SMART Goals – What They Are, How They Work, and How to Get Started

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Setting Goals So You’re Working in the Right Direction

Now that we have the entire business model canvas complete, it’s time to start taking action on those ideas you’ve created.

But not just any action, moving forward we should be creating SMART goals. Not only are they more actionable, but also more likely to get done because they’re so specific.

Today’s Business Tip: Learn how to create SMART goals and where to keep them

This might be one of the most important “time management tips” because no matter how productive you are, if you’re going in the wrong direction, what’s the point?

Yea, yea, set goals – sounds boring. But really, what do you want out of life? Think big picture and small picture.

What is a Goal?

I think we often (me included) get confused about what a goal is vs strategies or tactics.

I love this explanation from Medium article by Ian O’Byrne which breaks down these four things separately:

GOAL — A broad primary outcome.

STRATEGY — The approach you take to achieve a goal.

OBJECTIVE — A measurable step you take to achieve a strategy.

TACTIC — A tool you use in pursuing an objective aligned with your strategy.

In other words, a goal is the end result you want from the work you’re doing at the moment. What should every task you complete be moving you towards?

How Do You Create a SMART Goal?

I’ve come across the notion of SMART goals a lot over the years, but have never actually sat down and put some together for myself. Here’s a quick overview of what SMART goals are:

  • Specific – A SMART goal is clearly defining what you are going to do and what you will have at the end of this exercise. It needs to be specific. “Being successful” isn’t specific enough. Waking up at 4am every day because you want to be an entrepreneur and will get an extra 2-3 hours of side hustle work in before your day job starts, is.
  • Measurable – what is the end result going to be? Make sure you have metrics of some sort so you have a binary answer of “yes” or “no” when the time frame to complete the goal is up and can definitively say you accomplished your goal.
  • Achievable/Attainable – are you being realistic with yourself? Of course we’d all love to get everything done today, but can you actually achieve that much work in the work day? Probably not. Make sure you’re setting yourself up to be able to complete something, and not aimed at certain failure. Not only do you have enough time, but are you able to afford what it takes to get to this goal?
  • Results Oriented
    Your goal should be focused on an outcome, not just checking activities off a list.

     In addition, are you going to be moving yourself towards an outcome you actually want? This isn’t about checking things off a list because someone else wanted you to accomplish this.

    Will you be PUMPED when this is complete? If not, start over.

  • Time-Bound
    When is this goal going to be completed by?

    Make sure you are creating small building blocks of tasks you need to complete to achieve this goal AND adding due dates to each of those. Work backwards from the end date and make sure you’re staying realistic with these time frames.

Examples of SMART Goals:

Here are some basic examples of SMART goals that incorporate something specific being doing in a certain time frame.

  • Writing 10 new blog posts for a new website you’re starting by Dec 1st, 2018.
  • Finishing all modules of that online course about entrepreneurship (that you bought 2 years ago that you haven’t looked at since) by September 30th.
  • Recording 10 episodes of the podcast you want to launch by October 15th.

The Most Powerful (And Often Overlooked) Step

Why in a smart goal

I’d go as far as to say that there is a piece of this that we’ve all been skipping (or at least I haven’t heard much about it).

The magic lies in the “why component.”

Knowing what to do, when to do it by, and being realistic about it all is great. But when you sit down to look at the list of these goals, they can often fall flat.

When that happens, I’m always the first one to procrastinate.

But, when you add in the “why component” things change.

This is essentially the reasoning behind this goal being so important that you added it to your list.

Why is it important for you to accomplish this? What are you going to get out of it? How is this going to move you forward?

Let’s recreate the examples from above and add in the why component:

  • Write 10 new blog posts for a new website you’re starting by Dec 1st, 2018 because this website is going to provide you with more income over the next 24 months so you can more realistically quit your day job.
  • Finish all modules of the online course about entrepreneurship (that you bought 2 years ago that you haven’t looked at since) by September 30th because by leveling up your business you can worry less about money and spend more time with your family.
  • Recording 10 episodes of the podcast you want to launch by October 15th because it will help you build relationships, gain awareness for your business and gain a new skill.

Choose the Right Things to Work On

As I mentioned with SMART goals, if you aren’t setting goals and don’t know what direction you’re moving in, then being productive doesn’t even matter as much.

First, set goals.
Second, make sure you’re choosing to work on things that will ACTUALLY get you there.

If your goal is to write 10 blog posts for a new website, you may think that learning how to write is the next step. And sure, if you’ve never written anything in your life, maybe a quick refresher is in order.

But don’t let yourself go down the rabbit hole of learning how to write before you just dive in and get your thoughts on the page.

As with a lot of things in life, experience is key to getting better at your craft. The same with writing. You can learn 100 different ways to have the most compelling sentence structure, but if you never sit down and write a sentence – what’s the point?

Use the 80/20 Rule (aka the Pareto Principle) to help you determine which things are most important and are more likely to get you the results you want.

A lot of times as business owners and side hustlers, we think that being busy and learning everything is actually running a business. Wrong.

Busy does not equal productive. Write that one on a post-it and stick it to your forehead – because we all make this mistake.

Whether it be tweaking your website until it’s perfect, or learning all about podcasting because someday you’re going to start one of those.

Unless it’s moving you towards your goals, you’re doing it wrong.

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