How to Set SMART Business Goals

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When you’re setting goals for your self-employment job or business, it’s important to set realistic goals. You might want to make a million dollars in your first month, but that’s not realistic.  It would be much more realistic to “reach profitability within six months” or something similar.  This goal does not set some arbitrary dollar amount but does say that you’ll be making money.  It’s also time-constrained to motivate you to work hard on it for those first six months.

There’s an acronym to help you set smart goals.  Conveniently, the acronym is SMART.  Here’s what it means:

  • Specific – Specific goals are more likely to be accomplished.  If your goal is to “get a lot of customers,” how can you know when you’re done?  Maybe you’ll get 10 new customers in the next month, but is 10 “a lot?”  It’s better to set specific goals like “Acquire 12 new contracts in the next 6 months.”  Now you know exactly what to work toward.
  • Measurable – Your goal must be measurable or you can’t ever finish it.  Again, you must think about how you will know when you’re done.  Also, it’s helpful to measure your progress along the way because it will motivate you to keep going.  Using the example above, if I get two or more contracts in the first month, I’ll be excited and keep going.  If I don’t get any in the first month, I’ll work harder next month to stay on track.
  • Attainable – Your goal must be actually attainable.  I know this sounds obvious, but I make this mistake frequently by setting too many goals for myself.  I once set a goal to write 20 articles for a web site in one weekend.  I totally neglected the fact that each article usually takes me an hour to write, and that with all the other things I planned for the weekend I wouldn’t even have 20 hours to devote to writing.  On top of that, I can’t spend that much time on a keyboard in such a short span of time without feeling the carpal tunnels closing in.  So I didn’t accomplish this goal and felt disappointed.  I could have avoided the disappointment and frustration by making an attainable goal.
  • Realistic – This is similar to a goal being attainable.  If you don’t make realistic goals, you won’t achieve them and you’ll suffer the frustration of failure.  Think carefully about what you are willing and able to do and how much time you have to devote to the goal.  Don’t set goals that in reality cannot be accomplished or you doom yourself to failure before you even start.
  • Time-constrained – If you don’t have a timeline for your goal, you will probably never do it.  How many “someday” goals do you have?  How long have you had them?  I have had several long-term goals for years that I have never taken action on.  You must set a deadline for yourself so you will begin to take action.

I hope you are starting to see the power of SMART goals and thinking of examples for your own business or in other areas of your life.  SMART goals can be applied to every aspect of life, not just your self-employment goals.  Think carefully when you set your goals and you’ll find they are much easier to meet!

“A goal properly set is halfway reached.”  — Abraham Lincoln


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