However, unfortunately, it’s rarely enough to just decide what you want to do in order to achieve it, especially when you have a more ambitious endeavor in mind. To that end, you need to approach your objectives strategically, take into consideration the resources at your disposal, and outline a roadmap to success.
The best way to do this is by setting SMART goals.
But what does this mean, and why are SMART goals important?
In this article, we answer these questions, highlight the relevance of each of the elements comprising the SMART goal framework, and provide actionable tips to boost your chances of success.
Read on and take notes!
Why Are SMART Goals Important?
SMART goals are a framework designed to help people and businesses plan and implement better, while achieving their objectives and boosting productivity.
The name “SMART” goals is an abbreviation for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound.
Combined, these elements set the foundation of a successful endeavor and ensure that you can pursue your goals, stay motivated, and reach the desired results with flying colors.
To illustrate why SMART goals are important, let’s have a look at them in more detail:
The “S” in SMART goals stands for “specific”.
For example, let’s say you want to grow your business. Although this is a great idea, it is not a specific goal.
Why? Among other reasons, there are different ways to achieve this goal – you can do it by increasing your revenue, expanding your client base, focusing on high-end customers that bring in more value, and so on, and so forth.
You can try to do all these things at once but if you don’t plan a specific strategy for each approach, your efforts will be diluted. Hence, the result may not be satisfactory and you may even fail to achieve your objectives.
Simply put, without being more specific, you are not able to build a clear and robust roadmap that leads you to your goal.
Depending on the targets you are pursuing, there are some questions that you can ask yourself in order to make sure your path is clear:
- What do you want to accomplish?
- Are there different ways to reach the final result?
- Why do you want to achieve this objective?
- What does your success depend on?
- Who can help you?
- Is there anyone or anything that’s blocking your way?
- Is the result time-sensitive?
The “M” in SMART goals stands for “measurable”.
In order to move forwards and, eventually achieve your goals, you need to be able to track the key performance indicators (KPIs) that define your success.
These allow you to have hands-on control over your progress, remain focused, and monitor advancement. Also, you can identify if anything is off and make adjustments.
But that’s not all.
If your goal is not measurable, you risk losing your motivation along the way. Seeing your progress in black and white is the best way to keep you going forward.
To continue with the example of the business that wants to grow, if you don’t set measurable targets, you won’t be sure how successful your approach was.
Let’s say that you decided to rely on attracting more high-end customers. How many will be enough for quality to compensate for quantity? How about the lifecycle should they have? What average revenue per user (ARPU)? What lifetime value?
If you don’t know these things in advance, you risk going after the wrong clients, and/or achieving questionable results.
And this applies to all types of goals – if you can’t measure your success, you can’t be certain that you’ve, in fact, been successful.
Some questions that apply here are:
- How is my success measured?
- How to track progress?
- What quantity/numbers do I want to achieve?
- How much is enough?
The “A” in SMART goals stands for “attainable”.
This means that your objectives should be something that is within your power to achieve. In other words, you need to have the necessary resources, manpower, and time to reach your goal. Otherwise, you are simply wasting your time.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that your goals need to be easy – they just need to be possible.
Sticking to the previous example, if you can’t hire new employees, change your strategy, or optimize the performance of your team, it’s doubtful that you can really grow your business. This type of goal usually needs some kind of investment as well, and if you can’t afford it, and there is no creative way to bypass the obstacles, you may be in a stalemate.
Here are some relevant questions that can help you determine the attainability of your goals:
- Do I need any specific resources (time, money, manpower, tools, etc.) to achieve this goal?
- Do I have access to these resources?
- Can I obtain access to them and at what cost?
The “R” in SMART goals stands for “realistic”.
This one, of course, is pretty straightforward – if you pursue unrealistic goals, there’s simply no way to achieve them. As a result, you may lose your motivation and end up disappointed.
Furthermore, you will be wasting time and resources.
Even if your endeavor brings you closer to your overall goals, it’s a safe bet that with better optimization of your assets and time, you can actually achieve more valuable results.
Also, keep in mind that, as mentioned, meeting your goals is, more often than not, the most powerful motivation. It encourages you to set even more ambitious and achievable goals in the future. Small steps lead to bigger results.
In the aforementioned example, if you decide you want to attract 1K new customers in a month, but you are a small local business, it is highly unlikely that you’ll be able to do it.
Firstly, you probably have a limited audience. Secondly, your resources are also possibly limited – even if you attract many new clients, you will probably be unable to service them and provide a good experience, and, as a result, you will lose them.
Some questions that can help you determine whether your goals are SMART and realistic are:
- Is it possible to do this?
- Can I do this?
- Can I do it with the resources and time at my disposal?
- Do I need help and can I obtain my goals?
The final letter in the SMART goals abbreviation, “T”, stands for “time-bound”.
Even if you are not one to procrastinate, without a clear (and realistic) deadline, you run the risk of falling behind on your efforts and taking too long to implement the tasks involved in achieving your goal.
Furthermore, without a sense of urgency, you may lose your motivation to move forward and reach your objectives.
Last but not least, when you have a timeline to follow, it’s easier to track your progress and monitor success. Based on this, you can readjust your tactics and/or your goals.
The questions that you need to ask yourself when determining your schedule and deadlines are:
- When do I need this done?
- Is this timeframe realistic?
- Can I accelerate my success, and how?
How to Set SMART Goals
When setting SMART goals, you should consider the following steps:
1. Decide What You Want to Achieve
More often than not, when we think about the things we want to accomplish, first, we come up with a vague idea. While this idea is rarely a SMART goal and needs some polishing, coming up with it is an important first step.
If you want to set goals for your business, these types of targets are usually based on annual or quarterly reports that show you where there’s a need for improvement, and/or gaps in your strategy.
However, these can also be the results of brainstorming sessions for ideas and goals worth pursuing.
2. Break Down Your General Goal into Specific Objectives
Once you have an idea of what you want to accomplish, you need to list the different ways to achieve those objectives.
Depending on your specific case, these may contribute to your final success and be implemented synchronically, or you may have to choose only one of them to focus your efforts on.
However, even if you decide to pursue lesser taken paths toward your final goal, you need to approach each objective as an individual goal and assign it the proper resources.
3. Create a Roadmap to Success
When you pick a goal, you need to create your roadmap to success.
This includes double-checking your ideas against the SMART goals framework and ensuring that you can answer all the questions that we’ve listed above.
If your goal is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound, you can set up the relevant KPIs and deadlines, assign the necessary resources, and start working on it.
4. Revisit Your SMART Goals Along the Way
Even when you are diligent in your planning, when leveraging the SMART framework, it’s advisable to occasionally revisit your targets and readjust your strategy if necessary.
This way, you can ensure that you are flexible, in line with the ongoing development of events and outside factors, and won’t lose track of your final goal.
Pursuing the right goals is an integral part of development and growth in all aspects of life and business.
However, there’s no sense in going after unrealistic objectives that have a doubtful probability of success. These can only end up in unreliable productivity, unsatisfactory results, and disappointment. As a result, instead of helping you move forward and thrive, they only hold you back.
That’s what makes setting SMART goals so important – they allow you to address your targets strategically and, thus, increase your chances of success.