Five Ways to Get SMART When Setting Goals
by Marietta E. Gentles
What is it about goal-setting that can be a task within itself? Sometimes it seems like you have to set a goal to set a goal. But it shouldn’t be so difficult. With the new year moving forward as quickly as it started, your goals can easily get lost as the memories of the countdown for the gigantic crystal ball to drop gets further and further away. Luckily, today is as good as any other day to work towards your goals and build your brand. As the saying goes, “slow and steady wins the race.” Instead of trying to speed ahead to check off all the things you want to do, take a step back and set yourself up for steady progress.
Here’s five tips to help make your goals SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound.
1. Make sure that your goals are actually SMART. Yes, let’s take it back to the basics. It sounds simple, but it’s not always easy to create a SMART goal. Sometimes you have it in your head what you want to accomplish, but when you write it down it’s too general. For example, the goal to “Grow my bakery business and build my brand, so that I can increase sales” sounds great in your head, but does it pass the SMART test? Not really, since the statement is broad and doesn’t have a timeframe or way to measure success. A better approach would be: “Build my online brand and increase sales for my bakery business by 20% within the next three months by creating a social media campaign.” This example not only includes ways to measure success and a timeframe, but also has one of the ways to make it happen. Be sure that when you think (and write) out your goals, they pass the SMART test.
2. Narrow down your goals. If you’re an ambitious intrapreneur or entrepreneur, chances are you have a long list of goals (you secretly wouldn’t have it any other way). While it’s easy to get super motivated and want to conquer the world—as you should— it’s about quality not quantity. Start with the top three goals that are most important. If you want to work on building your network, plan ahead to attend at least four to six events for the year instead of RSVP’ing for every event that pops up in your inbox— or worse, not having a plan at all. If there are new certifications you want to add to your credentials, narrow down which ones are most aligned with your goals and make a plan to take them in order of highest priority. Effective goal-setting means that you have to choose wisely and realistically.
3. Tackle your goals in chunks. There’s a principle that says eat the elephant in chunks at a time. Now it’s not to say eating elephants is the “new green,” but there’s something to this metaphor that has been used everywhere from setting business goals to running a race. Once you’ve narrowed down your top goals, break them down into mini steps (your objectives) until you get to the finish line. For example, if you want to develop your personal brand in order to change careers, some of your objectives may be to take the 360°Reach survey; identify three brand-related books as resources; and research career paths aligned with your brand attributes. This is where the difference between goals and objectives are important to remember. A goal is an accomplishment: using your brand to start a new career. Objectives are the steps you take to get to your goal: assessing your personal brand, doing research, and targeting potential career opportunities. Remember, the steps to get to your goals are just as important as the goal itself.
4. Designate time to work on each goal. Try scheduling time to work on your personal goals just as you would for your professional obligations. Plan ahead the tasks you need to accomplish and make a commitment to keep to a schedule. If you want to work on building your LinkedIn network, schedule time daily or weekly to log on and participate in discussions or post useful articles. If you’re working towards a professional certification, schedule your study times throughout the week, so that you can break it up in pieces (remember that elephant!). You may need to rearrange your schedule because life happens, but if you keep your goals in front of you they won’t get lost in the shuffle.
5. Be an active participant. You’re no stranger to hard work, so it goes without saying that you have to actively stay on top of your goals once you have them in place. If your goal is to get a promotion or grow your business, make sure you’re doing things daily towards meeting your objectives and re-calculating timeframes as needed. Review your goals and objectives on a constant basis. Make sure you’re clear on the steps you need to take and give yourself an action to do towards each of them daily. Whether the steps are small or big, it’s still movement and that’s better than nothing at all. And don’t forget to celebrate the small wins in addition to the big ones. Building your personal brand is hard work, but if you play it SMART, you’ll be successful.
Marietta E. Gentles is a Personal Branding Advocate and Certified Professional Resume Writer for intrapreneurs needing a getaway driver to reach their career destination. With over ten years’ experience climbing through top corporate and government brands as a writer and trainer, her passion is sharing lessons learned along the way.