It’s New Year. The time when so many of us declare our resolutions and aspirations, and set ‘goals’ for the coming 12 months. Did you know though, that despite our having the best of intentions, up to 80% of New Year’s Resolutions fail? But yet at least 50% of us still make try to make them. So where are we going wrong? Well, there are many factors that contribute – life, conflicting priorities, a lack of commitment to name a few. But one of the major factors is that we haven’t thought about the structure of those plans – specifically how to set SMART goals.

Dreams? Or goals?

But before we get into the ‘how to’ part of this blog, let’s stop and think about those objectives. Are our ‘goals’ actually goals? Or are they more like dreams? I read a quote somewhere that basically said that a goal is actually a dream with a deadline on it, but for me it’s not as clear cut as that. For me, dreams are often the huge things. The life-changing things. They are the wishes you make when you blow out your birthday candles. The ‘if only I….’ thoughts that pass through your mind when real life gets a little tough.

So how do we get from deadlines to goals? And where does how to set SMART goals come in?

For me, a goal is something tangible. Something that you’re setting out to achieve in a certain period of time. For example a dream would be “I want to run my own business.” But a goal would be “I want to launch my own cake-making business this year.” The dream is great, but with a defined goal comes not just timelines, but renewed determindation, and a desire to succeed – which brings us on to SMART goals.

How to set SMART goals

The term ‘SMART’ stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. These are laid out, alongside a description, in the infographic here, and each time we set ourselves a goal, we need to take all five elements into account.

To me, the ‘Achievable’ element is particularly important. The example of launching a small business ‘this year’ is specific, measurable, relevant and time-bound, without question. And is it achievable? Sure!

But… it’s VERY big.

And when we set ourselves ‘big’ goals, we tend to start feeling overwhelmed, and the level of progress we are hoping for, starts to dimish.

So the most important thing when it comes to how to set SMART goals, is to make your goals manageable. Take those ‘big’ (SMART) goals, like the business launch, and break them down into smaller SMART goals. Have a goal to find yourself an accountant, and note down the steps (goals!) you need to accomplish in order to achieve that. Need a website? The same process applies.

When we set ourselves smaller goals, we put less pressure on ourselves. We are able to see progress more easily and quickly, creating a greater sense of achievement. Feelings of overwhelm, procrastination and Imposter Syndrome become less prevalent.

SMART doesn’t mean you’re on your own

Regardless of how SMART your goals are as a small business owner, that doesn’t mean you need to deliver them on your own. Ensuring that you have a source of support and accountability is crucial to your long term progress. That way, when things go awry or timelines slip a little, you can move quickly to understand what’s happened and take action accordingly. And do so knowing that you have someone who has your back. They will also be there to celebrate with you as you tick off all of your achievements off the list!

If you’re a woman in business, and you need support with either setting your goals, or the accountability needed to deliver them, we’d love to help either through our community or by working with you individually. You can also read more about the importance of goal setting in our Definitive Guide to Starting a Small Business.