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Literally Everything You Need To Know About Setting (And Achieving!) Business Goals.

setting business goals

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You have the best laid plans. You know exactly what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it. Your business goals are solid. This will be your year!

Fast forward to February 15th (okay, okay, January 15th) and you find yourself sitting at your desk throwing your hands in the air with a resounding “What went wrong?”

The new year is almost upon us. For most people, the new year comes with tricky little things called resolutions. Resolutions almost NEVER get kept. I have a few theories as to why but really, it doesn’t matter. The point is that they rarely are still in your repertoire come March. I’m here to show you how to change that.

First things first though, we’re going to do a bit of re-framing. A resolution is nothing other than a goal. Only goals are more likely to get accomplished. So from now on, you’re not making new year’s resolutions. You’re simply setting goals for yourself. Bonus – you don’t even have to wait until January 1st to set them.


We all know about the whole SMART goal thing.Just in case you missed it though, here’s a brief summary. In order to have SMART goals, they must be:

S = Specific

M = Measurable

A = Achievable

R = Relevant

T = Time-bounded

Some of that I think is bullshit, honestly. Relevant goals? Of COURSE I’m going to set relevant goals. If I hate clowns, I’m not going to set a goal of working in a circus driving the clown car. You don’t need to reiterate to me that my goals should be relevant to me. Achievable? This is subjective. What I think is achievable, someone else might think it’s off-the-wall, bat-shit crazy. I personally think that telling someone to make their goal achievable is an excuse to be lazy and not aim high. ANY goal is achievable. You just have to know what needs to be done and do it. Want to make a billion dollars next year? It’s achievable. It’s $2,739,726.03 per day. It may not be likely, but it’s achievable. All you have to do is have a (damn good!) plan as to how you’re going to make about $2.7 million dollars a day.

Specific, measurable, and time-bounded though? That’s the good stuff of this acronym. However, “SMT” didn’t sound quite as good as SMART did.

You definitely need to make your goal specific. It gives you a clear idea of what success looks like. “Make more money this year” is vague and hard to stay motivated about. If you made $50 last year and you make $51 this year, you have technically achieved your goal of “making more money this year” however, you won’t be quite thrilled about it. BUT if you’re goal is to make $2,739,726.03 dollars every day for 365 days, now you’re talking. Plus having specific goals helps you make a plan, which we’ll get to later.

Your goals need to be measurable because otherwise, how will you know when you’ve achieved it? I’ve actually seen someone write down a goal that say “be happy”… I’m sorry but WHAT THE HELL? Unless you go through 365 days a year NOT being happy and all you want is one good day, this is a shitty goal. We all have ups and downs. Just because you feel happy one day doesn’t mean you accomplished your goal. Just because you feel down one day doesn’t mean you failed. This is not a specific goal, and it’s really not all that measurable. Instead, a better goal would be to write down 3 things every night that make you happy. This is measurable, this will ultimately lead you to “be happy” AND there will be no doubt in your mind about what you need to do in order to achieve your goal. You need to write down 3 things every night. No matter what.

Finally, time-bounded. This goes hand in hand with specific and measurable. By definition, measurable indicates a time-bounded goal. Going back to our previous example, write down 3 things every night that make you happy is a daily thing. To make it an even better goal, say “write down 3 things every night that make me happy for 90 days.” Our first example of a specific goal is already perfect in terms of being time-bounded, “Make $2.739,726.03 dollars every day for 365 days.” Having goals that are time-bounded allow you to know when you’ve accomplished them. “Be happy” isn’t time-bounded and as such, how do you know when you’re there? You might be happy today, but does that mean your goal to be happy has actually been accomplished?

In summary, all you need to set great goals is SMT. Specific, measurable, and time-bounded.


First, cull your goals. Take that big list of goals you just created and decide on the top TWO that are most important to you. A big reason most resolutions go unfinished is that we simply get too busy. If your goals include “lose weight” “sleep more” “tackle my to-do list daily” and “eat healthier”, you’re doomed to fail. Nevermind that NONE of these goals are SMT goals, but also when you’re crazy busy you’re going to fail to remember all the goals you set for yourself. You’ll forget about losing weight until after that donut hits your mouth. You’ll make an exception for your to-do list just this one (okay thirtieth) time. You’ll not even think about sleeping more until you wake up in the morning and realize that you’re exhausted and want to throw your alarm clock into North Korea (Conveniently located where all the nukes are!). So yes, take those goals and bring it down to a list of 2.

Second, break it down linearly. I know what you’re about to say. “But Lindsay, business isn’t linear. Most of the time it’s exponential.” And you’re absolutely right. But exponential is hard to estimate and linear isn’t. So you go with linear to create your plan.

Now, what to I mean by breaking it down linearly? Let’s say your goal is to hire 1 full time employee by the end of 2015. Well, that means in 6 months, you have to have 1/2 that. Meaning you have to have 1 person working 20 hours a week for you by June of 2015. 3 months from now, you’ll need half of the 6 month goal. Meaning, that person will need to be working 10 hours a week for you by March of 2015. And in 1 month, you’ll need 1/3 of the 3 month goal so you’ll need someone working 3.33 hours for you per week. For sake of sanity, let’s just round that up to 4 hours a week. And to achieve that in 1 month, you’ll need to hire someone TODAY to work 1 hour a week for you. BOOM! You now know what you need to do today to make sure your 1 year goal is achieved.

But that’s not all you need obviously. When hiring a full-time employee, you need money to pay them with. So part of your plan that we’re creating should include how you are going to get the money to pay your employee with. Let’s say you’re paying someone $30/hour. That’s $57,600 per year for a full-time employee (you’ll need benefits too but that’s a separate item). Think to yourself how you can bring in another $60k a year. Perhaps you’re selling an awful lot of widgets. You might look at your marketing plan to see how you can sell more widgets. Or you might look at your sales funnel and analyze where your conversion rates are dropping to fix that portion and close more deals. ALL of these can be broken down linearly. In fact, every goal you ever set can be broken down linearly IF you’re setting SMT goals.


Here’s how I set my goals. It sounds like overkill but it works fantastically for me and I get a lot done!

Think about where you want to be 5 years from now.Write everything about your life. What you’ve accomplished, what you have, what you love, how you live, everything that you’ll experience in 5 years. If you’re going to be there in 5 years, you have to be 1/5 of the way there in 1 year. Take a second page and write down the same things about where you’ll need to be in 1 year to achieve the lifestyle you want 5 years from now. Then on another page, write down what your life will look like in 6 months (1/2 of your year goals). Then another page for 3 months (1/2 of your 6 months goals). Then another page for 1 month (1/3 of your 3 months goals). Another page for 2 weeks (1/2 of your 1 month goals). And finally, you’re daily page that will be the actions you MUST take today if you want to achieve the goals you’ve laid out for 2 weeks, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, and 5 years.

It sounds like a lot, I know. BUT it gets you real specific, it’s measurable, it’s time-bounded, and on the days that you have no energy to decide what action to take to reach your goals, you don’t have to worry about it. You just take out your daily list and read the top 3 things you need to do that day in order to achieve world domination.

Now, remember business is fluid. Your goals might change. You might achieve one quicker than you imagined or it might take you longer. As things change in your life, adjust these lists. THIS is where the relevant part comes in. Don’t just keep working towards a goal because it’s been on your list for a year. If it’s no longer relevant to what you want, get rid of it. I had the (personal) goal of running a triathlon on my goal list for 5 years! I finally looked at my list one day and said, “You know… I don’t really give a damn if I run a triathlon or not.” So I erased it and made room for other goals that I cared more about.

Finally, take the daily list, 2 week list, and 1 month list, and put it on your calendar. Or task manager, or both. You HAVE to hold yourself accountable. And you have to put these tasks in a place where you’ll see them. Otherwise, you’ll wake up 6 months from now and notice you haven’t done anything on your “daily” list. Or worse, you wake up 5 years from now and realize you’re still in the same place you were the day you made these lists in the first place.


It is. So stop bitching about it. You’re not going to accomplish anything of importance unless you put in some work. This format FORCES you to really get clear about what you want. You can’t just walk around saying “I really want to be happy this year.” You have to decide what happiness looks like to you and put a plan into place for achieving it. Otherwise you’re relying on fate to bring what you want into your life and that’s not very proactive. You can sit on your couch and hope that fate brings a six pack into your life (abs, you guys. Not beer!) OR you can get off your couch and do some sit-ups while watching TV. It’s your choice.

But the big question is: Do you want to accomplish something in your life or do you want to sit around day after day asking yourself how everyone else seems to get so much done?

Do you think I missed anything in this article?

Do you have any questions or need clarification on anything?


Photo Credit: JohnONolan cc

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