What is SMART?
SMART means Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Let’s take them one by one.
Less woolly, more specific. Goals should be straightforward. They should emphasise and define the outcome. It’s OK saying you want to grow your business. But saying you want to increase revenue by 20% over six months is more like it. Then you’ll have something tangible to aim for and you’ll know for sure when you’ve achieved it.
If you can’t measure it, you can’t achieve it. Measurable goals might include a bunch of smaller goals, designed so you can see when progress occurs. When you create concrete criteria for measuring your success and progress towards it, it’s easier to stay on track, make adjustments if you need to and ultimately reach your goals.
If something is unrealistic or otherwise too far out of reach, it’s easy to get disheartened. You might start with the best of intentions, but you don’t make progress. Goals shouldn’t be too simple. They’re not very satisfying when they’re too easy to achieve. But a sensible balance means you get the thrills of regular progress towards them and keep up the momentum and motivation, spurred on by heady hints of success.
In a business context realistic means do-able. Yes, there’s a learning curve involved, but it isn’t insurmountable. You have the required skills and expertise. The project dovetails with the business’s strategy and overall goals. It might push you… but it won’t break you. Make it unrealistic and you set the stage for failure. Set the bar high enough so achieving the goal is genuinely satisfying, a real achievement.
Don’t leave things open-ended. Set a timeframe for each goal. When there’s an end point to aim for you’re more motivated, efficient and effective. Without a time limit there’s no urgency. And remember that ‘timely’ also means measurable, attainable and realistic.
The admin bit
An undocumented goal is just a daydream. It’s much easier to make your SMART goals come true when you document them clearly and logically. And it’s also important to set aside time to check progress regularly and tinker with the document if needs be, so you stay ahead of the curve. Sharing the document with everyone involved is vital for their buy-in, and to keep everyone in the loop.