The guaranteed method to stress-free SMART goals
Here’s a golden question: what makes people successful? What’s the magic quality, or secret ingredient, that allows certain people to achieve more than others?
Well, according to researchers and thinkers such as Anders Ericsson, Malcolm Gladwell (Outliers), Charles Duhigg (Smarter Faster Better) and Angela Duckworth, the ‘usual suspects’—natural talent, social advantages, professional ‘connections’—while important, do not play as much of a determining factor as cultivating what Ericsson terms deliberate practice.
Your work needs to be controlled and directed, driven by a greater purpose (it needs to be for something), and you need to be able to constantly evaluate your work to see if it is achieving its targets, or whether it needs to be adapted. In short, you need a framework for setting goals, tracking their progress, registering their successes and—most importantly—identifying their failures (or, at least, areas that can be improved).
Let’s look at how the decision to create SMART goals can increase personal and business productivity, by including a methodology of deliberate practice into the everyday workflow of employees and leaders within the company.
What are SMART goals?
SMART goals are a productivity measure introduced at General Electric in 1981, and generally accredited to George T. Doran. He developed a system of goal-setting that gave individual employees, as well as company strategists, a set of criteria to follow to ensure their efforts were achieved desirable outcomes.
What are the criteria?
The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Bound.
We’ll look at each of these in turn, but—before you proceed — download your free copy of our handy checklist so you can follow along with the discussion. Try substituting our example with something that ties in with your business, or your individual role within the company.
So, before working our way through the list, let’s meet our exemplar. Her name is Maggie, and she runs a music PR company. Three of her biggest clients have new single releases coming out at the end of the month, and she has 2 weeks to find as many platforms as she can to post, publish and share her clients’ new music – or risk losing their business going forward.
It’s enough of a ‘situation’ to send most people into a flat spin, but Maggie doesn’t have time to panic. In fact, if anything, she needs to use her time even more wisely to become more focused and productive than usual. How could creating SMART goals help Maggie through the next two weeks?
Specific: what, exactly, am I doing here?
The first step involves collecting all the information you currently have, analysing it thoroughly, and using it to generate a clear list of actionable tasks. This is the most decisive step, and you need to narrow your focus until your goal can be expressed as a clear target.
It does no good for Maggie to declare that her goal is simply to get her artists out there. This is a vague, general statement that doesn’t give her anything concrete to work on. Which artists is she referring to? ‘Out where’ is she going to get them? Who is going to help her achieve this?
When will it happen? Instead, if Maggie were to say, “My goal is to find 10 online platforms for each artist in the next 2 weeks, by reaching out to these specific partners” – now that’s a goal we can work with.
Measurable: how do I know if it’s working?
Hard work can feel good. But if it isn’t leading to observable results, it’s easy to lose motivation. By setting measurable goals—in Maggie’s case, two weeks to find 10 leads for her artists—she has an external way to monitor her accomplishments and measure progress. This is essential for staying motivated and moving forward.
Breaking the larger goal into smaller, more digestible chunks is a great way to make sure you’re keeping pace with the task at hand. Ten leads in 2 weeks is 5 leads per week, or one new lead for every artist every day of the week.
Achievable: do I have what it takes?
This relates to your ability to achieve your goal: and an honest, frank assessment is required here. What do you need to make this goal a reality? Do you need more skills, experience or expertise before progressing? Will pursuing this goal necessitate a change of attitude, habit or perhaps even lifestyle? How important is the goal to you, ultimately?
These are hard questions, but they need to be answered. You need to build a stern ship before sailing out on your intended course of action, and addressing these questions at the start of the journey is vital.
To return to Maggie, she needs to identify the specific networks most suitable for her artists based on their music style and capabilities. This entails extensive research, as she evaluates her artists to match them to an appropriate network and platform (radio station, blog or webzine).
Relevant: is it really going to help me?
This step cuts to the core values of the goal you have set for yourself. Effectively, it invites you to imagine that all the hard work and sacrifice pays off, and you actually succeed in achieving your goal. Take stock: Has it really improved your life, or the life of your business?
When goals aren’t clearly formulated, people can often ‘trick themselves’ into doing large amounts of work that doesn’t actually help them. Maggie, for example, could be frantically trying to capture the details of as many blogs and other potential online partners as possible, in preparation for sending them her artists’ new music. But, if these partners are not relevant to her artists—if they don’t publish that particular genre, for example—then all the work she does is in vain.
Time-bound: am I meeting my targets?
You may not believe it, but Maggie is actually lucky that her goal has such a clearly identifiable deadline: she has two weeks before the music is being released; whatever work she can do, must be done before then.
Deadlines relate to measurability, and are essential for keeping track of goals and ensuring they stay on target. The more complex the goal, the more you might need to sub-divide your time allotments. Don’t think about what to accomplish in a whole week; try one day, or even one hour, at a time.
A wall isn’t built all at once: one brick gets laid at a time. By meeting small, manageable deadlines, the larger time project time frames should take care of themselves.
So… SMART goals are basically a life-hack?
In a sense, yes. They can certainly increase productivity, trimming away inefficient work and kickstarting big projects. That said, SMART goals are only as useful as you make them. Many of the criteria require an expert’s eye to define them in the most appropriate, beneficial way for your business. SMART goals are an excellent way to measure the performance of Inbound Marketing campaigns and are, therefore, a key part of what we do at StormID.
Contact us if you’d like some help with outlining the way forward for your company in the online world.