Goal Setting
April 8, 2021

What are Goals and How do You Set Them? [Free Template]

By Brian McHale

Did you know people who write down their goals are 33% more likely to achieve them than those who do not?

Nowadays, you no longer need to write your goals on pen and paper, there are plenty of online resources to help you capture and focus on your goals so that you can begin to create an executable plan.

So, in this post, we’ll show you how to create this plan, especially the steps to set S.M.A.R.T. goals, tell you why this framework is beneficial and provide examples how this can you with project management.

 

What are Goals and How do You Set Them?

In the most simplistic terms, goals are the endgame of any action you take to obtain something.

For example, if you want to lose weight, you may set a target of ten pounds.

When you have achieved this, you’ve reached your goal.

Goals are important to have both in your professional and personal lives because they’re driving factors for improvement, but far too often people set themselves up for failure by setting targets that simply are unobtainable.

Usually, they have set goals that can’t be completed in the time frame they give themselves, but they may also experience issues setting up goals that actually help them or goals that simply are not measurable.

How can you set up the right goals for yourself? By making sure they are S.M.A.R.T.

SMART

 

Specific

You’re probably thinking that specification is common sense, but too often people set goals for themselves that really are quite vague.

When looking to specify your goals, it’s important to consider three questions: who is involved, what would you like to accomplish, why is this important and how can you overcome any hurdles you may face.

For example, saying “I want to make more money” isn’t specific at all (and something we all want to do).

How much money do you want to earn?

Your neighbor may want to earn an extra $10,000 year while you may want to aim for earning an additional $25,000 a year.

How are you going to make more money?

For some people, this means getting a raise or promotion because they work for a Fortune 500 company, but a small business owner may look towards cutting costs in some aspect of their business or by acquiring new customers.

You can easily change “I want to make more money” into “I want to gain new small business owners as clients in the community to establish myself as a leader in the industry.

I know that I have a lot of competition in Anywhere, USA, but my prices are 10% lower than my competitors, and I already work with 25% of local business owners.”

This answers the who, what, why and how of your goal, but it still needs some polishing.

 

Measurable

All great goals are measurable, meaning you can track their progress and identify when they are achieved.

Simply stating “I want to gain new small business owners as customers” isn’t measurable and can have very different results depending on your industry.

Instead, set a number for yourself like, “I want to gain ten new small business owners as customers.”

Much better, right?

Now let’s look at our specified goal and add a measurable element: “I want to gain ten new small business owners in the community to establish myself as a leader in the industry.

I know that I have a lot of competition in Anywhere, USA, but my prices are 10% lower than my competitors, and I already work with 25% of local business owners.”

By having specific, measurable goals like the example, you know exactly what you want to achieve and when it’s achieved.

 

Attainable/Achievable

Are your goals attainable?

This may seem like a redundant question, but too often people set targets for themselves that they honestly cannot achieve.

When setting goals, it’s important to make sure the outcome is reasonable by identifying how you can achieve the goal.

Only you know your business, but you need to honestly look at what skills you have that can help you reach your goal and what you may need to hire someone for.

With this in mind, our example goal may become: “I want to gain ten new small business owners in the community to establish myself as a leader in the industry.

I know that I have a lot of competition in Anywhere, USA, but my prices are 10% lower than my competitors, and I already work with 25% of local business owners.

To attract them as customers, I will set up a social media marketing campaign that my intern runs.

I’m also going to reach out to past and current customers for testimonials.”

Do not think that needing to hire someone to help you achieve your goals means you are not successful.

Smart people know that it takes a village, and your business may need outside help to succeed.

 

Relevant

Relevant goals are important for your business’ growth, so you need to make sure they are worthwhile and meet your needs.

Don’t be afraid to edit your goals as you see fit either.

What you set a few months ago may need some tweaking down the road to match where your business currently is.

Here at Project Central we use a framework ‘Status & Adjust’ to help review our targets and to make adjustments as required, in particular as we learn more about the target along the way.

Finally, your goals should work off of one another.

If your long-term plan is to earn $1,000,000/year, you will want to plan your growth around that number.

Let’s look at our example goal again.

If you earn $10,000 per customer, you will want to gain more customers than what you had previously set for yourself.

Your path may look like this: “I want to gain twenty new small business owners in the community to establish myself as a leader in the industry.

I know that I have a lot of competition in Anywhere, USA, but my prices are 13% lower than my competitors, and I already work with 30% of local business owners.

To attract them as customers, I will continue paying for ads on the Facebook page my intern runs. I’m going to continue asking for testimonials.”

Your goal is almost the same, but you have adjusted it to reflect where your business is today.

 

Time-Bound

The biggest issue most people face when setting goals is creating goals that aren’t achievable in the amount of time they set for themselves.

Overnight successes are exceedingly rare, and you shouldn’t expect to reach your goals overnight either.

Set deadlines for yourself and create little goal posts for yourself along the way to make sure you are progressing towards your goal at the pace your business needs to succeed.

Let’s look at our example for the last time by adding a deadline: “I want to gain twenty new small business owners in the community over the next year to establish myself as a leader in the industry.

I will need to sign an average of two more customers per month to meet my goal and will check my progress on the 15th of each month. know that I have a lot of competition in Anywhere, USA, but my prices are 13% lower than my competitors, and I already work with 30% of local business owners.

To attract them as customers, I will continue paying for five 7-day ads a month on the Facebook page my intern runs.

I’m going to ask for two customer testimonials from past or present customers every three months.”

Quite the difference from the original goal of “I want to make more money,” isn’t it?

S.M.A.R.T. goals will be longer and lengthy than what we usually think of when creating goals, but the system works because they specifically tell you the who, what, where, when, why and how of achieving your goal.

Thanks to our above goal, we have the start of a marketing plan, a deadline and a financial forecast for the next year—and we created it in only a few minutes!

 

The Benefits of Goals

Goals have a plethora of benefits, but it can still feel time consuming to sit down and create them.

You can read more about the benefits of goals here, but we’ve laid out the 3 best benefits for creating goals below:

1. You are creating a success roadmap.

Goals are a combination of different objectives.

You can read more about objectives here, but it’s easiest to think about your goals as your long-term plan and the objectives are the steps you need to complete to achieve your goals via a series of baby steps.

By creating objectives that help you reach your goals, you are creating a step-by-step plan to success.

 

2. You’ll practice better time management skills.

Think of a situation where you’ve gone into something unprepared.

Most likely, you wasted a lot of time (and possibly resources) in order to get yourself on the right track.

Now, think about a time where you went in knowing what you wanted to accomplish and had a plan in place to reach your goal. Much easier process, right?

When you have S.M.A.R.T. goals in place, you’ll know exactly what you’re aiming for during the day/week/quarter/year and can dedicate your time to completing your objectives, meaning you’re working smarter and more productively.

 

3. Work goals help you, clients, employees and bosses.

When you have clear goals laid out, your vision is in place for anyone to look at and review.

There are very few ways to argue with the example goal we created above because it’s clear, concise and has a timeline laid out.

Those that you work with will know what you’re trying to accomplish and can dedicate their expertise to helping you achieve the endgame you’ve set for yourself.

 

Examples of Goals for Project Managers

By now, you know how to set smart goals and some of the benefits of creating goals, but how can you apply those concepts as a project manager?

There are endless examples we could provide you—and we highly recommend checking out our article here—but below you’ll find some of the most common reasons to create goals.

1. Improve Team Performance

Does your team have a few projects they’ve been struggling with?

Do you know the cause?

Take a moment to talk to your co-workers or employees to see why they’re having a hard time with a project, and how you can institute goals to improve everyone’s performance.

Usually, teams struggle because they don’t quite know what they’re working towards due to a large project scope or miscommunication.

Clear goals get everyone on the same page.

 

2. Execute High-Impact Projects

Again, this requires understanding of your company’s position in the industry and opportunities they may have.

When you are able to identify projects that can greatly benefit your company—whether by taking on new jobs or instituting more cost-effective procedures—you’ll find that you become an invaluable asset.

Lay out a step-by-step goal sheet showing the end goal and the objectives you’ll need to complete it.

 

3. Maximize Your Time

No one can emphasize enough how much time you can save by instituting clear goals.

Not only will you prove your worth as a project manager by always being in the ball, but you’ll also find you can expand your role in your company by becoming a go-to for training employees, devising new solutions to ensure peak performance, work with top management to create goals for you and your team and create new performance improvement strategies based on old performance reports.

 

What’s Next?

After you’ve created a detailed goal plan, you’ll have to get to work to make those goals a reality.

Make sure that you continuously review and evaluate your goals to make sure they’re S.M.A.R.T. goals and make edits to them as needed.

Remember that nothing is set in stone, and smart project managers tailor their goals as new opportunities for success come up.

Download your free goal planning template for Excel.

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