We are only a week into the new year, but already New Year's resolutions are being broken from coast to coast. According to U.S. News, less than 80 percent of New Year's resolutions are fulfilled.
That makes sense to me, since most resolutions are vague, unrealistic, and unspecific. But change is good. Change leads to evolution and being better. So what should you replace worthless and unfulfillable resolutions with?
SMART goals were first created by George T. Doran in 1981, as a tool to help improve the chances of succeeding in accomplishing a goal. Personally, I have been setting (and exceeding) SMART goals on quarterly basis for more than a decade.
What makes a SMART goal? SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Based.
You can't find your way before you set the destination, so be incredibly specific about what you want to accomplish. Focus on the who, what, and where of your goal. Then remove any vagueness. "Lose weight" is not SMART. Instead, try something like "lose 20 pounds."
We measure what matters. Make sure your goals are linked to objective indicators of success. This makes a goal more tangible, because it provides a way to measure progress. For weight loss, you could use weight, body mass index, or percent of body fat. Each can be measured, allowing you to track your progress and stay focused.
Think about how to accomplish your goal and whether you have the tools and skills needed. If you don't currently possess those tools or skills, consider what it would take to attain them. Losing 20 pounds wouldn't make sense if you only weigh 100 pounds; it would simply be too much and too unhealthy. But I'm 240 pounds, so losing 20 is not only attainable, but reasonable since it is less than 10 percent of my body weight.
Make your goal personal to you and your life. Focus on what would be impactful. One of the reasons weight loss appears on so many new year's resolution lists is that weight--and specifically, being overweight--can impact a person's quality of life and longevity.
Set a deadline to work toward. Provide a target date on all deliverables. Ask yourself specific questions about the deadline, and make sure it's reasonable.
Here are some examples of SMART goals for entrepreneurs:
- By December 31, 2019, my new venture will improve sales conversion rates by 20 percent.
- By March 31, 2019 I will plan and execute five customer webinars with 15-plus attendees per event and 80 percent or higher satisfaction rates.
- During the next 90 days, we will increase our search engine traffic by 10 percent by focusing on re-optimizing our existing content and making a concerted effort to earn 20 high-quality backlinks to that content.
One last point: Don't be afraid to revisit your SMART goals every few months. Make adjustments as needed. To remind you of this, let's add an E and an R to make SMART goals even SMART(ER):
Evaluate. Make sure to revisit your goals regularly. Things change, iterate, and evolve, so should your goals.
Revise. After the evaluation, make changes as necessary. Think of yourself as a sailboat, tacking into the wind to make constantly make small course corrections.
Over the last few years, setting SMART goals has become the gold standard. There are now even tools to help you, including free templates from ToolsHero and Brian Tracy International. So before you beat yourself up for failing to keep your New Year's resolutions, replace them with SMART goals.