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Setting Smart Goals for 2011

December 29, 2010, 7:55 p.m., EDT

Doesn’t it seem like everywhere you turn, people are talking about creating strategic plans and goal setting for 2011 (for example, see my last blog.). Yep, it’s that time of year. I can’t say this enough times--without a plan in place that sets the direction of where you want your company to go, it’ll be virtually impossible to reach your destination--like driving across country without a road map. You may get there, but it will be way more time, effort and money to do so. The most successful people I know all spend a great deal of time on goal setting and planning.

It’s not enough just to think of these goals and keep them in your head. You must write them down and share them with at least one other important person in your life. As a matter of fact, when I moderate and facilitate company retreats, I put attendees through a provocative exercise that will result in a solid action plan for 6 months/12 months/3 years. It’s called SMART goal setting and it’s one of the best and easiest ways to create/track/realize your goals.

SMART stands for:

• Specific--e.g., "we will grow profits by 20 percent in 2011”; not "we will be more profitable in 2011”
• Measurable—remember, what can be measured, can be improved)
• Attainable—don’t make your goals too easy, but don’t make them unattainable or else you’ll give up too easily
• Realistic—setting unrealistic goals is a recipe for failure)
• Tangible—e.g., "have weekly 30 minute meetings with my manager”; not "have a better relationship with my manager”

So, let’s begin the process of setting SMART goals. When evaluating and choosing your goals, please be sure to ask yourself: "Where do I want to go in the areas of…?”

Revenues & Profits
Fixed Assets
Personal Freedom

Next, fill in the blanks for the following "Business or Personal Goals Section.” All the answers need to be specific and measurable.

Top three goals or initiatives for the next 6 months
Top three goals or initiatives for the next 12 months
Top three goals or initiatives for the next 3 years

Again, make sure these goals are SMART. A few things to think about when creating your goals are:

Make sure the goals are your goals and not goals that you or someone else thinks you should have. When the going gets rough, it’s harder to stick to a plan to achieve a goal that isn’t yours.
When you have your goal, know it inside out--do the research, imagine having it, imagine how it would improve your life.
However, if you go no further, this will be a "daydreaming” exercise. That’s why it’s important to continue to the next step. For each of these goals, ask yourself:
"What are the obstacle(s) I must overcome to achieve these goals?”

Finally, the most important step you can take to turn these goals from dreams into reality is to ask yourself (and answer):

"What are the action steps needed to overcome these obstacles?”
"Who will help me and by when will these steps be completed?”

I highly recommend working with an "accountability partner” during this process; someone who is also going through the goal setting/achieving process and who is willing to hold you accountable, and vice versa. You can set up a periodic time to get together either by phone or in person to discuss progress. Having an accountability partner will make this process more realistic and more fun.

Here’s to a fantastic and profitable 2011. 

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