Happy New Year! Lynne, here! It’s officially 2019 and Renee & I are back to work on all things Everyday Creative, along with our own work for our wedding planning and photography companies. We each took some time to rest and focus on family and friends over the holidays and we’re feeling so excited to dive into 2019. Whether you embrace the “fresh year-fresh start” mentality or not, the truth is that this time of year is a natural point to slow down, take stock, reflect back on the past year, and plan ahead for the year you hope to have. I love this time of year because the possibilities are wide open for how I’ll shape my next 365 days and I can set aside some time for setting SMART goals that and a strategic plan for my year.
I’m a believer in the maxim of working smarter, not harder. But you can’t work smarter if you don’t take some time to reflect and learn from the work you’ve already done. So in early January each year I set aside a half day in my work schedule to do just that. I dig into my numbers, review my past year, dream big for the upcoming one, and create a strategic plan. That plan will guide me through the entire year. I come from an education and non-profit background where our strategic plan was complex and mapped our vision for up to five years. As a small business owner who works alone, my current strategic plans look a lot simpler and I focus on one year at a time, but the purpose is the same.
My strategic plan provides me with a blueprint that does three important things:
Today I want to share one of the most important parts of strategic planning and goal setting with you. It’s a simple but essential step to ensure you’re working smarter, not harder. And it will guarantee that you end up with a blueprint for your year that truly reflects your vision for your business.
You may not know this, but naming your goals and actually writing them down puts you ahead of the curve. Because most people never set goals or if they do, they don’t write them down. But guess what, it’s been shown that those that do write down their goals and review them regularly are 42% more likely to achieve them! Persuasive, right?!
So when you’re ready to write your goals, you want them to be as clear as possible to act as true guideposts throughout the year. That means reviewing and tweaking each goal to make it SMART. No, I don’t think any of your goals are dumb! SMART is an acronym that we’ll review shortly, but for now suffice it to say that making your goals smart simply means you’re taking them from good to great. You’re going from vague to specific. You’re going from being unsure if you’ve really achieved a goal you set, to knowing exactly when and how you achieved each goal. SMART goals take the guess work out of your business and clearly lay out your path forward. While I didn’t make up this handy acronym, and the letters stand for slightly different things depending on who you ask, below is an explanation of what it means to make goals SMART.
Often you have goals that are not naturally SMART, but they can be made SMART. And making them SMART helps you focus on the goals, set action plans to achieve them, and ultimately reach your goals faster and more consistently. Who doesn’t want that?! Needless to say, it’s worth investing some time to make sure your business goals and personal goals are all SMART.
So, what exactly are the five elements of a SMART Goal? Let’s dive in:
SPECIFIC– The goal should be clear, narrow, and focused so anyone who looked at it would understand exactly what was trying to be achieved.
MEASURABLE – It should be something that can be quantified in some way. This not only helps make it specific, but also gives clear benchmarks on the way toward success. And you’ll have a clear indicator of what it will mean when the goal is accomplished.
ACHIEVABLE – The goal should be a stretch but should also be realistic, otherwise you will set yourself up for failure. That said, I’m a believer in the aim high approach. Because even if you do not reach the high goal, you probably made incredible progress.
RELEVANT – It should be important or key to forwarding your vision for your business. It should clearly align with what you do, how you do it, and who your company serves.
TIMELY – Every goal should have a clear target date for achievement. For a one-year plan for example, most goals should fall within or at the one-year point. With longer-term goals, it is helpful to set short-term benchmarks to stay accountable for making progress toward the long-term outcomes you wish to achieve.
Here’s an example of a goal I’ve used in the past for my photography business: “Host Profitable Mini Sessions.”
For this goal I knew I wanted to focus one SPECIFIC aspect of my photography business. And this is RELEVANT to the portraiture side of my business. But how would I know if the mini sessions were profitable? How would I know if and when I achieved this goal? I was missing the MEASURABLE, ACHIEVABLE, and TIMELY aspects to make the goal SMART.
So here’s how I re-wrote the same goal to turn into a SMART goal:
“Host Fall Mini Sessions in October or November for one day where at least 8 families book time slots, grossing at least $1000 in session fees, before print or product sales.”
The new version is a much clearer goal – hitting all five elements to make it SMART.
Once your goals are written down and you’ve made sure that they’re SMART – print them out and post them in your work space and review them daily. Keeping them present and visible will help you stay focused on the big picture of you business as the year goes on.