S.M.A.R.T Goals - How to set and achieve BIG goals

Dec 24, 2016
Emily works for a non-profit organization in Washington DC. She’s been with the company for 3 years and has started to make some strides in her progress. Since it’s the New Year, Emily wants to set some lofty goals for herself and feels that she can accomplish anything she sets his mind to. Emily has always heard writing her goals down is beneficial but has never taken the time to do so. How can Emily craft her New Year’s goals so they're actionable and achievable? With millions of people around the world setting their New Year’s resolutions I thought it would be helpful to share my insights on goal setting. In this article we’ll go through my 2017 goals and see how you can use the S.M.A.R.T goal setting methodology to define yours. As a frame of reference, here are my 2017 goals:

Raphael’s 2017 goals

1) I will run the Punta Cana Marathon on April 2, 2017. To accomplish this goal, I will run at least 5 miles 3 times a week. One month before competition I will increase my running length to 10 miles at least twice a week and between 5-7 miles 2 times a week. I will run a half marathon March 12, 2017 in Puerto Rico to prepare for my full marathon.

2) I will perform at least one paid speaking engagement by August 15th 2017. I will accomplish this by attending every Toastmasters meeting to refine my craft and send at least 2 emails per week to organizations looking for speakers.

3) I will be consistently making an extra $1,000 per month on the side by September 15th, 2017. I will do this by sending out at least 5 job requests per week on thumbtack, fiverr and/or upwork. I'll also develop paid coursework that I’ll offer to my clients.

4) I will build an email list of at least 5,000 people by December 15th, 2017. I will do this by committing at least $25 per week to use google AdWords to drive traffic to my landing page. I'll experiment with A/B testing so that I can increase my conversion rate to over 50%.

5) I will write my first book this year and have a Rough Draft by May 15th,2017. I will accomplish this by writing at least 500 words per weekday for 5 months (50,000 words). Once I have my rough draft complete, I will revise the draft and have a final draft ready for publishing by July 15th, 2017.

6) I will speak at least 6 times this year and have at least two of those speeches be completely in Spanish. I will accomplish this by attending every toastmaster’s event and volunteering at every opportunity to speak in front of the members. I'll also email S.H.P.E, Engineers 4 Business, Entrepenurs@ASU and other organizations that I’ve been a part of to see if they need guest speakers. This will all be accomplished by November 15th 2017.

S stands for Specific

When defining your goal, it’s important to make it as specific as possible. What do you want to accomplish? Who is involved? Where is it located? Etc. By asking yourself these questions, you will start to craft a tangible goal that you can begin to strive towards. In my marathon example, I describe the fact that I will run the “Punta Cana Marathon on April 2, 2017”. This level of specificity allows me to envision running that specific marathon and puts me on a path to achieve that goal.

M stands for Measurable

Metrics are the life blood of any goal you want to accomplish. If you don’t have any type of metrics tied to your goal, how do you know if you’re on track to achieve it? By defining at least one metric you will be better able to track if you’re on your way to achieving your desired outcome.

In my example of writing a book I specified that I would write “500 words per weekday for 5 months”. This gives me the opportunity to measure if I’m in fact on track to hit those numbers. If it’s February 15th and I realize that I’ve only been able to write 5,000 words, I can do the math and find out how many words I’ll have to write daily to catch up to my baseline. This extremely powerful tool should not be ignored and you should take some time to define some good metrics to adhere to.

A stands for Attainable

A great question to ask yourself is “Will I be able to achieve these goals in the time frame I’ve set for myself?” I know that I’ve set some pretty lofty goals for myself this year but I feel that if I perform the required tasks, these goals are attainable. I’ve met many enthusiastic/ambitious people who have huge dreams for themselves but struggle accomplishing their goals because their goals are not attainable in the time frame they’ve given themselves to achieve them.

For example, you’re an aspiring restaurateur who writes a goal saying that you will open up 15 restaurants by the end of the year. Although I commend you on your ability to think big, this goal is probably not achievable in the time frame you’ve specified. A more attainable goal would be to open up your first location and achieve $x desired revenue in the first year. Not only is this goal achievable, it also has a metric associated with it that will help you determine if you’re on track to achieving your goal. The lesson here is to not be afraid to stretch your abilities and dream big but also have realistic expectations given a particular time frame.

R stands for Relevant

This section can be confusing to some people. When a goal is relevant it means that it applies to what your bigger purpose in life is. Do you want to be a high level manager in an organization? Are you trying to be the best significant other or friend you can be? Do you want to help others with your message? Make sure that your goal lines up with what you want to accomplish in your life. In my example for the “Paid speaking engagement” I hope to one day speak to people around the world and to spread my message of living a balanced life. The “paid speaking engagement” goal will steer me in that direction.

T stands for Time-Bound

Like all great goals out there, it’s important to have a deadline for achieving them. Without a set deadline, people naturally lose motivation and procrastinate on performing the actions necessary to achieve their goals. Every single one of my goals has a set date of completion. This makes it easier for me to use my metrics to see if I’m on track to achieving my goals by their deadline.

Another helpful tip when setting timelines for your goals is to stagger their due dates. As you accomplish each one of your goals, you will start to gain confidence and build momentum that will propel you towards achieving the next one. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t meet your goal by the deadline. It’s important to sit down and analyze where you are and what needs to be done to get you back on track. When you come up with a solution you would set a new target date and work toward it like before.

Bringing it all together
As a result of Emily using the S.M.A.R.T goal setting technique, she was able to define actionable, time-bound goals that she could strive towards. Every day, Emily would perform the actions associated to her metrics and slowly but surely began to see progress towards her desired outcome. Emily is optimistic about her future and is happy she took the time to write out her goals.

Goal setting is a discipline that will pay dividends for you over the course of your lifetime. Now that you’re armed with the tools to set S.M.A.R.T goals, take the time to write them out and hang them up where you can consistently reference them. Now go out and make this year the best year yet!! If you found this article helpful all I ask is that you share it with others you think it would benefit. Do you have any other helpful goal setting tips? I would love to hear from you.


My book recommendation for this article is the “Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. In this book, the author explores what allows us to create beneficial habits and eliminate detrimental ones. On your way to achieving your goals, you will need to establish beneficial habits. This book is a treasure trove of information and I’ve used this book to establish beneficial habits in my life. I highly recommend it. I’ve provided the link below:

Click here to check out the book "The Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg

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Jan 31, 2017
Learning to form good habits is so difficult as pointed out in Duhigg's book.

I've said in other messages that I can do just about anything for 5 minutes. I can come close to holding my breath for 5 minutes with a little practice.

So, simply decide what habit you want to develop and do that after a well formed habit like brushing your teeth in the morning or making your bed. Do this new behavior for 5 minutes and only 5 minutes. Withing a month or two it will be a new habit.

Your brain will never know what hit it!!