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How to Start a Business

How to Write SMART Goals: Definition, Tips & Examples (Set Yourself up For Success in 2023)!

Want to get out of the self-defeating cycle of setting goals but not following through?

It’s time to learn how to write SMART goals.

But you don’t have to scour the world wide web or figure it out all alone.

Because in this post, I’ll teach you about SMART goals, show you how to write them and give you dozens of both good and bad examples.

By the time you’re finished reading, you’ll be a pro!

So, let’s jump right in.

What are SMART Goals?

George T. Doran, a consultant and former director of planning at the Washington Water Power Company, was the first to coin the term “SMART Goals” in his 1981 paper “There’s a SMART Way to Write Managements’ Goals and Objectives.”

The SMART acronym helps you create smart frameworks and goals that are;

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Bound

Before we dive deeper into each section of the SMART goals frameworks and smart methodology, let’s see them in action.

Here’s a personal SMART goal example:

“I will become healthier by gradually cutting out caffeine from my morning ritual and moving towards herbal teas in 3 months.”

Here’s how it looks in the SMART framework:

  • Specific: Becoming healthier by cutting out caffeine from my morning ritual
  • Measurable: How many times do I reach for caffeine versus herbal tea
  • Achievable: Motivated to become healthy by substituting an alternative to caffeine gradually
  • Relevant: Cutting out stress and becoming fit is a win-win
  • Time-Bound: Slowly moving to all herbal tea in 3 months

Here’s a SMART goal example from the business world:

“Create an inbound marketing action plan that includes writing relevant blogs, white papers, landing pages, and emails to increase website traffic by 10% in Q4 2022.”

Here’s how it fits the SMART framework:

  • Specific: Writing relevant blogs, white papers, and landing pages to create an inbound marketing plan
  • Measurable: Increase website traffic by 10%
  • Achievable: A 10% increase isn’t easy, but it’s doable
  • Relevant: Increasing traffic ultimately increases sales
  • Time-Bound: Complete the plan by Q4 2022

And here’s a professional SMART goal example:

“I will become certified in coaching by completing all four training modules from the Institute for Life Coach Training (ILCT) in 9 months to open the door for more career opportunities by Q3 2023.”

And how it meets the SMART goals framework:

  • Specific: Become a certified coach from ILCT
  • Measurable: Completing all four modules in 6 months
  • Achievable:  It typically takes 6 months to complete the training, so 9 months is plenty of time
  • Relevant: More career opportunities
  • Time-Bound: 9-month completion by Q3 2023

How to Write SMART Goals

Now that you’re familiar with SMART goals, let’s explore the smart criteria of each letter in the acronym in-depth so you’ll learn how to write one that sets you up for success in 2023 and beyond!

S: Specific

When you make your goals specific, you look at the who, what, where, when, why and how aspects that help define your purpose. Think of these components like a mission statement — they allow you to craft some concrete smart objectives without any vagueness (because a vague goal is a pointless goal).  

Examples of Non-Specific Goals

  • Raise money for charity 
  • Get in shape 
  • Enhance my resume 

Examples of Specific Goals

My company, Better Products, will raise $20K in charitable donations by giving back 2% of customer sales over the next 12 months to the Salvation Army for supporting the homeless population in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

  • Who: Better Products
  • What: Raise $20K in charitable donations 
  • Where: Salvation Army in Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Why: To support the homeless population
  • How: Gifting 2% of customer sales
  • When: Over the next 12 months

To shift my high blood pressure (BP), I will enroll in a nutrition course with my local YMCA to learn how to cut out foods that elevate my BP, intending to lower it by 20 points in 6 months.

  • Who: “I”
  • What: To shift a high blood pressure diagnosis
  • Where: My local YMCA
  • Why: To lower blood pressure
  • How: Enroll in a nutrition class
  • When: Lower blood pressure 20 points in 6 months

To add more credentials to my food resume, I will enroll in the Culinary Institute to become a master chef over the next 2 years.

  • Who: “I”
  • What: Add more credentials to my food resume
  • Where: Culinary Institute
  • Why: To become a master chef
  • How: To enroll in the Culinary Institute
  • When: Over the next 2 years

M: Measurable

Measurable goals help you determine whether or not success or failure can be quantifiable. Goals must be smart objectives and not open for debate. 

If you cannot track a goal, you’ll have to rethink things or find a way to make it measurable. 

Ask yourself what systems or processes are already in place that will help you measure this goal. 

Is it worthwhile to outsource tracking goals — in other words, is outsourcing more cost-effective because you can free up your team, allowing them to focus their time elsewhere?

And lastly, take a look at creating benchmarks that give you something to measure success against. These could be your competitors or even previous results. 

For instance, during the annual launch for our signature program — the Experience Product Masterclass — we use the previous year’s number as a benchmark for success. And we actually set a Minimum goal (the previous year’s number), a Target goal (which is a percentage better than the previous year) and a Stretch goal (something we strive for but don’t expect to hit).

Examples of Non-Measured Goals: 

  • Grow mobile app users (growing mobile users as compared to what?)
  • Increase sales of Q-Tips (how and when)
  • Feel better about my health (how do we take this from subjective to objective?)

Examples of Measured Goals

  • Grow the number of XYZ’s productivity mobile app by marketing through Twitter and Facebook to attract and grow new users by 30% in Q4 as compared to Q4 of last year
  • Increase yearly sales of Q-Tips by 15% higher than the industry standard using a multi-channel social media marketing approach
  • Have a physical in December to measure my blood pressure, cholesterol, and nutrient levels to compare them against last year’s test results — ultimately to understand why I have more energy and to motivate me to keep going.

A: Achievable

With goals, it’s essential to ask yourself a very simple, straightforward question:

Is this achievable? 

Yes, you want to make smart objectives that expand past your limits; however, if you’re asking for the impossible, you risk lowering morale and creating perpetual disappointment. 

Besides, you can always include stretch goals that are challenging. These goals are ambitious but not unattainable… like we do each year for our Experience Product Masterclass launch. 

Examples of Unachievable Goals

  • Learning Spanish in 30 days (How? Where? Why?)
  • You are adding 300,000 additional subscribers to your email list in 6 weeks. (Why? How? Who?)
  • We are creating an ad campaign for multiple channels in 30 days with a bootstrapped staff. (What channels? How?)

Examples of Achievable Goals

  • I am gradually becoming fluent in Spanish to connect with my target audience by practicing 30 minutes a day and taking a trip to a Latin American country to immerse myself in the language for 30 days. 
  • Growing my email subscriber list from 30K members to 50K in the next 6 months by employing new copywriters to target our audience and boost sales.
  • Create an ad campaign for Facebook that increases traffic to our website by 30% in 90 days.

R: Relevant

Even if a goal is specific, measurable, achievable and time-bound (which we’ll get to in a moment), if it isn’t relevant, it isn’t a SMART goal.

For example, on the surface, the following might seem like a great goal:

“Gain 10,000 new Twitter followers in 12 months.”

It’s specific (gaining a certain number of Twitter followers), measurable (10,000 is the target), achievable (numerous personalities and brands have gained more than 10,000 followers) and it’s time-bound (12 months).

The problem?

Your audience doesn’t use Twitter. They use Pinterest and Facebook.

In other words, this goal is irrelevant to the overarching goals of your business, which makes it anything but smart.

Other Examples of Irrelevant Goals

  • A working adult planning to learn to play piano by practicing for 3 hours a day (most working adults don’t have an extra 3 hours in their schedules daily).
  • Increasing sales calls by burdening your existing short-staffed sales force with a whatever-it-takes attitude (burning out your current staff creates unhappy employees who do not support the company’s overzealous goals).
  • A suntan lotion company is looking to expand into the senior market (most seniors wear clothing or hats that limit sun exposure).

Examples of Relevant Goals

  • I am learning to play the piano as an adult — devoting 30 minutes daily over the next 12 months.
  • Increasing sales calls by 30% over the next 3 months and hiring 3 extra salespeople to handle the increased workload.
  • Target a new suntan lotion demographic by marketing to landscaping workers to grow this audience by 30% over the next 6 months.

T: Time-Bound

Do you have short or long-term goals? 

Be sure to define a timeline for your achievable goals and initiate a sense of urgency to accomplish them.

In addition, you’ll want to ensure that you set realistic timelines by asking what’s a reasonable amount of time based on the resources you have to allocate towards these goals.

Also, it’s helpful to create milestones halfway through the goal to ensure it’s on target for completion.

And lastly, be aware of scope creep, which can sabotage your SMART goals. This happens when deadlines get pushed back or additional deliverables are requested and you don’t have the resources to accommodate them. 

Examples of Goals Without Timeframes

  • Increase my fitness with exercise (When? How?)
  • Pass the Certified Public Accountant’s (CPA) test soon (When? How?)
  • Check my email daily (When? Where? How?)

Examples of Time-Bound Goals

  • Increase my strength by gradually lifting weights at home — moving from 5 lbs to 30 lbs in 6 months by lifting daily for 15 minutes a day and targeting legs every other day and arms on the days in between.
  • Enroll in a study group that prepares me for my CPA exam and allows me to successfully pass my test in 6 months — ultimately opening more job opportunities.
  • Devote 30 min every morning between  8:00 to 10:00 am to check and clear email at the office — allowing me to focus better by lessening email distraction.

Ready to Write SMART Goals?

SMART goals leave no room for misinterpretation which is why they’re so darn effective and critical to your success! 

Have you used SMART goals before?

If no, has this post inspired you to write a few?

Let me know a SMART goal you have for 2023!

Ready to set SMART goals that’ll skyrocket your business growth and your impact? Join me for the ONLY business-building event where you’ll leave with a shorter to-do list than when you arrived! 

I’ll be sharing exactly how to hone in on what to say, do and sell next in order to grow your business — with proven strategies that I’ve spent over a decade testing.

In fact, this is the ELEVENTH annual Live Your Message LIVE, and many students come back year after year — because the strategies keep working! 

We’ll spend 3 days together virtually, working on your business and YOUR unique growth blueprint. As my premium business growth and networking event, tickets routinely go for $1,000 since the information is that valuable.

But today, your ticket is just $147! Grab your seat here. 

You’ll ALSO receive your very own copy of my valuable Message to Money Pathway — your unique, highly-customized template that will guide you by the hand to your 6 or 7-figure business (regardless of where you’re starting from).

You’ll Zoom in “overwhelmed” and Zoom out with an exact roadmap for what to say, do and sell next to grow your business in 2023. Here’s the link again to grab your ticket.

 See you virtually March 3-5, 2023 🙂

Love it? Hate it? Let me know...

  1. Tamuera Rikare

    Absolutely, I love it!

    Reply ·
    1. Shannon Goodell

      Thank you, Tamuera! Marisa definitely appreciates it!

      Reply ·
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About the Author Marisa Murgatroyd

Marisa is the founder of Live Your Message, where she turns entrepreneurs into Online Superheroes, and the creator of Start With You where she helps people just like you to discover the business they're meant to build, not just the business they can build. At 4’11 and a quarter, she’s called the shortest woman in marketing — and that doesn’t stop her from having huge ideas. She’s the “go to” brand builder for industry luminaries and heavyweights such as Justin Livingston, Callan Rush, Danny Iny, Alexis Neely and Susan Peirce Thompson. Marisa helps entrepreneurs create a business that is authentic and aligned with who they are, to empower them to turn up the dial on their “inner superhero”, so they can be the superhero to their tribe, as well as in their own lives.

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