The best way to accomplish anything significant is to set goals. I know all those jokes about New Year’s resolutions and how they last about as long as a snowball in Tucson in August, but then again, goals are critical to getting anything done in life.
I like to set goals, not only annually, but also weekly, daily, and even hourly. I find the practice useful, although outright daunting at times. Goals help me with my own workload as well as my own company strategy. They provide direction to my daily life. But I must warn you, they can also serve up a huge guilt trip when I realize some aren’t getting done as quickly as I want.
In his new book “Your Best Year Ever,” Michael Hyatt includes a chapter on goal setting that I found extremely valuable. He describes a method for setting goals, which he aptly names the “SMARTER System.” I was quite impressed with this system and I want to share it with you. The acronyms are his; the summaries are mine.
Michael Hyatt’s system for successful goal-setting:
S is for Specific: Be very specific in laying out your goals. Write down exactly what your goals are, and make those goals narrow enough that they can be accomplished. If your goals are too general, they will not be attainable. General goals never get done. Saying you are going to lose weight this year is a meaningless goal unless you have a plan for how you are going to do it. A much more effective goal would be to say you will run four times a week and eat less than 2,000 calories a day.
M is from Measurable: You need to be able to measure your goals. You can’t tell who’s winning a game without a scoreboard, and the same applies to setting goals. You can’t just set a goal and then get it done; you have to break it down into bite-sized, measurable pieces. You must set targets with milestones along the way.
A is for Actionable: Use action words instead of generic terms. For example, saying you are “going to go to the gym more” is not as effective as saying you will go to the gym four times a week. List the exact actions that it will take to achieve your goals.
R is for Risky: Your goals should take you out of your comfort zone. You must put something on the line. You must risk something. I knew a salesperson who wanted to earn more money. His company had him on a plan to earn a very substantial base salary but a very small commission. He approached his manager and offered to take a severe cut in pay for a larger commission rate. Talk about risk and putting your skin in the game! But he did it because he was confident in his ability to earn more money. By the end of his first year with the new program he had earned twice as much money as he ever had before.
T is for Time-Keyed: Set a deadline. Actions are worthless unless you add the time within which you are going to do that action and meet that goal. Saying you are going to “acquire new customers this year” is somewhat meaningless. Set a time frame, such as, “add three new customers a quarter for a total of 12 new customers by the end of the year.” Setting a definite timeline finalizes the goal. It makes your goal real, as well as achievable. It will also make it reasonable as you really think about whether you can do it. For example, if you normally pick up one new customer a quarter, saying you want to increase that to three new customers a quarter is reasonable, as opposed to 10 new customers per quarter, which is probably not.
E is for Exciting: Your goals must be exciting; they have to inspire you to success. One of the most effective attributes of goal setting is to visualize what things will be like once you make that goal. That vision of your end game should be exciting enough to keep you motivated toward your goal. It should be so exciting that you will be constantly inspired to reach it.
R is for Relevant: Be sure that your goals are relevant to your life and your life’s values. They should make sense when it comes to what you are doing right now. They should pertain to the intellectual, spiritual, physical, emotional, marital, vocational, parental, avocational, and financial aspects of your life. In short, your goals should be designed to make your life better.
I’d like to add one more: It may be obvious but write your goals down. Not only write them down initially, but develop a score sheet that you check regularly, maybe even every day. This will help you stay on track to making those goals.
Goals seem to be very easy to make but more difficult to achieve. By following this system diligently, I know you will be able to achieve your goals and have the kind of life you strive for.
It’s only common sense.
Dan Beaulieu is president of D.B. Management Group.