S.M.A.R.T. goals: the entrepreneurial New Year’s resolutions

Edition 27 December, by Phoebe Dodds

New year, new you. Every year as 1 January approaches, we set ambitious resolutions, ready for the following year to be our best ever. But according to Forbes, studies show that less than 25% of us are actually still sticking with our resolutions by the end of January. Even more depressing is the fact that only 8% of people actually ever achieve their predetermined goals. So if we don’t want to be part of that statistic, this year we’re going to have to do something differently.

My background is in entrepreneurship, a field notorious for its goal-setters, key performance indicators and benchmarks. Entrepreneurs are doing something right – after all, it’s people like Bill Gates (founder of Microsoft), Ariana Huffington (founder of the Huffington Post) and Susan Wojcicki (CEO of YouTube) who run everything from our media to our social networks. So for my 2020 New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve decided to give entrepreneurial goal-setting a try, using the S.M.A.R.T. method.

What is S.M.A.R.T. goal setting?
Admittedly, it’s not the sexiest way to make ambitious and exciting plans for the year ahead. Most commonly applied in corporates and stuffy job interviews, S.M.A.R.T. goals are measurable, making you more likely to succeed in achieving them. If you want to reduce the chances of you quitting your resolutions before the end of January, consider forming your 2020 intentions as S.M.A.R.T. goals too.

S is for Specific
Step one is to figure out exactly what you want to achieve. Getting healthy sounds like a nice goal, but it’s too vague – and the less specific the goal, the less likely you are to achieve it. Instead, aim to lose X number of kgs, or be able to fit into a specific pair of pants. If you want to improve your finances next year, aim to have saved a specific amount of money.

M is for Measurable
Make sure that as well as being specific, you can actually measure your progress and success. If you want to be happier, that’s very difficult to quantify. Instead, you might equate happiness with getting enough sleep, or having a weekly date night with your partner. Whatever it is you want to achieve, make sure you’ll actually be able to see whether you’ve achieved it, once 2020 draws to a close.

A is for Attainable
It sounds obvious, but make sure your goal is actually attainable. If you currently read five books per year, and you’d like to improve on that number next year, think carefully about what you could realistically achieve. If you think you can fit in an hour of reading twice per week, then maybe ten or twelve books would make a good target for next year. Don’t jump to two books a week, or you’ll fail miserably and throw in the towel altogether.

R is for Relevant
The penultimate step is considering why you want to achieve this goal. What added value will it bring to your life? The more relevant your goal is to your life, the more likely you are to have the motivation to stick it out. Your goal shouldn’t just sound good to others when you post it on Instagram or LinkedIn – it should be something that actually inspires you, and that you feel excited about achieving.

T is for Timely
Now that you’ve narrowed down your goal, the final step is to assign deadlines to it. If you want to lose a certain amount of weight or run a 10 km race in the summer, break it down into small challenges, and set out a time frame. That way, just as entrepreneurs do when checking their key performance indicators, you’ll be able to clearly see whether you’re on track.

Use the S.M.A.R.T. method to quantify all of your resolutions for 2020, and write them up somewhere where you’ll see them every day. The refrigerator door or above the bathroom sink are classic options, but I like to set my goals as my laptop screensaver so I’m faced with them multiple times per day… I’m fun, I promise.

If, despite your best efforts, you’re not managing to stay on track with your goals, do what all good entrepreneurs do and pivot. If you realise you just don’t care that much about reading/running/whatever it might be, change your goals. It’s never too late to reset if you realise these goals just aren’t working out for you. At the end of the day, goals are meant to make you into a better person, not punish you. And if you really, really can’t stay motivated? Don’t worry – there’s always next year.