There’s no denying the value of creating strategic goals, both in the long-term and the short-term. Without actionable goals, and a way to keep track of your progress, you can end up using too much energy on the day-to-day demands of running your business. Goals sharpen your focus on the bigger picture, provide a clear direction and help you stay motivated.
You can think of goal setting as writing the roadmap between where you are today and where you want to be in a year, two years, or even longer. The key to making the most of this practice is to identify the goals that truly matter for your business and then weaving those objectives into the fabric of everything you do.
Identify Your Broader Goals For The Next Year
Sit down for a strategy session that focuses on your long-term vision for the business, and how that can translate into annual goals. Consider any important milestones you want to reach at the end of the year, such as generating a certain amount of revenue. In thinking about the future, it’s actually very helpful to review your past performance. What were you able to accomplish in the last year and what were the big failures? Did you reach your revenue target, launch a new product, or lose an important client? Experience is an excellent teacher. The most salient goals for this next year will often emerge from reflecting on problems that really need to be addressed or opportunities that are on the horizon. You should also be thinking critically about what’s happening in your industry overall, and the important trends that will affect your business.
Be S.M.A.R.T. With Goal Setting
Once you have a sense of these broader priorities over the next year, you’re ready for what’s really the meat-and-potatoes of effective goal setting. Big Picture goals are important, but they should be the starting point for creating an action plan. The SMART approach to setting goals is a popular and useful framework for helping business create actionable targets. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. Let’s take a look at how this set of criteria can make your goals as useful as possible.
Specific: What do you want to accomplish? What are the specific steps you need to take in support of this goal? The more precise and descriptive you can be, the better. “I will increase my customer base this year” is not as good “I will acquire three to five new clients”. Likewise, “Increase traffic to the website by 20 percent” is much better than “Improve internet presence”. After all, the point of setting goals is to clarify your thinking. Having a specific goal allows you to analyze what you need to do in a specific way.
Measurable: How will you know when you’re making progress with this goal? What are the metrics that matter? It’s critical to be able to quantify or analyze your efforts in some way. Measurable goals allow you to re-evaluate your strategy if there’s something that’s not working, as well as celebrate those wins that happen along the way.
Attainable: Can I implement this goal with the resources I have? What is the most realistic way to pursue this goal? There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious or dreaming big. But you don’t want to fall into the trap of a mismatched goal that leads to failure and lost motivation. Overall, set reasonable goals that you feel you can accomplish by working hard and staying focused. In some cases, you might focus on getting closer to a goal that’s currently out of reach by taking some of the preliminary steps.
Relevant: Does this goal directly support the objectives of my business? Simply put, not everything is worth your time and effort. Ask yourself if this particular goal is consistent with your priorities. As an example, don’t invest time in growing your TikTok following if your customers are much more likely to be on a different social media platform.
Timely: How long will it take me to achieve this goal? In what time frame should I try to accomplish it? In the spirit of being specific and measurable, it’s your goals should be associated with a time span. You should set a realistic target, but with a clear endpoint that motivates you forward. If you can tell you probably won’t be able to reach that goal by a certain time ask yourself what happened, and try to improve on the underlying factors.
Break Down Annual Goals Into Quarterly Goals
Instead of having these annual goals looming over you for the rest of the year, turn them into manageable chunks that you can tackle every quarter. Three months is a much smaller time frame, which allows you to track your progress with more precision. They’re still the same annual goals, but organized in a way that feels less overwhelming. You will also have four opportunities throughout the year to celebrate successes, check off accomplishments and re-evaluate the strategies that aren’t working. It’s incredibly motivating to see your efforts pay off by reaching those targets for the quarter.
As a bonus, the condensed time frame for quarterly goals will allow you to get even more specific. In the case of some goals, it may even make sense to break them down to four-week periods. Ultimately, your goal setting can lead to influencing your behavior on a daily basis. Day-to-day tasks should be supportive of weekly goals, monthly goals, quarterly goals, and so on, until you reach a successful year.
Be Flexible & Re-Assess Regularly
No matter how carefully you craft your goals, leave room for change. Obstacles can crop up, and so can opportunities. For example, you may get feedback from customers that causes you to pivot in a different direction. You should regularly be reviewing your metrics to have a sense of what’s working and what needs a course-correction. Being flexible is all about staying true to your broader goals but also being able to adjust when there’s a better option.
Designing actionable goals is one of the best ways to stay motivated and focused. Of course, it’s not something you will do only once. Goal setting is an ongoing process that can help you stay intentional with the most important elements of your business. It’s a way of getting very familiar with your definition of success, as well as being very strategic about how to get there.