How to set and achieve smart goals

You know why your goals aren’t getting met?

They’re dumb.

You’re probably making a handful of mistakes: not writing them down, not assigning them a home and almost certainly not reviewing them, outside of at the end of the year, when you get all depressed about how little you actually got done this year while sipping champagne.

Dumb goals are goals that don’t get achieved because they have no hustle or action about them. Stop setting dumb goals. It’s time to smarten them up a bit.

If you’re not even to this point yet and you’re not sure why you should even be setting goals, you need to check this out: Why goals are good for you.

Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals

Smart goals are not a totally new idea, but they may be new to you. If you haven’t already heard about them, “smart” is simply an acronym for the actual steps to setting better, more achievable goals:

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Action-oriented

R – Realistic

T – Time-bound

Instead of saying “We want to open a store,” A smart goal would be more specific:

“We want to open a store by May 1st, 2017.”

Write that down. Say it out loud. How’s that feel? A bit unnerving? You just called yourself out, and told yourself when you need to get it done by. You’re beginning to assign yourself some accountability and your dream just went from being a wish to being a real, tangible thing.

Breaking your smart goal down into steps

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

What’s literally everything you can think of that needs to be done before you reach that date? Write them down. Don’t think about when or how you’re going to complete these tasks, yet. We’re just doing a complete brain dump of every literal thing you can think about to getting that store opened. Those are your tasks.

Some of these tasks can be grouped together as smaller goals—some people call these “milestones.” These milestones need to also be assigned a deadline within your primary smart goal. This is what helps make your smart goal more measurable .

When you have your list of tasks, and that list is organized into groups so that you can have some smaller goals-within-your-goal in order to keep the momentum going and track your progress, you then want to prioritize these groups under a few different questions:

  • Do some of these tasks take longer to complete than others?
  • Which of these will actually depend on someone else to complete them?
  • Which of these need to be done before others could be completed?
  • Which of these are not necessary to hitting that primary goal?

Trim the fat

When we do our brain dump, we just pour it all out; every single task, dream and desire for your primary goal becomes recorded. If you have any tasks that aren’t absolutely critical to getting to that primary goal, you need to move to another list we call “Phase 2”. Keeping your primary goal what we in the software world call a “minimum viable product”—the absolute least amount of work that gets value—will help keep it time-boxed. After all, we’re on a deadline!

Reviewing your goals

Okay, so now you have your big hairy goal, and your list of smaller goals and milestones. Now comes the most important piece to achieving your goal: reviewing them. I wrote about this at length here.

Without a doubt, This is the No. 1 reason that so many people can’t get their goals accomplished, even when they’ve written them down and said them out loud. When you allow yourself to get busy with life and working in the business, instead of on the business and don’t stop to take stock of your progress and what’s up next, you will lose your momentum.

I get it—stuff happens and fires come up that you need to put out. I’m more than guilty at slacking in this area. But I’ve learned that it’s important to make it a priority to circle back around to checking on that list of goals and milestones. I recommend doing it weekly. It helps keep the fire in your belly about what you’re doing for your business beyond the day-to-day job.

1 Comment

  1. Why goals are good for you. – UPWARD on November 28, 2016 at 7:45 pm

    […] Update: if you’re looking for a better way to set smarter goals, you’ll want to read this other post on how to set up and achieve smart goals. […]