The most important thing that you can do when creating goals whether at new years or at any other time, is to make sure they are SMART. I’m not talking about smart in terms of intelligence either. I’m talking Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. If every goal you set in all your life has those five traits, it will be a goal you can actually get done.

With that said, what exactly do those mean?

How to Set SMART Goals

What is SMART?

(Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely)
  • Specific:

    Do you know exactly what you want to accomplish? Are all the details ironed out? Each goal you set must be specific. You need a clear and well-defined vision of success. No ambiguity. If you want to increase profits, for example, you need to first decide by how much and next in what area or for what product. You can’t just say “I want to make more money overall.” Try instead, “I want to increase my profits from the sales of my handbags.”

  • Measurable: 

    Perhaps you know exactly what you are looking for. However, have you made the goal measurable? Again, let’s take the last example. Last time we said, “I want to increase my profits from the sales of my handbags.” Yet, how much do we want to make? Is there a number or percent? Modifying this to be measurable, let’s try “I want to increase my profits from the sales of my handbags by 20%.”

  • Attainable:

    Is your goal a challenge? That is a good thing. However, make sure it’s not too hard or you might not get there, or worse yet, give up. It should be somethign you know you can work hard to get, not something that will be the throw of a dice. A good rule of thumb is to look your personal context. In the last example, we said we’d increase sales by 20%. We need to see if that’s attainable. How much work will it require? Will it require finding two new clients or twenty? How hard are clients to find? Once we’ve determined that our goals are attainable, it’s time to move on to the next step.

  • Realistic:

    This step is all about how you feel. Do you think it can be done? Are you ready to do what it takes for it to get done? If you aren’t then the goal is not realistic. Now, let’s look at something a bit more relatable. Health. Perhaps you want to get into shape. However, if you think you can’t do it, you never will. Achieving goals requires the belief that you can. If you don’t think you can do it, it’s not realistic. This might be the chance to make a lower goal, or on the other hand, to look at your mindset.

  • Timely: 

    In the end, every goal needs a time limit. You can’t make a goal without knowing when you want to get there. Even if you do, it makes it that much harder to be dedicated to it. Rather than make it hard on yourself, try setting a realistic time limit. Let’s look at an example from my own business. This year, I have a goal of making more money. I want to be able to do this full time without worrying about bills & even saving money. However, “make more money” isn’t a good goal. Let’s make it SMART. A smart goal could be “I want Helianthus Advising to obtain 3 new long-term clients and 6 new short-term projects to increase profits by March of 2019.” As you can see this goal is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.

How to Set SMART Goals for the New Year:

Envision Your Ideal Future

When you start to look at setting goals, you need to first think about what you want for your future. This could be both for your business and for yourself. Today, try taking time to think on this. Jot down some notes. Keep special attention to what you need to accomplish your goals like money or clients. If you need volunteers, write it down. As you write these down, you will realize and be better able to form goals that will help you to your ideal future.

Break it Down

If your ultimate dream was ten years away, you might need to break your goals down. In many cases, you won’t be able to go from starting a business to running a multimillion-dollar business in a year. After you know your ultimate goal, it’s time to think about how far you want to realistically get. If your goal is to become a millionaire, you might want to start with reducing your expenses and picking up a side job. If you want to double the size of the company, look at how you can grow your company’s income and business first.

Make it SMART

Now that you have a clear goal in mind, it’s time to make it a SMART goal. Let’s take the last examples. First, you want to reduce your expenses and increase your income. Making this a smart goal, you could end up with something like:

“I will eliminate my fast food budget and reduce shopping by 90% over the next three months.”

“I will find a part-time job in my area that allows me to work 10 hours on the weekend by March.”

For someone committed to having more money at the end of each month, those goals are SMART and actionable. If we look at the second goal of increasing a companies income and business we might say:

“Earth Oils will sell 5% more product each month for five months by expanding spending on social media and attending home shows to garner new clients.”

If your company has a social presence but thinks that TV ads would be better, then your best bet would be to look into those. Each business and person will have different goals, the important part is to make them SMART.

Make a Plan

Just because you have SMART goals doesn’t mean you will get to them. You also need a plan. For example, this year I have set five main goals for myself. Two are:

“I want to eliminate added sugar completely and cut meat from all meals but breakfast consecutively for twenty-one days by March of 2019.”

“I want Helianthus Advising to obtain 3 new long-term clients and 6 new short-term projects to increase profits by March of 2019.”

After I set these goals, the work had just begun. Now, I have to take steps to reach the goals. First, I got rid of all the snacks in the house. Next, I made a meal plan so that I could stick to my goals easier. To do that, I made sure all the meals weren’t just healthy, they were tasty too. Looking at my other goal, I had to do the same thing. I set a list of subgoals. First, I needed to apply to at least two new freelancing jobs every day. Next, I needed to get and keep my website in perfect condition amongst other things.

Making a plan to get to your goals makes sure that you can take each step needed to get there. It’s not a bad idea to make these SMART steps as well.


Setting SMART goals is harder than it looks, yet not that hard at all. You will need to sit down and take a look at exactly what you want in your future. Then, you’ll need to make sure what you want is doable within a reasonable time frame. Next, you need to make that goal SMART.

What is smart? SMART is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Each goal should have all of these traits. Also, each goal should have SMART steps to get you there. It might take more time than a regular list of goals and dream, however, this one has a much higher time to rewards ratio.

If you are struggling with coming up with these goals, I would love to help. I offer to coach small businesses, entrepreneurs, and startups. Helianthus Advising specializes in non-profit and service-oriented markets though we’ve helped everyone from real estate to non-profit. As a business owner myself, I understand the time it takes and the work that goes into your business.