John Lee Dumas is a productivity expert. He's the host of the EOFire podcast, and has successfully launched two action-oriented books on productivity; "The Freedom Journal," which helps you accomplish a single goal in 100 days, and "The Mastery Journal," which bills itself as a "step-by-step guide to mastering productivity, discipline & focus in 100 days."

Dumas has shared his insights on supercharging productivity for one of my previous columns, but he says getting things done isn't just about time management: it all hinges on properly setting goals.

Dumas says so many people see goal-setting as a roadblock: "They say, 'I don't know how to choose the goal I'm going to focus on because there are so many things, and so many choices. How do I decide or know if I'm working on the RIGHT goal?'"

The key, he says, is to follow a process that helps define your goal in a concrete way and guides you toward taking the steps to making it a reality.

1. Reflection: Choosing Your Goal

"The first step is all about making informed decisions for your business based on what you already know," Dumas says.

There are an endless number of options for goals, and it can be tempting to follow the path of our peers or gurus we admire. But Dumas suggests looking into your own past to find clues for your own success: When you reflect back on the goals you've set for your business, what has worked well for you? What hasn't worked well for you?

"You want to find the types of goals you've previously accomplished and that have moved the needle for you and your business," Dumas says. "Allow that to help you choose your next goal or area of focus."

2. Making Your Goal SMART

"Once you've selected the goal you'll focus on, you want to be sure to make it SMART," Dumas says.

For those unfamiliar with the acronym, SMART goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

Let's say you decide that increasing your Instagram following will help you grow your business. "Build a killer Instagram following" is not a SMART goal; while Instagram may be Relevant for your business, this goal lacks Specificity, cannot be easily Measured, and is not Time-bound. You could never really know if you've accomplished it.

A SMART version of that goal would be something like this: "Increase my Instagram following to 10K potential customers by December 2017." This version has a specific target, a measurable number, and a date by which to accomplish it.

"Putting your goal through the SMART criteria will ensure you know exactly where it is you want to go and in what time frame, making it much easier to put an actual plan in place you can execute," Dumas says.

3. Putting A Plan in Place: Micro-Goals

"Now that you know exactly what you want to accomplish, you need to figure out the steps you'll need to take in order to get there," Dumas says.

Too often, we set goals that are too large to accomplish in a single sitting (or even a single month), without breaking down the action steps it takes to get there. By breaking down your large goal into smaller steps, you can begin to make meaningful progress toward your larger goal.

"It's okay if you don't know ALL the steps," Dumas says, "but the important part is making sure you have specific tasks and deliverables written out."

4. Setting Review Periods

Dumas also stresses the importance of pausing to evaluate your progress on a regular basis. He advises that you should set time to review your progress every 1-2 weeks, evaluating whether you're moving through your micro-goals, if you're staying on pace to accomplish your goal by your specified time, and whether the steps you're taking are actually helping you get closer toward your ultimate goal.

"Your review periods are critical because this is when you'll get to evaluate what's working, what's not working, and correct course based on what you're learning," Dumas says.

5. Holding Yourself Accountable

"This is the biggest struggle entrepreneurs face: you don't have a system in place to help hold yourself accountable," Dumas says. "As a result, the things you say you want to accomplish get pushed to the back burner until you have more time, or until you have more help."

"Holding yourself accountable is critical to accomplishing the goals you've set, and with a SMART goal, a plan in place and review period set along the way, you'll ensure you're holding yourself accountable every step of the way."