Miles Burke

Thoughts on startups, small business, marketing & more.

Setting SMART Goals

Sydney Monorail

In December 2007, I penned an article for SitePoint, 10 New Year Resolutions to Boost Your Business. You can read the article for all the details, as well as download a handy wall planner to stick near your desk. You’ll find that it’s still as relevant today as it was when I wrote it.

The ten resolutions, in short, are:

  1. start setting goals
  2. ask a client for a referral
  3. focus on profit, rather than turnover
  4. learn something new about business
  5. take time for yourself
  6. create products that generate income
  7. delegate effectively
  8. focus on client service
  9. take time to wander the Web
  10. build rock-solid procedures

Read the article for the full details on each of these resolutions. The start of the calendar year is perfect for us to look at implementing the first one: goal setting.

Setting goals helps filter all of the thousands of thoughts and ideas you have into a list that’s far more manageable. High achievers in every field from sports to business consistently suggest that goal-setting is an invaluable part of the process. Goals can help you define your objectives and understand what’s important to you, motivate you towards achievement, and build your self-confidence.

So what is a great goal?

Many people use the acronym SMART when creating goals, as well as for other project management methods. SMART stands for:

Specific
Ask yourself if the description of the goal is precise? A plausible goal is very specific and easy to understand. Goals such as “increase amount of clients” or “make more profit” are too vague. Instead, use specific language, such as “add three new clients to portfolio before end of March” or “increase average profit on all jobs by 5% before middle of the year.”

Measurable
Does the goal explain how you’ll measure results? A solid goal has a measurable outcome, so that you’re able to determine if you’ve achieved it, and it helps you stay on track. Hence why I used very specific terms, like 5% profit increase or three new clients. This helps spur you on towards your goal, assuming the goal is attainable.

Attainable
Is the goal possible to achieve, with some effort? If you set far-reaching goals, you may be unable to commit to realizing them; for example, “increase turnover by 1000% within three months” is probably way beyond your current means. However, the goal should require some effort; for instance, “wake up each day before lunchtime” is easily achievable for most people, and so is unworthy goal-wise.

A proper goal should stretch you slightly so that you need to be committed, yet should also feel attainable. “Increase client base by at least two per month for next six months” is a goal you’d possibly need to work hard to reach, but is still feasible.

Realistic
Ask yourself: do you have the power to control the results? You need to feel that you can reach your goals, and that you have an influence on them. Having a goal like “co-workers to be nicer to clients” is, fundamentally, out of your control, even if you are the boss. A better goal would be “run monthly workshops for employees that focus on client service.”

Timely
A concrete goal has a deadline. It may be as limited as the end of next week, or as long as the end of 2009. Deadlines help you manage your time towards achieving goals. Without a deadline, the goal will appear to be unimportant and never happen. Set a realistic deadline, with a suitable time frame.

It’s a good idea to limit yourself to just a handful of short-term and medium-term goals. Writing an exhaustive list of everything you would like to complete before you leave this earth is a sure way to de-motivate yourself.

Set some goals today, and look forward to a more productive year ahead!

This post first appeared as part of Issue 428 of the SitePoint Tribune, a very popular email newsletter that I am co-editor of. Thanks to SitePoint for allowing me to reproduce the work here.

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2 Comments

  1. Hi Miles,

    setting goals is a good idea, but that surely is
    not enough. I think it is also important to review
    your goals on a regular basis, to think about and
    to reconsider them: “Is this still my goal?” I do
    this at least once a week.

    It is also a must to somehow track my progress,
    if possible every evening.

    In addition I find it helpful to visualize the
    expected positive changes in my life when I have
    reached my goal.

    I have checked several goal setting tools but was
    not happy with those. Because I did not find a
    appropriate solution for me I started to develop
    my own.

    A beta is available at http://www.achievr.biz

    No registration required, simply sign in with your
    account at Facebook or Google.

  2. Hi! :)
    Nice post. I’m all for self betterment and supporting others to meet their goals.

    For something different try:

    http://smartgoals.me/

    It’s free goal setting software within facebook where you can set SMART goals and get your friends to help track your progress.

    Good Luck!

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