How SMART are Your New Year’s Resolutions?

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If you’re like most entrepreneurs, chances are that the resolutions you’ve made for 2010 are eerily similar to the resolutions you made for 2009.  They’re probably the same resolutions you’ve been making for years.

There are certain natural milestones that seem to make us take pause and examine our small business successes and failures.  For example, when closing the books on one year, and opening the books for the next, it’s hard for an entrepreneur not to reflect on the year that was.

What were your resolutions for 2009?  How did you do?  How many were accomplished?  How SMART are your New Year’s resolutions this year?

Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams

The resolutions made by so many entrepreneurs remind me of this signature phrase from Robin Leach’s Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.  Merriam-Webster’s dictionary says that to resolve means “to reach a firm decision about,” or “to declare or decide by a formal resolution and vote.”

Resolutions, wishes, and dreams are a great start; however, you can’t make your business successful by resolving, dreaming, or wishing it to be so.  All entrepreneurs possess these in abundance, but the successful entrepreneur translates these into goals – not just any goals though – they must be SMART goals.

What Makes Your Goals SMART?

I posted a three part series on goal setting by Zig Ziglar a few months ago that is a really great primer on the distinction between a goal and a wish.  If you haven’t checked out this series I’d like to encourage you to do so.

Once you have gone through Zig’s Six Step Formula for Goal Setting, the next step is to evaluate your goals using the SMART mnemonic.

Is Your Goal Specific?

You need to spell out your goals in as much detail as possible.  For instance, “I want to increase my sales this year” becomes “I want to increase my sales from existing clients by 25% over last year’s sales.”  The more specific and concrete you make the goal the better – e.g., dollar amount instead of percentage.

Can Your Goal Be Easily Measured?

If you can’t measure it then it isn’t really a goal.  You can’t measure “to increase customer satisfaction,” however, you can measure “to score over 90% on customer service surveys” or “reduce the number of returns by 20%.”  Without the ability to measure and track your goals there is no accountability.  If you take these two factors out of the equation then your goals have a slim chance of becoming a reality.

Is This Goal Attainable (or Achievable)?

There is probably nothing worse than chasing after windmills.  Make sure that the goal you set is actually something that you have a reasonable chance of attaining.  This doesn’t mean that your goals can’t be hard to reach – just not impossible.

Is Your Goal Relevant?

Make sure that your goal does what you are trying to accomplish.  Increasing your sales is great, but if your profit margin or overhead is out of whack then you are probably not going to achieve the larger bottom line you are after.  In fact, setting the wrong goals can often make your situation worse.

What is the Time Frame for Accomplishing the Goal?

Unless you set deadlines for your goals they are not much better than the traditional New Year’s resolution.  When setting goals we need to make sure that we have a completion date, but also that we have various milestones( or shorter-term goals) if the completion date is more than 3 to 6 months out.  It’s hard to work on a goal today that has a completion date five years away.

How Did Your Goals Do?

How did your goals fare?  Do you follow Zig’s Six Step Formula for Goal Setting?  It’s a great formula.  If so, how SMART are your goals for this year?

I know much of this sounds just like common sense, but you’d be surprised at just how uncommon it has become among entrepreneurs today.

Laying a good foundation is rarely complicated, but it is almost always time consuming.  Any good builder will tell you that taking short cuts here will never support whatever you build on top of it.  Build your business with a SMART foundation.

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Brad's Big Feet Marketing helps people on a limited budget enlarge their online footprint using blogging & social media. His other blog, Marketplace Christianity, examines faith's role in how we earn and spend money.

Brad has written 95 awesome articles for us at Bradley A Harmon

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Paula January 11, 2010 at 4:39 am

I have never been good at setting goals. But I have been listening to Tony Robbins lately and have set time to write my own personal goals. It really does work when you get them out and write them down.

I'm going to come back Brad and have a good read of your Zig Ziglar Setting Goals posts. I've had a quick look at them once before but need to take some time out to watch the videos.
My recent post Do Your Family and Friends Support Your Online Business?


Brad Harmon January 11, 2010 at 2:49 pm

There's something magical that happens in our brains when we write out our thoughts, but especially when we write out our goals. Zig says that if you haven't written your goals down then they're not really goals at all – they're just wishes. I think you will really like what he has to say in that video series.


Paula January 12, 2010 at 11:43 am

Just popping back in to start watching one.


Keith January 11, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Personally I think most important (in my eyes anyway) is if it is measurable, I put actual numbers in my goals (write 5-6 posts per week, not write more posts)

Hope you had a good Christmas and New Years…
My recent post Blogger Luv


Brad Harmon January 11, 2010 at 2:52 pm

That's such an important part, isn't it? I think it becomes even more crucial for longer term goals where you need those milestones to keep you on track, but even weekly goals become more important when you make them measurable. Great comments.

My holidays were a great time off, but the break ended up longer than I thought it would. I will need better planning before my next break to make sure I am not out of contact that long.


dana January 11, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Great goal making tips. I think that i should re-think my resolution because it seems guilty in measurable thing.

Btw, welcome back in blogosphere Brad.


Brad Harmon January 11, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Thanks Dana. It's great to be back. All five parts of the mnemonic SMART work together with great synergy. I think it is too easy to rationalize our way out of goals that are not measurable. Chances are pretty high that if the goal isn't measurable then it probably hasn't been well thought out so implementing steps to accomplish the goal are greatly hampered.


David Rupert January 11, 2010 at 3:01 pm

I'm good at goals…but even better yet at failure.
You gave some great advice here. I like the attainable part. I often set myself up by setting unrealistic goals. If I lower expectation, i can increase achievement.

David R.
Red Letter Believers blog
"Salt and Light"
My recent post Fault Lines


Brad Harmon January 11, 2010 at 3:34 pm

I am right there with you on both of your points. It's taken me a long time to learn that setting attainable goals is not the same thing as lowering the bar. A bar set too high isn't really set at all. I still struggle with this on a daily basis.


Brad Harmon January 12, 2010 at 10:14 pm

In the past few years I have come to realize that my perfectionist attitude and my unrealistic goal setting have really been defense mechanisms to compensate for my fears. This may not be true for you.

I set goals that I knew I could not achieve, and standards so high as to be almost impossible, because it gave me an easy out while making me sound very superior to all those around me. Fear and Pride are a paralyzing combination.

It's not really lowering one's expectations if the previous expectations were unattainable. The attainable portion of SMART is key to being able to take those first steps and especially the last ones to accomplishing our goals.


MikeHolmes January 11, 2010 at 6:16 pm

Brad!!! I'm so glad you're back…I was getting ready to rescue you from Santa's grip:) Great post as always.

My recent post If You Don’t Understand God’s Lesson You Won’t Pass His Class (a Leadership Fable)


Brad Harmon January 12, 2010 at 10:15 pm

Thanks Mike! You may be getting coal in your stocking next year from Santa though. ;)


whatawebsite January 11, 2010 at 6:54 pm

Hi Brad,

I'm not really one for setting goals or making resolutions, preferring to just take each day and moment as it comes. My daily routine is simply to try to (a) enjoy what I'm doing (b) give my best shot at it & (c) be ready to change direction if somehow (a) goes pear-shaped!

So I guess my "smart" goal is (a) …enjoy
(otherwise what's the point?)

Cheers to new years


Brad Harmon January 12, 2010 at 10:23 pm

It's interesting how the European mindset is much more relaxed than the American. I'm not so sure that this isn't a good thing. The attitude you describe runs rampant throughout the United States too, but I think in Europe it would be looked down upon less than in the fast-paced "success" driven life of America. You can probably even discern the hint of disapproval in my language already. ;)


Jared P Little January 13, 2010 at 12:53 am

SMART goals are so important I learn a lot about this at my current work they preach it. It really does make seems whats the point if you can't measure it. My 1st year in the Internet Marketing world I had what I thought were smart and really goals but I bought a little in to the hype and didn't hit a lot of them.

This year will be a little different I am connecting with the right people and have some nice goals and strech goals that as long as I stick to my action plan everything should fall in to place.


Brad Harmon January 13, 2010 at 9:56 pm

It's nice to hear that your employer is giving you these types of tools. I am a strong believer in giving your employees life changing tools. It returns better employees and a more profitable business, as well as, making their lives better.


Ms. Freeman January 18, 2010 at 6:48 pm

I have my list and work on them everyday…setting SMART goals is imperative achieving ones dreams.


Brad Harmon January 20, 2010 at 7:20 am

Bravo! It sounds like you have really made your goals very real in your day-to-day life. I have no doubt you will accomplish your goals with that attitude.


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