How to set SMART goals for 2014

smart goals law firmToday I started outlining the podcast episode for this week. Because of pre-planned holiday events, I am going to publish this week’s this weekend, instead of it’s normal day on Thursday. But trust me when I say that it will be well worth the wait. In this week’s podcast, I’m going to lay out for you the specific goals I had for the past year (and how I did), as well as the goals I am developing for 2014.

Before I get into the meat of today’s post, I want to share with you Michael Hyatt’s blog and podcast. Michael is the former chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers and focuses his blog on what he calls “intentional leadership”. Yesterday, Michael posted about The 10 Biggest Mistakes that People Make in Setting Goals. Aside from providing some great information in his post, Michael said something that really resonated with me:

Chances are, you are going to live through 2014, one way or another. It can be another year just like this year and last. Or it can be something different … something extraordinary … something amazing! The choice is yours.

I love that, and would encourage you to take it to heart. Are you going to make 2014 extraordinary in both your personal and business life, or are you just going to go through life business as usual?

Aside from the mistakes that Michael references in his post, there are several other things that you need to keep in mind when you are developing your own personal and business goals. First, I would encourage you to go back and review this post I previously wrote about the importance of focus in your goal-setting, as well as this post about one of the major legal marketing mistakes that people make.

Now, I want you to take your goal-setting to the next level. You can do this by applying the S.M.A.R.T. system that I’ve outlined below.

If you haven’t already heard of the S.M.A.R.T. system for developing goals, here is a quick crash-course.

SMART Goals for your Law Firm

S.M.A.R.T. is a pneumonic device. It was originally introduced by George Doran in a 1981 issue of Management Review. The letters stand for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. For the truly exceptional goal-setters, you can go ahead and add an “ER” to the end, making the pneumonic “SMARTER”. The E and the R refer to “evaluate” and “reevaluate” – reminding us to come back and review our goals regularly.

Specific – Make your goals specific rather than general. You can’t just say that you want to “get in shape”, instead make your goal specific – i.e. “go to the gym and work out 3 times per week”. In order to make your goals specific, you will want to concentrate and the 5 “W’s”: who, what, which, where, and why.

Measurable – Can you track your progress with your goals? If you cannot track your goals, how do you know whether you are making progress towards them? In order to do this, you much establish specific criteria for attaining your goal, and answer questions such as “How much” or “How many?”

Attainable – Can you attain your goals?  In other words, can you reach them? However, it is important to not set goals that are so low as to be too easily attainable. You have to find a happy medium – goals that are a stretch for you to reach, but not too easy.  For me, setting a goal that I want to play professional basketball is not (sadly enough) realistic or attainable – but joining a gym and playing pickup ball three days a week is.

Relevant – A relevant goal is a goal that matters to you. If it doesn’t matter, what’s the point? You may set a personal goal to make 10 birthday cakes by 1:00 pm this afternoon – a goal that is specific, measurable, attainable and timely – but is it relevant? Does it matter? Here are some questions you can ask yourself to decide if a goal is relevant:

  • Is this goal worthwhile or important?
  • Is this the right time to pursue this goal?
  • Does this goal align with my other goals?

Timely – It is extremely important that you set a specific deadline for when you want to achieve your goals. Just saying that you want to achieve your stated goal “someday” is not enough. When you plant in your mind a deadline, then you are telling your unconscious mind to start working towards that goal. In addition, by setting a deadline, you can start working backwards from that deadline to determine what you need to do now, a month from now, 6 months from now, etc. to accomplish that goal.

Have you started plotting out your goals for 2014? What is your most important goal? Feel free to post it in the comments below.