Goal setting is commonly associated with wrapping up the year and planning for the next, but why wait until January 1 to set a goal and work to accomplish it? Is there any reason to wait to start working on a new objective? Most likely, we are just procrastinating at the start and thus increasing the likelihood of failing. If the goal is worth accomplishing, why not start today?
Perhaps the milestone of a new year helps us feel like change is inevitable and improvement is more likely. However, even with a fresh start, people still fail to achieve their goals. Why? For some, the goal may be too lofty or unrealistic to achieve. For others, it isn’t specific enough or they do not have a clear picture. More likely, it is a combination of lacking strategy and significance; when this is the case, we are not inspired to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve our goals. Frameworks such as SMART may be useful in avoiding these pitfalls.
Setting attainable goals
Before digging in, however, it is worthwhile to consider changing the acronym to “SMARTS” goal setting to include strategy or significance as a second “S.” But I like to think of strategy and significance working hand-in-hand and exponentially increasing our likelihood of success, so let’s call it SMART-S2 goal setting.
Let’s quickly review the parts that make up the SMART acronym.
- S—Specific: Be as specific as possible and know what target you’re aiming at. An example of not being specific enough would be “we want to increase revenue.” To be more specific, state, “Increase revenue by 20%.”
- M—Measurable: Imagining measurable goals is essential for knowing when the goal is achieved and measuring progress along the way. In the above example, refine the goal to “Increase revenue by 20% from last year.” Now we can determine the exact dollar amount to aim for and progress toward that amount.
- A—Attainable: Is the goal something you can realistically achieve? If work in a local market is sparse and labor is unavailable, then a goal of increasing revenue by 20% may be unachievable. However, if there is a lot of new construction taking place, you are expanding into a new market or labor is available, then the goal is likely to be more attainable.
- R—Relevant: Is the goal relevant to the current situation or overall business strategy? If your current work situation is trying to keep your doors open, then growth is probably the last thing on your mind, and the relevancy of growing revenue by 20% is very small. On the other hand, if there are projects to be built and you have the resources necessary for growth, this goal is quite relevant.
- T—Time-bound: When do you want to achieve your goal by? Without a deadline, it is too easy to push off doing the work necessary. The “I will get it done tomorrow” mentality sets in and the goal is never reached or achieved when no longer relevant. In this example, the goal could be stated as, “Increase revenue by 20% from last year by the end of the current year.”
Strategy and significance
The SMART framework is excellent for setting short and long-term goals and can be used for personal or business-related achievements. But what isn’t considered is how we achieve the goals once we’ve made them correctly. The easy answer is, “I’ll make time in my schedule to work on it and evaluate my progress at the end of each quarter, month or week.”
In reality, we need a strategy in place to ensure progress is made. Strategy is a blueprint that is open to adaptation and revision. Much like a blueprint for a project, there is an initial design in mind, but as the project is built, the plan is adjusted based on a variety of factors. In the end, the project is completed with some variations from the initial plans.
We also need to be sure there is enough significance to the goal that we are willing to do what is needed to ensure success. While similar to relevancy, the goal’s significance helps to strengthen the emotional tie to its success and drives us to make the needed sacrifices to achieve it. Without significance, it is easy to give in when the going gets tough.
As Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” The SMART framework helps us set clear, attainable goals. When adding strategy and significance to the equation, the likelihood of achieving goals increases. If it is worth achieving, don’t wait until January to start. Set your goal and get started today.