This time of year always makes me reflective on the events and activities that occurred throughout the year. I will even look back to see how my New Year’s resolutions panned out. Actually, maybe the better expression is how they flamed out. Like most people, I pick one or two things to focus on and work hard to make them happen; until I see the shiny light somewhere else and instantly forget about my good intentions. The year of 2014 was very different for me. I picked three significant goals and vowed that 2014 would be the year I stuck to my plan. As I look back on the year, I can honestly say that I accomplished two of my three goals. The third goal was really unattainable and I now know it won’t happen. I can also honestly say that out of the two accomplished goals, one was by pure luck. That left me with one goal that I methodically worked on and accomplished successfully. While 1 out of 3 is a great batting average, it is nowhere near the level of success I would look for in personal goal setting. As I think about how my personal life sometimes can be used as a lesson for the business world, I realize that my resolutions did not follow the practice of creating SMART goals. SMART is the acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Here is a quick overview of what each means.
Specific: Your goal needs to be specific enough for you to know what you are trying to achieve. An example of a non-specific goal is “I want to read more.” While that is a worthwhile cause, it is hard to pinpoint what you are actually trying to accomplish. If you read one magazine does that accomplish your goal? A better way to say that would be “I want to read one book a month.” That is more specific.
Measurable: Let’s go back to the prior non-specific example of “I want to read more.” How do you quantify more? Like we mentioned before, does one book get you to your goal? If we defined the goal as “I want to read one book a month”, we would know at the end of each month whether we are on track or not. Did you read a book or not? Pretty straightforward.
Attainable: What if your goal was “I want to achieve world peace”? That is also a very worthwhile goal, but the problem is it is probably not attainable on a personal level. If you want to make a positive impact that might help encourage world peace, maybe an alternative goal could be “I want to donate one hour each month to feeding the hungry”. If your goal is not attainable, you will quickly become frustrated and focus your efforts elsewhere.
Relevant: A goal should be important for you and your situation. For example, if you are an accountant and your goal is “To learn how to design an eCommerce website” you might say that is not the most relevant goal for their situation. However, if the accountant’s hobby was website building, this could be a great goal – as long as it meets the other SMART criteria. A goal that would be easier to quantify as relevant for an accountant is “To learn all new 2015 tax code changes to help my 2016 tax preparation business”.
Time-bound: Your goal should have a target date to help you stay focused on achieving your results. The timeframe should be realistic based on the goal you set. If you take our accountant’s goal of learning the new 2015 tax code changes, a target deadline of 12 months is not realistic. First, the new tax code will not be published until later in the year – giving the accountant plenty of time to completely forget the goal. Second, once the accountant starts working on the goal, he realistically only has a couple of months or less to get up-to-speed to help his clients. Creating a realistic timeframe for your goal is critical to keeping you honest and on track with your objectives.
Not hitting all of my 2014 goals was not overly disappointing to me, I picked three tough goals and did not use any methodology when I set them. The other important thing that I remind myself is that it is ok to not always hit every goal – I’m human. However, my chances of achieving future goals will be greatly improved if I follow the simple SMART method and then hold myself accountable. Here’s a tip that I encourage you to think about using – share your goals with someone else. Sure, some are personal and you may want to keep them private, but if there are goals you can share with someone else, it will dramatically increase the chances of achieving that goal. Why? Accountability. You will now be holding yourself accountable for your goals to the other person. Want to improve your chances even more? Periodically check in with that person and give them an update and discuss how things are going. One of the best benefits of being a Business Coach is helping people attain their goals. If you have goals that you’d like to improve their chances of being completed – give me a call. I’m here to help you.