Being SMART About Your Goals - Sign up for the FREE Webinar!

Blogger's note: I am sharing this post, which was posted in December 2017, again in honor of my upcoming Setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals for Business Growth Webinar (Thursday, 9/6 at 1:00 PM EDT). I hope that you can join us. Information can be found in the image below.

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  • Do you feel that your time at work is not as well spent as it needs to be?
  • Are you a busy entrepreneur or team leader who seeks to accomplish a great deal despite being understaffed and overstretched?
  • Do you have a sense of what you can achieve or become that you can’t seem to actualize?

If you answered “yes” to one or more of the above, then you may need to look more carefully at your goal-setting practices.

Goal setting is a critical component of any growth process, personal or professional. There are many benefits of setting goals, including…

  1. Clarity and Focus – Goals motivate us to cut through the weeds and get focused on what’s really important.
  2. Planning – Goals help us map out the necessary steps to achieve our desired result.
  3. Accountability – Goals force us to set and meet deadlines and be accountable to others.
  4. Transparency – When shared, goals help others understand what we’re focused on.
  5. Self-esteem – Goals raise our self-confidence as we see ourselves grow and progress.

For goals to be effective in moving us forward, they need to be expressed in actionable terms that also detail how you would feel from achieving your objectives. Actionable terms focus us on the steps that will be needed to meet our goals and help us more easily measure progress.

When we tie emotions to outcomes, we activate feelings within us that motivate us towards achievement. A Gallup study by researcher James K. Harter and his colleagues found that business unit sales and profits at one point in time are predicted by employees’ feelings at earlier points in time. People’s emotions impact their performance, and if they’re healthy and happy they perform better.

One way by which we can get closer towards actualizing our potential is to set “S.M.A.R.T.” goals.

There are a few different versions of the acronym S.M.A.R.T. Perhaps the most popular one is this:

  • Specific – well defined, you know exactly what you seek to achieve;
  • Measurable – quantifiable in a way that helps determine whether the goal has been achieved;
  • Attainable – a goal that is within reach, largely because of your deep desire to attain it;
  • Rewarding – fulfillment of the goals should provide you with a feeling of satisfaction and achievement; (NOTE: many put ‘realistic’ or ‘relevant’ here, as in has anyone ever achieved this before, or how is this aligned with my key objectives, respectively)
  • Time-related – set to a time-frame to ensure continued, focused efforts towards attainment.

S.M.A.R.T. can also stand for…

  • Specific – see above
  • Meaningful – something that is important to you and will serve to motivate you;
  • Agree upon – the task should be agreed-to by those tasked to complete it;
  • Results-focused – the goal should be written in terms of outcomes;
  • Trackable – progress should be trackable to determine that efforts are on track.

Perhaps the most important letter in the S.M.A.R.T. acronym is “s”, which stands for specific. Specific is the What, Why, and How of the goal.

  • What you will do.
  • Why that is important.
  • How you will achieve the goal.

Goals should be simplistically written and should clearly define what you are going to do.

Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.
— Pablo Picasso

For example, someone who seeks to concentrate more deeply on tasks for longer durations would be wise to apply this formula. Set specific goals of what you would like to work on and for how long. Include elements that will keep you from becoming distracted and/or motivate you to stay on task.

It may read something like this:

“In order to complete my daily report/proposal/blog post/etc. each morning (specific goal), I will set aside 60 minutes at the outset of each morning for the next two weeks for in-depth, uninterrupted work (what). During this time, I will not answer phone calls, respond to emails or texts, or engage in any form of web surfing (how). By completing this important task first thing in the morning, I can do it while my mind is freshest and still attend to many other tasks and responsibilities (why important).”

Determine how you will measure success, in terms of your ability to work for X minutes without interruption, complete the task in Y minutes, or something similar.

Make sure that the goals that you set are attainable and not beyond the pale of what is presently realistic (this, of course, can and should change as you grow in this area). Then set a time-frame for your goal to keep you on task and moving in the right direction.

Detail how this goal is rewarding. In this example, the reward may be that others get what they need in a timely fashion and/or that you don’t need to stay late to get it done.

Other “goal worthy”, outcomes might include becoming more knowledgeable about work-related or other topics, improving relationships with co-workers, spouses, children, or others, fitness and weight loss, or saving for a purchase.

This process of setting proper goals and sticking to them may require the help of others, such as a coach, mentor or spouse. We are all busy and can sometimes lose focus or drive if we don’t have others supporting and pushing us to reach higher. The key is the 3 c’s – clarify, contract and commit – so that this goal does not become another flash of inspiration that quickly fades into distant memory.