishes, cleans the bathrooms, folds laundry, etc. Another lady comes in daily to cook our meals (Indian meal cooking takes a lot of time + I hate cooking). I had trouble giving away some of my household chores because it makes me anxious. But labor is cheap in India and I just had to measure the return on investment. For a few bucks each month, I have freed up the time to do other things that are more important to me. Those are my fewer, big goals I want to accomplish. Cooking a daily meal for my family is important but it’s not my big goal. As long as we are eating home-cooked meals, I don’t really care who is cooking for us.
- Focus on the smaller goals: Keep your eye on the big goal, but focus on the smaller goals. Remember the funnel? These short-term goals are going to buoy you up and carry you to your big goal. Focusing on the smaller goals allows you to reset or refine your tactics continuously. Imagine going all the way to the big goal deadline and finding that everything you did was a waste of time.
- Allow yourself to fail at times: Even superheroes fail at times. Give yourself the grace to fail occasionally. If you can learn something even from a failed opportunity, it’s not really a failed opportunity after all, right? Some goals can be tougher than the rest. Or, perhaps you didn’t allow yourself enough time to accomplish the goal. Or, maybe your measurement metric was wrong all along. Next time, you will know better than to repeat the same mistakes.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
– Winston Churchill
What methodology do you use to draft goals? If you’d like to explore the SMART way of goal setting, I have created a template that will help you draft goals that are not only based on the SMART methodology but will also help you break the goal down into smaller, more achievable tasks. Simply signup below to receive this free resource.