Goal-setting is essential for any freelancer, small business owner, or solopreneur to succeed. Most of us set goals every day and don’t even realize it. Each time you think to yourself “I should go to the store today” or “I should cook that ribeye I bought at the store” you’ve set a goal for yourself.
However, when it comes to our career goals, a little more planning ought to be involved.
Whether your business goals are for the immediate future (your day-to-day to-do lists) or further down the road (monthly or yearly), there are a few things to keep in mind to increase your success rate.
Goals: Choosing the Dream
The first step toward proper goal-setting is choosing goals to “set.” This might sound painfully obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people toddle off toward the unknown with grand thoughts of amazing success but no specific achievements in mind.
To me, business goals and the grander of my “personal” goals have no delineation – they’re intertwined and often one in the same. They all fall under the umbrella of “The Big Picture.”
That said, when most of us think of business or career goals, we think in terms of income. We set our goals as measures of wealth (“I will earn $100,000 by the end of the year”). However, I would urge you to think beyond potential profits. We all want to be high earners, but we became our own bosses for so much more than that, didn’t we? Your goals should reflect that. Consider:
- Networking Goals (Meet a business hero/reach out to more contacts/lead a webinar)
- Development Goals (Take a class/hire a mentor/read one book per month)
- Personal Goals (Go on a date/run a 5k/foster a puppy)
There’s no harm in having “increase my net worth” or “donate 20% of my profits to charity” on your list of goals; however, don’t make the mistake of making money-based goals your only goals. And don’t assume you already know what your goals should be – or what you want your goals to be. Take your time and write down everything you can think of. No, you won’t achieve every potential goal you write down, but you’ll have increased your chances of achieving them just by making yourself aware that you want to.
Strategy: Creating a Plan
Once you’ve decided what your goals should be, the next step is to make those goals S.M.A.R.T. goals. And, as you may have already guessed from the periods between the letters, S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym. It stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.
A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal. To set a specific goal, tap into your junior reporter and address the five W’s (and one H):
- Who: Who is involved?
- What: What do you want to accomplish?
- Where: Where will this all be taking place?
- When: What is the established time frame?
- Why: What are your specific reasons for or benefits of accomplishing the goal?
- How: What are the requirements (and constraints) involved in achieving said goal?
For example, a general goal would be “expand my business” while a specific goal would be “expand my business in order to increase public awareness by holding a free webinar next month.”
In order for your goals to be measurable, you’ll need to establish criteria for measuring your progress and final achievement. Ask yourself questions like:
- How much?
- How many?
- How will I know when I’ve achieved my goal?
When you continually measure your progress, you not only stay on track and reach your set target dates, but you’ll experience a renewed wave of motivation pushing you to exert the effort required to reach your goal.
You can attain nearly all of the goals you set when you plan your steps wisely (and establish a realistic time frame that allows you to carry out those steps). It might sound a bit hokey but the simple act of thinking your goals might somehow be attainable makes them more attainable. By believing in your goals, you’re actually believing in yourself – forcing yourself to grow to meet the challenge.
To be realistic, a goal must represent an objective you are both willing and able to work toward. But that doesn’t mean you should aim low: a goal can be both high and realistic. It’s up to you to determine just how high is “too high” (unrealistic) and what could be within your reach if you put your mind to it.
As someone who’s self-employed, you’ll likely find that the goals you “aim high” with are frequently easier to reach than the ones with lower expectations. The lower your goal, the lower your motivation. Whilst, on the other hand, your lofty ambitions will oft turn into “labors of love” – you’ll end up completing them more quickly or more successfully than you’d ever imagined.
A S.M.A.R.T goal is one set within a strict time frame. By setting a time limit on your goals, you create a sense of urgency and you’re forced to hold yourself accountable. In other words, “someday” is no longer an acceptable deadline.
This isn’t to say that all of your goals should have immediate deadlines. In keeping with being realistic, some of your goals may have longer time frames than others. You can’t expect to gain 1,000 new subscribers in a week; but by the end of the year? Why not!
Action: Just Do It Already!
Goals keep you disciplined. Goals broaden your horizons by pushing you to try new things. Goals are a required part of any true success. However, setting goals means absolutely zip if you don’t follow through on them.
Not knowing how to achieve your goals is no excuse not to try. As someone once said, “The secret to getting ahead is getting started.” And getting started is the hardest part. Once you get the ball rolling, it will stay rolling. (That’s not motivational guru mumbo-jumbo – that’s science!).
Keep your goals simple and tackle them one at a time, one step at a time. Break each goal into smaller doable chunks and recognize the difference between “doing a lot” and true productivity. Don’t wait to take action – just do it already!
But don’t get so wrapped up in “taking action” that you lose sight of your larger overall goal. Always keep the bigger picture in mind. Strive toward not only making your career better, but improving your life as a whole. Your business and your “personal” life are one and the same now – you are your business – and your goals should always be set with that in mind, whether they’re for the near future or far down the road.