SMART Goal-Setting Techniques for a Successful New Year

Published on December 22, 2016 | by Lidija Grozdanic
Goal-Setting - stick to your plan
The end of year is always a good time for us to look back at our accomplishments and to review our future aims. To get you started, we’ve outlined a useful road map for setting and achieving business goals.

Whether you are a student, sole practitioner, freelancer or business owner, setting goals can be a great way to determine if your plans are going in the right direction or if the events over the last 12 months give you a good enough reason to make changes. One thing is certain: without goals, we lack focus and direction.

To accomplish our goals, we need to know how to set them and follow through. Wanting to be involved in high-end projects but working only on renovating bathrooms will do nothing in helping to achieve our goals. The goal-setting process starts by acknowledging that a lot of hard work will be required to succeed. Depending on your particular ambitions, achieving the ultimate goals you set can take a long time. This is why it is important to set both long-term and short-term goals.

Long-term goals

Deadlines for long-term goals should be set around three to five years. One way to set reasonable goals is to formulate them as your company’s mission statement: if you own a business, reflect on why you started it and where do you see it going in the next few years. The same techniques can also apply to full-time employed architects. Ask yourself: Why did I take this job? What did I hope to gain from working here? Am I where I expected to be when I first took the job? These questions can not only help you figure out how to plan your future but can also help determine any traps that you may have fallen into since the last time you thought about your goals.

Setting goals can be harder than it looks. You might not know where to begin. Why not use some proven goal-setting techniques as a road map to getting there? The SMART mnemonic is a great method for doing so:

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Attainable

R – Relevant

T – Timely

Let’s break the SMART technique down:

Set Specific Goals

Your goals must be well defined. You should be able to answer five questions: Who? Where? What? When? Why? What do you want to accomplish? Let’s say you want to increase your revenue by a certain amount over the next six months, or you want to set up another income stream. Who will carry out what task in accomplishing this? Will you target a specific location or area? What must you change in order for this goal to be met? When have you set the deadline? Why do you want to achieve this goal?

Set Measurable Goals

You have to be as precise as possible in order to track your progress. This can be done by installing precise amounts, dates and milestones into your goal. Otherwise, without a way to measure your success you won’t be able to figure out if you have actually achieved what you set out to do. To determine if your goals are measurable, ask yourself: How much do I need to make/create? How many milestones do I need to install in order to keep control of the project?

Set Attainable Goals

You have to set goals that are reasonable as well as ambitious enough to present a challenge. If you set your goals too high, you run the risk of failure and having your confidence shattered. Let’s say you have just set up your own office with a partner. If you expect to have two international branches with 100 employees in each by the end of the year, then you will likely fail and demoralize yourself in the process. Achieving your goals has to involve risk, but also has to strike a balance.

Set Relevant Goals

Each of your goals needs to be aligned with the direction in which you want to take your career and personal life. They need to contribute towards achieving overall long-term success. They shouldn’t be scattered or inconsistent. Achieving irrelevant goals might seem good at the time, but if they don’t contribute to the end goal, they are time ill spent.

Set Time-Bound Goals

Giving yourself deadlines is the best way to move toward success. Working toward a deadline creates a sense of urgency that will force you to make incremental daily efforts and better organize your time. Without implementing smaller, set milestones, it could take forever to accomplish your larger plans as they get put off in favor of minor, administrative tasks.

Action Plan

Archipreneurs can take actions to lead them in the right direction. Does learning how to operate a new software contribute to your plans? Then find a way to acquire a demo or educational version of the software, invest in a training course, or watch a video tutorial. Allocate a specific amount of time to educating yourself, and set a goal to complete an entire project using the software.

To keep on track, task management apps and online tools can help you organize your week. The app you choose will depend on the type of work you do. Trello, Evernote, Wunderlist, Strides and GoalsOnTrack are great organizational tools, as well as time trackers like Habit List, HabitBull, irunurun, which can even help you change your method of working and make you more productive.

Unforeseen Opportunities

Once you set your goals, you need to be pretty consistent in following through. However, there are times when an unforeseen opportunity that might lead you in another direction presents itself. Should you keep your eye on the goals you have already set, or should you change your plans?

This is a good time to look back and figure out why you set your goals in the first place, and see if this new direction might even contribute toward achieving them. Let’s say you decided to set up your own business as a designer. You start working toward achieving this goal, but are suddenly presented with a great job offer in the same industry. This job could delay your plans but might also provide you with the experience needed for running your own business. Will you be learning business and management skills in this new job? Will taking on this job introduce you to a useful network of contacts?

Making these types of decisions is hard, which makes it essential that you fix your long-term goals in order to understand what journey you’ll have to make to achieve them.


There are many daily things that can distract us from achieving our goals. Facebook, emails, and binge-watching TV series can all take up too much of our time without us ever realizing it. This is why setting specific short-term goals and sticking to your action plan is essential.

Do you have an effective goal-setting technique? Write to us in the comments below.

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