SMART Goals: The Importance of Goal Setting
SMART goals help you turn vague, general, and overambitious goals that don’t get done into actionable ones.
Do you set New Year’s resolutions but fail to meet your goals? Are you seeking ways to help your company and team accomplish something phenomenal? If you answered yes to either of these questions, I recommend you first start with setting SMART goals to help you get there
What are SMART goals?
SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. The acronym helps you remember parts of goal setting, so you set measurable criteria and achievable benchmarks. They also give you a sense of direction. They serve as a roadmap so you can see your progress and stay motivated to reach those goals. SMART goals also help you turn vague, general, and overambitious goals that don’t get done into actionable ones.
SMART goals are usually used in business, but you can also use them in your personal life, from leading a healthier lifestyle to learning a new skill. Keep reading to learn about each SMART component and apply it to your goals.
The “S” in SMART stands for specific. When setting SMART goals, you want to attain a specific objective – not a vague one. Therefore, be as specific as possible, and don’t be afraid to get very detailed – think about what you are trying to accomplish.
Try answering the W questions – the who, what, when, where, which, and why. Some of these may not apply, such as answering the “where” if you are setting personal goals. Also, you’ll get more specific about the “when” under the “time-bound” section.
For example, instead of saying you will lose weight this year, be specific about how much and by when. Your weight loss goal can be “I will lose 20 pounds by going to the gym”. You can be even more specific with this goal to build a roadmap to guide you to success.
Ask yourself: Does this goal help me visualize my outcome? Is the language specific enough for this particular project?
The “M” in SMART stands for measurable. Writing a way to measure your goal makes it easier to assess your goal’s success. To make your goal measurable, add a number, a percentage, a deadline, etc. When you set measurable goals, you can track your progress and reevaluate your goal if needed. Metrics baby!
Ask yourself: Have I included specific criteria that measure the goal’s success when complete?
The “A” in SMART stands for achievable. You want to set an attainable goal that is bold but still realistic. It should not be easy to achieve but also not overly ambitious. It helps to be honest with yourself and to base your goal on your current reality.
Ask yourself: Can I reasonably achieve this goal? Does the goal fall within the project’s capabilities? Do I have the time, energy, and skill set to complete this goal?
The “R” in SMART stands for realistic. It is also interchangeable with relevant. A realistic and relevant goal should focus on something worthwhile which should fit within your and your team’s goals. A goal is realistic if you sincerely believe you can reach it within the set time frame and is not overambitious. Therefore, your goals should be within reach and results-based.
The terms realistic and achievable go hand-in-hand. A goal may be achievable but unrealistic. For example, you may want to exercise at the gym for 2 hours 5 days a week. While this might technically be achievable, it might not be realistic for most working adults.
Ask yourself: Can I reasonably reach this goal? Is the goal challenging yet realistic?
The “T” in SMART stands for time-bound. All SMART goals must have a clear time frame with a deadline. Time-bound goals motivate you to take action as it creates a sense of urgency. If you don’t set a deadline, your goal could drag on (and on!) as one tends to procrastinate without a time limit. You end up with a long-term goal rather than a short-term one. Let’s say you want to…
Make sure that your timing is also realistic. You can set all the goals you want, but if your deadline is impractical, chances are you will not succeed. Let’s say you want to lose 10 pounds in one week. While this goal is technically time-bound, it may not be realistic (or healthy!).
Ask yourself: By when do I want to achieve this goal? Do I have a precise target date or time frame for this goal?
Examples of SMART goals
Goal: Get more clients this month.
- SMART goal: Have five new clients spend at least $2,000 per month for the next six months by meeting with 20 new prospects monthly and sending out 15 new proposals.
Goal: Improve customer service performance.
- SMART goal: Increase the average CSAT from 75 to 80% by the end of this year by training the team weekly on resolving cases quicker.
Goal: Get money to fund expansion.
- SMART goal: Secure $250,000 or more funding for two years of operational costs in the next six months.
Goal: Increase the number of visitors that come to our site.
- SMART goal: Increase website traffic by 25% by the end of this year by promoting the business through referrals, networking, and social networks.
Goal: Exercise more.
- SMART goal: I will walk or run at the park 5 days a week for at least 30 minutes.
Goal: Read more.
- SMART goal: I will attend a weekly book club and read at least one new book monthly for the next 6 months.
Once you finish writing your goals, start tackling your smallest or short-term goals first. Short-term goals are tied to your current situation and are easier to achieve. Therefore, you should break up your long-term goals into smaller ones to make them easier to visualize. Focusing your energy on these smaller goals will get you closer to reaching those long-term goals (like making a billion dollars!) for a larger life change.
Check-in on your goals
After you are done writing down your SMART goals, it is essential to track your goals periodically to measure the progress you have made. Checking them regularly may help you identify what is not working and where to improve. You can then evaluate and revise your goals during your project if necessary.
By the way, not hitting your goals doesn’t mean your project was a total failure. This is about progress, not perfection. Therefore, do not ignore the fact that the goal wasn’t reached. Instead, use this moment as a learning experience. Dig in and learn what parts were working and which were not. Learn from these perceived setbacks by reflecting and assessing your goals and use those learnings the next time you set SMART goals. Remember, progress is not linear, and it might mean taking a step back to take a step forward.