When setting personal goals, specificity is king. For example, just challenging yourself to “do more work” is way too vague, as you’ve got no way of tracking your progress, and no endpoint. Simply put, if your goals aren’t quantifiable, achieving success can be challenging.
SMART goals are the answer, as you can break them down into five quantifiable factors. We’ll explore this in more detail shortly, but before that, we’ll talk a bit more about the importance of setting goals. Then we’ll discuss how the structure itself works and go over some examples of SMART goals.
Let’s get to it!
- 1 The Importance of Setting Goals
- 2 Introducing SMART Goals and the Structure You’ll Need
- 3 5 Example SMART Goals You Can Put Into Action
- 4 Conclusion
The Importance of Setting Goals
Setting goals for yourself is important, no matter where you are in life. Without clear goals to drive you forward, you won’t know if you’re making progress in the activities you consider most important.
The goals you set for yourself don’t have to be overly complicated either. After all, there’s a lot of middle ground between ‘taking over the world’ and ‘losing five pounds’. However, in our experience, those who set clear goals for themselves tend to enjoy greater success more consistently.
By “clear goals”, we mean examples such as “losing five pounds”. This kind of goal is achievable and quantifiable. In other words, you can track your success and make changes to your approach if your progress stalls.
While progress in your personal or work life is possible without setting goals, we’d wager there’s a better chance of success in making the effort. Given this, let’s introduce a goal-setting system we’re big fans of, and explain why it works.
Introducing SMART Goals and the Structure You’ll Need
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, “SMART” used in this context is an acronym, with a focus on creating specific (and realistic) targets to hit. To that end, every SMART goal consists of five elements:
- Specific. The goal should have a clear, highly-specific endpoint. If your goal is too vague, it won’t be SMART.
- Measurable. You need to be able to accurately track your progress, so you can judge when a goal will be met.
- Attainable. Of course, setting a goal that’s too ambitious will see you struggle to achieve it. This will sap at your motivation, both now and in the future.
- Relevant. The goal you pick should be pertinent to your chosen field, or should benefit you directly.
- Time-Bound. Finally, setting a timeframe for your goal helps quantify it further, and helps keep your focus on track.
For example, imagine you want to start running as a hobby. You could just run ‘free-form’ (i.e. wherever you please, for however long you want). However, this may not be conducive to progress.
To make this ‘SMARTer’, you could set a goal of running five miles in less than 45 minutes. This covers the “S” and “M” criteria. It’s also attainable, although it would require some effort depending on how out of shape you are.
Moving on, the goal is also relevant because you’re actively trying to get into shape. To make this totally SMART, you’d finally need to give yourself a timeframe to achieve your target. In this case, a month or two should be sufficient, as long as you plan your schedule correctly.
This approach to goal setting might sound overly complex. However, being able to track your progress in relation to each goal accurately is a great way to remain motivated. As long as you can see yourself inching forward towards the finish line, keeping the momentum going becomes easier.
5 Example SMART Goals You Can Put Into Action
Let’s take a look at some specific examples of SMART goals, with a focus on those you may set at work, or for clients. The first may not be one that crops up every day, but it’s definitely a good example of how the SMART formula works with bigger projects.
1. Writing an E-Book
Writing a book is a pretty tall task. However, we’ve talked about the benefits of creating an e-book previously, so it’s a goal worth pursuing. To give you an idea of how popular this goal is, each year, thousands of people attempt to write a 50,000-word tome every November, in an event called National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).
This is a great opportunity to showcase how a SMART goals example can work. Let’s break down how:
- Specific: You’re aiming to complete a book with a minimum word count, in any genre you want.
- Measurable: The baseline to cross the finish line at NaNoWriMo is 50,000 words, which gives you a target to meet.
- Attainable: If you can write 2,000 words a day, 50,000 words will be yours well before day 30.
- Relevant: Since NaNoWriMo isn’t limited to a particular genre, you can write an e-book based on your chosen field and monetize it later on.
- Time-Bound: In this case, the time constraint is built into the event. You have one month to write 50,000 words, and not a day more.
One of the most fun things about NaNoWriMo is it’s not only a competition with yourself, but you have a massive built-in support network (which is also essential for success). In this case, they’re also writers, all encouraging each other to succeed.
Naturally, you don’t need to participate in an event like this if you want to write an e-book. However, it does make for a tremendous SMART example, and you can apply the same principles if you’re going to write a book on your own schedule.
2. Reaching a Blog Earnings Milestone
Even when using a platform such as WordPress, getting a blog to the point where it earns you money requires a lot of work. However, it’s also something you can turn into a SMART goal. Here’s how:
- Specific: First off, you’ll want to set a number to aim for. This will be specific to you, although $100 for a new blog is a good start.
- Measurable: Of course, it’s easy enough to measure your success here, since money is all numbers and there are various associated metrics you can track.
- Attainable: As we said, it’s a reasonable target for a somewhat new blog to bring in at least $100 per month.
- Relevant: This type of goal would definitely be relevant for many, including affiliate marketers, or someone looking to sell a product (such as the previous e-book example).
- Time-Bound: Again, this will be based on your own setup, although we’d recommend a reasonable six-month window to complete the task.
This may seem like a lot of work. However, keep in mind this is likely going to be a never-ending goal, as once you’ve achieved this one, you’ll scale it to your next milestone. Also, the Return On Investment (ROI) can be significant if you continue to put the work in, and you’re au fait with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and content marketing strategies.
3. Increasing Your Email Subscribers
Here’s another example of a goal perfect for the SMART system. Email subscribers can be a huge asset to almost any type of website. The more subscribers you have, the greater number of conversions you can win. Here’s how you could break down this goal:
- Specific: Your goal is to grow your email subscribers list to a specific number, such as 500 members.
- Measurable: This goal is easy enough to measure. Simply keep an eye on your email marketing platform, and pop the champagne once your list hits 500 members.
- Attainable: This metric is always going to be unique to you, although 500 subscribers is a solid target for a small blog with decent traffic.
- Relevant: Growing your email list is always a relevant goal if you’re running a website, blog, or marketing any type of product online.
- Time-Bound: The timeframe for this goal will depend on how much traction your website already has. If you’re starting off, six months would be a reasonable window to get to this point, provided you work on your SEO.
This particular SMART goal links with the others we’ve covered so far, as it will directly impact your monetization efforts. In any case, once you have at least 500 subscribers, you can again scale up. You’ll already have decent traction, so growing your list even further shouldn’t be difficult.
4. Improving Your Organic Traffic Figures
As you may be aware, having SEO expertise means the sky’s the limit with regard to traffic figures. As such, when you’re working on a new website, it makes sense to set a SMART goal related specifically to this metric. Here’s an example:
- Specific: You can pick a figure that works for you here, although 1,000 visitors per month is a nice round number.
- Measurable: Keeping track of traffic is quite simple if you have access to an analytics tool.
- Attainable: 1,000 visitors per month is nothing to scoff at, and it’s also achievable if you have a decent grasp on SEO basics.
- Relevant: Traffic is one of the key indicators for any website’s success. Once you have a decent baseline, you can move onto tracking conversions.
- Time-Bound: As you might know, it can take a while for new websites to gain traction. In our experience, you should give yourself at least six months of leeway before you expect any significant traffic.
More traffic equals greater opportunities for monetization, which is probably your ultimate goal. You also get more data to run split tests with, and perhaps even more email subscribers. Overall, if you can get a website to 1,000 visitors per month in less than a year, you’re on track for decent success.
5. Publish a Greater Volume of Blog Posts
In our opinion, the best way to get more organic traffic hitting your blog is to publish content consistently. The more your archive grows, the greater the chance of increasing your visitor numbers. Let’s break this goal down using the SMART model:
- Specific: For a small to medium-sized blog, moving from one to two articles per week is a pretty good starting point.
- Measurable: For this goal, we suggest you track your performance on a monthly basis, and check whether you’re missing any deadlines.
- Attainable: Depending on your workload, two posts per week is perfectly doable. If it isn’t, you either need to reassess your goal, or outsource some of the work.
- Relevant: Your ultimate goal is the growth of your blog, and publishing more content is the equivalent of building the pathway to it.
- Time-Bound: For this goal, we recommend setting a minimum of one month for completion. Then, you can re-evaluate until you find a happy spot for you.
Of course, there’s a limit to how much content you can write as a one-person show. However, as your blog grows, you’ll probably want to increase the volume to keep your audience coming back. With this goal, you’ll be able to determine exactly what your limit is. Plus, you’ll also know when it’s time to expand your team.
Specific and measured goals are the key to success, no matter what you’re looking to achieve. Regardless of whether your ultimate aims are financial, personal, or even based solely on metrics, using a structure such as the SMART formula can help you succeed in what you set out to do.
By making sure the goals you set are aligned with the five SMART criteria (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound), you have an anchor on which to base all of your focus and decision-making. Once you’ve achieved a SMART goal, you can scale up and start again, safe in the knowledge there’s a solid backbone to your strategy.
Do you have any questions about how to set SMART goals? Let’s talk about them in the comments section below!
Article thumbnail image by Meilun / shutterstock.com
Thanks, John. I’m printing your post and will use it as a worksheet for my own SMART efforts!