What Are SMART Goals and Why Do They Matter?

Are you a planner, or a dreamer? Many businesses start with the aim of only surviving, keeping their heads above water and doing just enough to stay afloat, keep the money coming in and pay those bills. But long term success, and a sustainable business, requires more focus and strategy than simply figuring it out on the fly.

Those big dreams don’t happen on their own. You need a plan to help you get there, which means you need goals. SMART goals are a popular and effective goal setting method, when implemented correctly. First documented by consultant George Doran in 1981, SMART goals were designed as a memorable framework to enable businesses, and individuals, to create more meaningful objectives.

Whilst their implementation varies, one thing holds true – SMART goals enable us to build objectives that are more likely to be successful. In short, the SMART goals framework is one that works. 

Photo Credit: Paige Cody on Unsplash

S – Specific

For your goals to be effective, they need to be specific. This means being very clear on what it is you’re working towards.

A SMART goal is one that is targeted and clear. It should be focussed on a distinctive area of work or a certain project, as opposed to being a general aim. Not only does this make it very clear whether or not you’ve achieved your goal but it also means that you’re able to be incredibly specific in what needs to be done in order to reach your target.

M – Measurable

The M in your SMART goal requires it to be measurable in some way. Whilst some schools of thought suggest that this criteria is optional, as some goals are difficult to quantify, it is important to try to find a way of adding a form of measurement to your goal setting.

Simply setting a goal to ‘sell more products’ would be way off the mark. How will you know if you’ve achieved that? Instead, consider how you can add a numeric element to your goals wherever possible. Aiming to ‘increase sales by 20%’ is far more effective.

A – Attainable

Any SMART goal needs to be attainable. It needs to be realistic. Whilst dreaming big and aiming high is a fantastic attitude to have, you also need to consider how you or your team would feel if your goals were so big that you were unable to achieve any of them.

Goal setting can be a huge boost to morale but it can also have seriously detrimental effects if those goals aren’t reached. Consider how you can break your bigger goals into bite-sized chunks so that you can feel your progress, check in at each stage and celebrate along the way.

R – Relevant

Your goals need to be relevant to you, your work and your industry. A SMART goal is a goal that’s moving you in the right direction and taking you closer to those big dreams.

Nice as it may be to look to others for inspiration, you can’t simply take someone else’s goal and treat it as your own. Your goals are just as unique as you are! By all means use others to get those ideas flowing but then customise and tailor your goals so that they’re made just for you.

T – Time-bound

Every goal needs an end point. Why? Having a deadline helps to keep us motivated and focussed as we work our way towards achieving those dreams.

Making your SMART goals time-bound is an essential step. It makes it easier for you to measure your progress and helps you to maintain those all important productivity levels as you know the end is in sight. Just take care to, once again, make those goals attainable. It’s best not to try and build a million-dollar empire in just a couple of months!

Photo Credit: Jessica Ruscello on Unsplash

What’s SMART and What Isn’t?

Let’s say that you’ve set yourself the goal of starting a new business. Whilst this is a wonderful aim to have, it also brings up so many questions. What type of business will it be? What will you sell? How will you make money? When will you start it?

This goal is so broad that it’s hard to assess what success looks like for you. Being non-specific in this manner can lead to many a challenge further down the road. You may well start a business but find out that it’s not making you happy, because it’s the wrong type of business for you. That’s where SMART goals come into play.

“I will book three clients for my new health coaching business by June 2020.”

Do you see how different this goal is? It’s so much clearer and feels a lot more personal. Here’s how it’s SMART:

  • Specific – you’re booking clients for a niche business
  • Measurable – you’ve set an aim of three clients which is very clear to measure
  • Attainable – you’ve set a realistic timeframe and realistic aim
  • Relevant – if you’re creating a new business, booking clients is a perfect way to start
  • Time-bound – there’s a clear cut-off point of June 2020

Be sure to keep track of your goals and set yourself reminders to regularly check in with your progress. Tools such as journals or digital applications like Trello can be especially helpful in keeping you focussed towards your goals. Just remember, good things take time to build so be persistent. I’m rooting for you!

Are you struggling to set yourself goals that feel right for you?

Book a What Are SMART Goals and Why Do They Matter? to find out how business coaching can help you find focus

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About the author

Lisa is a mother, a business owner, a founder, and an executive leader. She's been through it all and has come out the other side to thrive. Now she's helping you to do the same! Learn how you can find clarity and support through her services for individuals and organisations.