Using SMART Goals to achieve more in your business


Goal setting is essential when it comes to business planning, but when we’re busy, it’s also one of the things that creeps down the to-do list. We all want clarity and purpose in our work and effective goal setting can help us achieve it.

Working towards specific goals ensures your business continues to move forward and helps you feel more in control, because you’re actively deciding where your business is going and how it’s going to get there.

Not a goal setter? That’s cool, lots of people aren’t. But let me ask you something.

If you don’t have goals, how do you measure progress and success?  

Setting objectives helps you focus and stops you wasting your time, energy and money on things that don’t align with your business values. Setting a goal and figuring out the steps to achieve it provides motivation and direction for your business.

If there’s something you want to achieve, setting the goal and establishing the plan is like dangling a prize in front of you. You can see the reward at the end, which motivates you to take action. That motivation also tends to reduce the challenges of obstacles. What seemed like a mountain at first, becomes nothing more than a speedhump when you have motivation. 

Goal setting also establishes accountability. If you set a goal and create a plan, you feel obligated to follow through. Even more so if you can set goals with biz buddies, because then you’ll have to report to them and explain why you didn’t take action. That’s a good thing. 

Related: Access my free guided workshop on setting your monthly goals. Free access, no sign-up required

Top view of desk with coffee, iPad and notebooks.

How to set SMART goals for better results

It’s easy to think of a goal. I’m sure you can think of a few right now.

Maybe you’d like to hit a certain financial target, or gain new clients. Perhaps you’re keen to attract more social media followers, or build your email list. These are all great goals, they’re not effective goals. Yet.

There’s a goal setting method that first became popular in the 1980s and it’s just as relevant today as it was 30 years ago. For goals to be effective, they need to be SMART. And I don’t just mean clever – although that helps! SMART is an acronym for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

Let’s look at them a little more closely.

Make your goal Specific

If your goal is too broad, then it’ll be far too overwhelming to achieve. Try to establish as many details as possible. By going through each of the SMART guidelines you’ll end up with a really specific goal.

Can you Measure your goal?

Think about how you will know you have achieved your goal. If you are setting a goal but have no way to measure your success, then you’ll never know at which point you succeeded. 

Some goals have an obvious unit of measurement. For example, if your goal is to increase your social media following there’s a very clear unit of measurement there. The number of followers, number of likes, saves, clicks, shares, all those metrics have an actual number you can measure. 

Or if your goal is to sign up three new clients by the end of the month, then your measurement is the number of clients you’ve onboarded.

But if your goal doesn’t have an obvious unit of measurement, you’ll need to create one. If your goal is to start email marketing, what’s your yardstick? If you already have email marketing underway, then you’ll can look at the number of subscribers, clicks and email opens, but if you haven’t started yet, then what?

You could measure the steps to get started.

  • Establish a strategy
  • Choose and setting up software
  • Create an opt-in to encourage sign ups to your list 
  • Write an email sequence
  • Creating landing pages and embed subscription forms 
  • Send your first email

The way you measure your success is by having those things ticked of your list. Progress can be seen as a percentage, if you’ve ticked off 3 out of 6 things on your list, you’re at 50% of completion. This way, even if your goal doesn’t have numbers attached, you can still measure it effectively. 

Another example of a goal that doesn’t have obvious measurement is creating boundaries, or starting a regular morning routine. You can attach measurements to those. If you want to set boundaries, make sure you know what they are and how often you want to exercise them before you deem the goal kicked. If you want to start meditating before work, then your measurement may be 4 meditation sessions each week for a month. So that was measurable, the M from our SMART acronym.

A is for Attainable

It’s so important to make sure your goal is attainable. If you set an unrealistic goal, then your mind will tell you that you can’t achieve it and you won’t bother trying. 

Consider what is achievable and if your goal is so big that it’s unattainable, maybe you need just to break it down into smaller goals. Or maybe you need to adjust some of the specifics, like extend your deadline or reduce your unit of measurement so if creating 10 pages for your website this week is unobtainable, maybe bring that down to 5 pages. Knowing you can actually reach your target provides important motivation.

Woman sitting on grass writing in notebook.

Is your goal Relevant?

Keep your goals connected to what you’re trying to work on and make sure they’re relevant to your bigger picture. If you’re setting business goals, make sure each one is relevant to your business. I’d like to note though, sometimes goals may not be directly related; for example you may have a goal of improving your self-care or setting boundaries at home. These goals may not be directly related to your business, but they still have an effect on your business, because caring for yourself is caring for your business. 

When you’re setting a goal, ask yourself, “how is this goal relevant to my bigger picture?”

If it isn’t, then decide if it’s important to you for another reason. If you want 10,000 followers on Instagram, but it isn’t necessary to the bigger picture of your business, then why would you set yourself that goal? 

Is it because one of your competitors has that many? 

Be honest with yourself, and decide if it’s really important. If it isn’t relevant and isn’t truly important, maybe that goal needs to go in the bin to make way for one that is.

Make it Timely

When you set a goal make sure you’ve got a time limit attached to it, otherwise it will end up in Limbo. It’ll keep getting pushed aside in place of other more important jobs (and I’m using air quotes there) because we all have those important jobs that aren’t actually that important. Set that deadline, so you’ll get stuff done.

Make sure the timeline is realistic, so that your goal is attainable.

Related Blog: 8 reasons you're not achieving your goal (and what to do instead)

Once you have your goal, make a plan

When you set a goal, then you need to work out the steps to achieve it. Spend some time thinking about each individual step or hurdle that you need to jump to get there. Once you’ve established these steps, they essentially become part of your To Do List, so make sure you enter them into whichever task management system or method you use. 

I love using Trello, and feel like I can’t live without it, but it needs to be a system that works for you. Maybe you’re more of a pen and paper sort of person, or maybe you are a spreadsheet gal. Whichever to-do list system you have, use it with your goal getting. Having this to do list makes it very straight forward for you to continue on the path to achieving your goal. And we all know checking off the to-do list is a reward in itself!

Is your goal too overwhelming?

While you’re going through this process, pay attention to whether you feel overwhelmed by your goal. If you do, there’s a good chance your goal is too broad or unattainable. If this is the case, think about how you can break it down into smaller sub-goals, or figure out how you can be more specific.

Brainstorming or mind mapping is a really good way to help you sort out your ideas and structure them into specific goals you want to achieve. Breaking them down is going to make each goal a little easier for you and reduce the overwhelm that you may feel from setting huge, unrealistic goals.

How many goals should you set?

My last tip is to try and aim for around three goals per goal setting session. If your aim is to set monthly goals, start with three for that month. If your goal is to get through your To Do List for the day, then set three tasks to achieve that day. Three seems to be the magic number when it comes to goal setting. You can set more, or less, but three gives you a sense of achievement with minimal overwhelm. And we could all do with less overwhelm, am I right?!

Want some help to set your goals?

Every month inside my business membership, Espresso Lounge, I host a live goal-setting workshop where I help you and the other ladies set your goals and map out a plan of action. If you'd like to join us, become a member. I'd love to welcome you in!

Happy goal setting,


Michelle Marks Business Coach

About the author

Michelle is a chocoholic, stationery obsessed Business Coach from the seaside town of Mandurah, WA. She specialises in working with Virtual Assistants and B2B service providers, helping them to grow a fulfilling, sustainable and profitable home-based business.


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