Lost art of setting smart goals

The lost art of setting smart goals for a better year

Alex Johnson
Owner & Designer

We often set goals for a new year hoping to make the new year better than the last. And you often hear about people setting resolutions for the new year. But what is often missed in the goal-setting process can make or break the new goals.

As another year ends, it’s time to start planning for the next one. So how do you plan goals for the next year that you want to accomplish? In this article, I am going to show you a couple of ways that I plan for the new year and how I keep my goals reasonable and smart.

And setting goals is not just for a new year. You never have to wait for a special day to choose to better yourself or your business. Why not start tomorrow? You can plan goals for each month, quarter, or any other time. The more important part is the follow-through.

Starting S.M.A.R.T.

If you want to achieve the goals that you set for yourself, the goals need to have some constraints. Making unrealistic goals will only lead you to failure. This is where S.M.A.R.T. goals come into play.

If you have never heard it before, S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym used in goal setting. It goes like this:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound


Your goal needs to be clear. It needs to answer what you want to achieve and why it’s important to you. Depending on the goal, you might need to add who else will be involved, where this goal will take place, and what other resources might be needed.


A race without a finish line will be impossible to finish. In some senses, a goal is like a race. You plan a target, work towards that end, and eventually make it to the finish line. Goals need to have a measurable result, something to prove you made it, and to judge your success or failure by.


To continue with my race analogy, it is unreasonable for you to complete a full marathon when you can’t complete a ¼ mile jog. It goes the same with goals. If you set a lofty goal with no reasonable path to get there you are setting yourself up for failure.


Your goals need to matter to you. They are YOUR goals. Trying to impose a goal that someone else has set for themselves does not help you grow. You will never have the same interest, and instead, set yourself up to fail before you start by not being as interested in the result.


Like achievable, time-bound helps you reign in your goals. If you never give yourself a time frame in which to achieve the goal, you will allow yourself to slack when the going gets tough. If you set a due date, then you will feel more motivated to get it done on time.

Explore the past

Even if you have never set up goals for yourself in the past, you can always start now. But to set smart goals, you need to review what you have done.

Let’s say your business made $60,000 last year. A reasonable goal would not be $1,000,000. It is unlikely that you could grow that fast and would only lead you to despair about your goal. A more reasonable goal is to double your income.

You should look at all the things you managed to accomplish. How did you feel about the different things you did? Did some go better than others? Would it be reasonable to keep working towards something you have not completed yet?

Few large, many smalls

Don’t start with a list of 100 goals for the year. That will only lead to overwhelm. The idea is to use your goals to help drive you forward, not to hide from them.

Start with quarters. Set yourself four major goals for the next year. Think about the bird’s eye view. What do you want to achieve? What would propel you forward and make you feel good at the end of the year?

Now, set quarters 2-4 aside. We don’t need to focus on those right now. Take the first quarter and let’s come up with 2-6 sub-goals that you can set to help you get to the larger goal.

Let me show you an example. If my high-level goal is double my income, I could break it into four parts. Then into smaller month chunks and lastly into daily or weekly.

  • Double my income by making $120,000 this year.
    • Make $30,000 in the first quarter
      • Gain 10 new clients each month
        • Spend 30 minutes per day calling potential clients

This is a pretty simple example. By you don’t want it complicated! Don’t break the goal down to 50 sub-goals a day that you must work through. In my example, there is one daily goal, and it only takes a fraction of the day. Seems easy to do and I will feel pretty good about getting it done.

I don’t focus on the goal of gaining 10 new clients per month, but the smaller daily goal. Then when the end of the month comes along, I will review the monthly goal and so on. And I will likely have achieved my goal because I put in small bits of effort daily.

Review your goals

Remember, an achievable goal has a time frame. At the end of the time frame, you need to review how you did. Did you accomplish your goal?

Review your goals and success
Reviewing your goals is important

This is not a time to berate yourself for your failures. Instead, look at what went wrong. Why did you fail to make it to the goal? Is there something you should have done differently to help you get there?

You should also take this time to celebrate your wins. Focus on the positive outcomes you got. Did you make it to your income goal? Take your family out to a nice dinner and celebrate. Get those 10 new clients this month? Take a small break and do something fun for a bit.

No matter what, stay positive and enjoy the journey as you go. Sometimes you will fail. We all do. Readjust and drive on. There is always tomorrow.

Find a partner

Sometimes going it alone is not enough to keep you on track through the hard goals.

Find yourself an accountability partner who can help you stay focused. It could be a friend, family member, or even someone you met on social media. Some of the best goal partners walk in the same shoes.

For example, you could partner with a similar business to yours but in a different town or area. This way you both are not stepping on each other’s toes but have the same problems and struggles. You may even have similar goals and can help each other to achieve them.

Questions to get started

Here are some questions to get you started on the goal-setting process. Take them, change them, and make them your own.

  • Financial goals – How much do you want to make? Yearly? Quarterly?
  • What was your best accomplishment last year?
  • How can you replicate that success this next year?
  • What did you not accomplish this year that you wanted to?
  • What can you do to overcome that failure this year?
  • What does success look like to you? Each month? Quarter?
  • What do I need to work around this year? Think about vacations, family matters, etc.
  • Do I have the tools I need to make my goals happen? If not, what do I need?
  • What do you want to accomplish? Or avoid?
  • What would make you happy? Or make you unhappy?

Now it’s your turn

Hopefully, I have made the goal-setting process a little less scary. Now it’s your turn to set some goals and start feeling your success come. Don’t fear the fails, fear the fact you never got started.

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