How to Set Goals that Actually Work

How would you like to make more and do more in less time? Wouldn’t it be nice to have your business support your life rather than living to support your business? What if you knew one of the most important secrets to actually making those wishes come true? Read on …

Setting effective SMART goals is one of the most important practices for financial and personal success. Sadly, I find that most professionals are not using this formula – which makes their lives much harder than necessary. It’s most often because they don’t really understand why goal setting is so important.  

  1. Goals help you focus and prioritize. Goals give you something to shoot for so you align your energy and attention on the right things. SMART goals give you a clear and compelling outcome to achieve. The clearer the outcome the more powerful the goal.
  2. Goals help you avoid SOS – Shiny Object Syndrome. Let’s face it, we encounter lots of distractions and shiny objects that tempt us to change direction. Goals give you mental barriers so you stay on the road you’ve chosen. They provide a context for you to decide if that distraction helps you move toward or away from your ultimate objective.
  3. Goals help you Eat the Elephant. You may know the saying: “How does the ant eat the elephant? One bite at a time”. Goal setting helps you take your big hairy audacious dreams and put them into manageable and achievable steps. This helps you build momentum and do more in less time.
  4. Goals keep you in Action. The best plans do not get the best results. Results require action. Action pursuant to a great plan will get you great results. Goals help propel you forward and keep you motivated – especially when you break big goals into bite-sized chunks.
  5. Goals make you better. Having clear goals and measuring your progress towards the goals will help you improve. It is one of the benefits of persistent, consistent, and tenacious work. The accountability that comes with SMART goals also helps propel you forward and focus.
  6. Goals make you feel good. When you set and achieve goals you will feel better – physically and mentally. Your brain releases dopamine as a reward which causes a good feeling. That feeling gets associated with accomplishing goals, which will cause it to happen more often.

How to create a SMART Goal

To make sure your goals are clear and reachable, each one should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.


A specific goal is very clear and tangible. Goals like  “make as much money as possible” or “make more than last year” or “work fewer hours” or “leave the office at a reasonable hour” are not specific. The goal must be clearly defined and identified – in rich detail.  The five “W” questions will help:  What do I want to accomplish?  Why is it important? Who is involved?  Where it is located? What resources or limitations do I have?


How will you measure whether you’ve achieved your goal? You must be clear on what you are going to measure (like money or time) and how you are going to measure it. Questions to help you: How much? How many? How will I know I’ve reached it?

Achievable / Attainable

If you set the bar too high then it won’t be an effective goal. You don’t want it too easy that you’ll hit it no matter what. And you can’t have it be so hard that it is impossible or unlikely. When I was in logistics my customers wanted to set metrics (measures) like 100% on-time delivery. That sounds great, but it means that one miss caused us to fail without the possibility of recovery – which had the opposite effect. Consider questions such as: How can I accomplish this goal? How realistic is it based on the constraints and abilities I have?


Your goals have to matter to you and they have to be in alignment with one another. Answer these questions to test relevance: Does this seem worthwhile? Is this the right time? How does it match up with other things we need to do? How is it connected to my other goals?

Time-bound/ Time-based 

Having time boundaries will help keep the goal of taking a back-seat to other priorities. Set an ultimate deadline and specific milestones. If your goal is to increase revenue by the end of the year you should break it down into smaller increments, like quarterly and monthly or weekly. This will help you keep track as you go.

It can be hard to set SMART goals without the input and accountability of others. That’s true even for people who have done it before. If you are new to this, and you’d like some support just reach out and we’ll talk.


Doug BrownHow to Set Goals that Actually Work