Michelle Boyd Waters, M.Ed. | October 21, 2021 6:04 am

Entrepreneurs are often visionaries, which means we have great ideas and grand business plans. But when it comes time to actually making those plans happen, we can sometimes fall short. That's where setting goals can help. But not just any goals. I can say, for example, that I want to make more money through my educational publishing company next year, but how will I know when I've achieved that goal?

Just like, as a teacher, I might encourage my students to set smart goals, I'm going to encourage you, too. And when I say smart goals, I don't just mean that you'll be smarter once you set them. As a former newspaper reporter, I always made sure I asked all the right questions, starting with: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How.

Set these SMART goals and answer the 5Ws and the H and you'll be well on your way to business success.

Let's start with the acronym S.M.A.R.T. It can help you make better goals. Each letter stands for a different area of the goal. If you create a smart goal, you have created a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Reasonable, and Timely. Using SMART goals can set you up for success in your business.

S – Stands for specific

Specific means that your goal needs to be spelled out very precisely. Using language that leaves no doubt as to what the goal is, why you want to achieve the goal, and how you will get there is very important. If you are not able to be detailed in your description of the goal, it will be hard to meet it. Take the time to do this part right. For example, in my classroom, I might encourage a student set a goal of reading more. I don't just stop there and you shouldn't either. This is where you use those reporter questions:

  • Who is your business serving?
  • What do you want to achieve?
  • When is it reasonable for you to accomplish that goal?
  • Where can you go to ask for help?
  • Why is this goal critical or important to your small business?
  • How do you plan to make this happen?

In the classroom, I might work with a student to set a goal of reading the entire 14-book Pretty Little Liars series by the end of the semester so he can encourage his friends to read the book and watch the TV show, make an A on his reader's notebook, and earn a 4.0 for the semester.

As a small business owner, I might set a goal of providing one new short story resource per month in my All Access membership starting in January and emailing the membership at least twice per month to continue building the customer relationship.

M – Stands for measurable

This means that you should be able to use this as a metric to determine success. If your goal can’t be quantified, then it’s not a full goal and you won’t know how to tell when you’ve succeeded. An example of a measurable goal is something like: “I want to add 100 dollars per week of income to my bank by writing five 500-word articles each week for a life coach.”

As a teacher, I made sure goals were measurable by giving students options. For example, in my independent reading program, students could choose to read 5, 10, 20, or 30 books for the semester. Students who could not fathom themselves reading five books could conference with me, during which time I would encourage them to choose at least one book. Usually, that student would read the one book I asked them to, which meant a 100 percent increase over the number of books they'd read the previous year. And then I would encourage the student to set a new goal.

A – Stands for actionable, assignable or achievable

The best way to really get something good done is to make your goal actionable, meaning something where you can do something for each day that will eventually result in an accomplished goal. Goals should also be achievable or you will only get frustrated. Be accurate about the time it takes to reach a goal, and what actions it takes to get there. Also, know who will be responsible for doing it.

This is something I still struggle with. Right now, I'm working on finishing a creative project for grad school I need to finish in order to graduate, three projects for my multicultural and international children's literature class, a presentation for National Council of Teachers of English, and reaching out to publishers for an Assembly on Literature for Adolescents author panel I'm moderating next month. This is on top of teaching middle school. Yes, I may have bitten off more than I can chew.

Students can be like this too. They might tell me they want to read 30 books this semester — but they only read one last year. I need to take my own advice and make sure that my goals (individually and collectively) can be achieved with the amount of time and energy I have available.

R – Stands for realistic or relevant

and either or both are important and are true. If you want your goal to succeed, it should most certainly be something that is realistic or you will fail. It should also be relevant to your business's vision and match with your values.

For example, to achieve my goal of being an education leader, I have sought certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, a master's degree in Instructional Leadership and Academic Curriculum, the role of teacher consultant through Oklahoma Writing Project, and attaining 10-years experience as a classroom teacher at the secondary level. Attaining each of these goals will establish me as an expert in the education industry and will enhance my educational publishing company's credibility–and ultimately sales.

T – Stands for time-bound, timely or trackable

All of these t’s are important parts of the goal creating and setting process. If you don’t set a time limit and you can’t track what is happening, your goal will be hard to quantify or show as achieved.

I've especially noticed since the pandemic that it's hard to stay focused on one thing for a long period of time. So if I decide that I'm going to walk three miles twice a week forever, there is a good chance that in three months, I'm going to get busy and forget. Instead, I set a goal of walking the miles on Monday and Wednesday every week for a month. At the end of the month, I get to reward myself, perhaps take a break for a week, and then re-evaluate and set new goals.

Whichever words you use to help you craft your goals, the important thing is that you need to have a process to help you make smart goals. Smart goals are goals that you follow through on achieving and know when you’ve met them.

One more thing about SMART goals…

Once you've set your goals, you also need to make time to reflect on them. At the end of a goal, whether you achieved it or not, you need to evaluate how successful you were or not, what lead to your success or caused you to fall short, and how you can duplicate your efforts or modify then to ensure success.

One of the best ways to do this is a keep a journal of your goals, including what you're doing each day to attain them and reflections on both the journey and the outcome.

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About the Author

I chose to proactively retire from the classroom teaching and share my gifts in a different context. I'm a damn good teacher and I'm tired of working within a frustrating system that won't let me do what I know is right. So I'm taking my business full time -- and I'm still educating, still making a difference in the world. And I want to help you do the same.

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