If you spend any time around here, you’ll find I bang on about goals quite a bit, and the importance of making them smart. You might have come across the smart acronym before, but if not, I’m here to tell you all about it, how you can make your goals smart and how this can help you grow your creative passion into a profitable business.
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Firstly, what does SMART stand for?
The acronym SMART has been developed to ensure the goals you set are more than just dreams and will have a good chance of being achieved. Each letter can stand for different things depending on which strategy you follow, but the foundation of a smart goal is that it is somehow measurable, realistic and time-bound.
The acronym I generally teach is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Resonant, and Time-Bound. Another good one is Specific, Measurable, Action Plan, Realistic and Time-bound, but you’re really missing out on it being relevant and resonant, which I think is super important in actually being able to smash the goal.
The more specific you can be in your broad goal, the easier it will be to work out the action plan to make it happen. So instead of saying “I want more clients”, tell me what KIND of clients you want. For example: “I’m going to attract more clients booking baby portrait sessions”. Being specific is sometimes hard because you might feel like you’re being too narrow in your goals and you’ll be missing out on or blind to other opportunities, but I’ve learned that the narrower and more specific you are, the better the outcome. It helps you laser-focus on exactly what you should be doing every day to work towards that goal.
The biggest mistake I see people make when setting their goals is completely skipping past the part where you make it measurable. I get it, putting numbers on something can be scary. Or egotistical? I mean, how outrageous that you might dare say you’re aiming to make $50,000 next year. Outrageous! (Note my sarcastica typeface used there…). The problem is, without putting a number on your goal, you’ve no way of measuring your success. If you say you want more clients, and then go get 5 new clients… is that enough to celebrate? Are you done? Or will you never celebrate the success of this goal because you will ALWAYS want more clients (until you don’t, and then you need to raise your prices). So, be specific: exactly HOW MANY new clients are you going to attract? “I’m going to attract 50 new clients booking baby portrait sessions”.
This section is where most people get tripped up and abandon the whole idea of a smart goal. When thinking about your goal, it needs to be achievable and realistic, and people are usually in one of two camps: aiming far too low “Maybe I could try and get 30 people following my Facebook page in the next month”, or too high “I’ll have 2000 new followers on my brand new Facebook page by the end of this week”. Now while being in business is not a race, the first situation is going to set you on the slow road to slow sales in Slowsville. You have to hustle at least a little bit! So aim high, but be realistic. Going too far in the other direction is going to be setting yourself up for failure, which is disheartening when you don’t hit that goal. Even if you did hit something amazing on your way there (like 1000 followers in a week), you won’t feel like you can celebrate because you didn’t get to the original target.
RELEVANT + RESONANT
I personally think making your goals relevant and resonant to your business and to yourself is probably more important than any of the other criteria of a smart goal.
It’s really important to work towards goals that MATTER, and prioritise what you are trying to achieve in your business. For example, if bringing in more baby portrait bookings is actually not what you need to do at all, because in fact you are a sports photographer, the end result is not going to help your business grow in the way you want or need it to. Your goals need to be in line with where you want your business to be overall and not be accidentally focusing on something you got caught up thinking is important but is actually irrelevant.
Ask yourself: Does the outcome of this goal resonate with me, my business, and my values? If it doesn’t, you’ll find it very difficult to commit and see it through. This one has been a HUGE one for me recently… as I’ve said plenty of times, I’m a shiny object chaser, and a go-getter, and pretty much think I can do anything… but that doesn’t mean I SHOULD. Just because something is a brilliant business idea, doesn’t mean that it should be MY business idea. I need to listen to my inner *whatever* more closely and make goals that are close to my heart, align with my own values and work alongside my true passion and what I enjoy doing the very most. And yours should too.
And bloody hell. This is the easiest part! Give it a time frame.
Without a time-frame, how are you possibly going to see whether you kicked the goal or not? If you say something ambiguous like “I’m going to get 50 more clients”… when, in the next 50 years? One a year will get you to your goal, but yeah. Not ideal. Give it a set time-frame (ideally not more than 90 days) so you are motivated to make it happen by that date. This might mean adjusting your measurable numbers to keep the goal achievable.
Why is it important to make your goals smart?
Basically, without getting clear on exactly it is you’re trying to achieve, there’s very little chance you’re going to succeed in smashing the goal (without a lot of luck). There’s too much ambiguity, and as mentioned previously, you’ll never know when to actually celebrate the win, because it won’t be clear if you’ve actually won yet or not. There’s a lot of merit in celebrating even the smallest wins in your business: it creates a positive feedback loop which encourages you to keep aiming higher and achieving more, and in turn, grows your business.
The bad thing about Smart goals…
There’s way too many rules and you just get completely tripped up writing the bloody thing. I get it. Words blah blah words.
The thing is, it’s not meant to be hard, it’s just meant to ensure you’re actually thinking critically about what you want. So if your goal is satisfying most of the SMART criteria, great! You’re good to go!
Why the smartest of goals often fail
It generally comes down to one thing. No action plan. You can write all the smart goals you like, but without an action plan, you goal is going nowhere.
For each goal, you should have a few different strategies on how you’re going to make it happen. These could be product development or creation, marketing, planning & research… it really depends on the goal! For each strategy, you will have multiple action steps to follow. Every action you take in your business should feed into these goals, and this is a brilliant way to prevent getting over-loaded with superfluous tasks and projects (often for other people!) and also makes it easier to say no when it’s necessary, which seems to be a massively hard thing for us to do sometimes.
So it is VERY important to have an action plan for your goals.
Just break it down: What strategies or avenues will you pursue to work towards your goal, and what action steps are included in each strategy?
A smart goal example
Get to 2,000 subscribers on my mailing list in the next 90 days.
Strategies (monthly priority) and action steps:
- Build relationships with audience
• Send regular newsletters with valuable content
— Fortnightly letters with free downloadable content + inspiring words
— Include valuable tip or trick, design or business related
• Grow Makers’ Co free facebook community
— Be present every day and answer as many questions as possible, promote discussions
— Continually ask what training or skills people need help with and then provide in the form of blog posts
— Promote group on website, in newsletters, on facebook page, in blog posts
- Increase daily traffic on Website
• Blog regularly with great free content
— Fortnightly articles, tutorials and interviews
— Feature in Newsletters
• Improve SEO on existing posts
— Go back through old posts and add keywords throughout posts
— Link between relevant posts
— Check all image titles and alt tags
• Utilise Pinterest for existing and new posts
— Add all existing posts to Pinterest main board and category boards
• Promote all posts to audience repeatedly
— Add all posts with compelling images to Edgar queue
How to make the SMART way work for you
Don’t stress about it
As I’ve said before, it’s not meant to be difficult. Don’t get caught up in the wording or making sure every criteria is set down exactly right and checked off… Just get into the critical thinking frame of mind to work out exactly what it is that you want to achieve.
Regularly check-in with your goals
If something seems to be going off track, or a goal just doesn’t feel relevant or resonant to you anymore, no worries! Just re-visit it, see if it needs tweaking or if you need to abandon it completely – that’s completely fine too (as long as you gave it a good go!).
Make an action plan
This is KEY. An action plan is what is going to make it all happen. You can grab my free downloadable monthly goal sheets here, which should help you on your way!
So tell me, have you worked with SMART goals before?
Does it work for you, or do you struggle with the concept?
What do you personally do to ensure you are working towards achieving those big goals everyday?
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