As it’s January it seems only normal that I talk about New Year’s resolutions… This year, I didn’t make any.
I have no arbitrary “high-level” ideas that I’m nebulously “working towards” and I’ll have no resolutions to break and abandon before January is through.
Instead, I made goals, S.M.A.R.T goals, and this year, like last year, I’m going to smash them.
Read on to find out why you too should ditch your resolutions in favour of goals, then get planning for the best and most focussed year of your life…
What is a S.M.A.R.T goal?
If you’ve never heard of S.M.A.R.T goals this might just blow your mind, the difference between a goal and a S.M.A.R.T goal is night and day.
A goal or a resolution tends to be a definitive statement like:
I want to lose weight.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a laudable goal, but do you achieve this when you’ve lost 1lb? Or are you still berating yourself two years later (even though you’ve lost 4 stone) because you haven’t lost enough?
The whole point of setting goals is to achieve them, whether that be losing weight, increasing your rental yields or finally becoming a millionaire. There are psychological benefits to goal setting too, including higher self-esteem, motivation and a more positive outlook. I hardly need to tell you that a feeling of achievement or accomplishment is a great ego boost. Not to mention you achieve something at the end of it all rather than just wishing that your life and business were different.
S.M.A.R.T goals are:
If you’re come across S.M.A.R.T goals before you’ll be familiar with about a million different interpretations of what each letter stands for, but the sentiment behind each one remains the same.
An Example of a S.M.A.R.T Goal
I will lose 1 stone by January 2021
It is specific because it states exactly what you are working towards – loosing weight. It is measurable because you’ll know you’ve achieved the goal when you lose 1 stone. It is achievable, 1 stone isn’t a huge amount of weight, you could probably lose up to 3 stone in a year quite healthily. Relevance is something only you can decide. If you really want to lose weight and it’s something you want to put time and effort into then it is relevant. If you’re underweight and you’ve been told to put weight on, then it isn’t a relevant goal. If you set a goal that is irrelevant, one that you really don’t want to work towards, you are far less likely to stick to it. The goal is timely, there’s an end date of January 2021.
Achievable and Relevant
Let’s talk about achievable and relevant in more detail. It’s straightforward to set a time limit and add a measurement, but achievable and relevant are where things can go off the rails.
You need to be honest with yourself about what is achievable and relevant and devote some time to making sure the goals you set straddle the line between them. If you set yourself a goal to become a millionaire by January 2021 and you currently have one property with a rental yield of 1% the chances are you aren’t becoming a millionaire in a year. It isn’t realistic. If you set yourself a goal like this, it will have the opposite effect. You’ll find it too hard to work towards the goal, you won’t achieve it and you’ll become dejected and less likely to work towards your other goals. The converse is also true. If you set goals that are too easy to achieve you may become over-confident. This will lead to you taking on more difficult goals than you can achieve. Alternatively, you’ll forego the feeling of accomplishment because you’ll realise meeting goals that are too easy is a hollow victory.
Pick goals that are achievable with a little effort, and make sure they align with your values and the direction you want your life and business to go in.
Reflecting on Goals
Before setting your goals spend some time reflecting on where you are now, what got you here and where you want to be in the future. Consider the things you value in life and business and take the time to assess what you want and what you can achieve. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses and you should factor these in when setting goals for yourself.
I absolutely love the idea of running, health and fitness is something I value, but setting myself a goal of running 5k, no matter the timeframe, is going to end in disaster. I know I don’t have the stamina, the willpower or the physical build for running. Especially when it’s cold and raining, and I can curl up with a book and a coffee instead. If I want a health-based goal I should stick to the gym, walking or doing a home-based exercise routine.
Reflecting honestly on what you can and can’t do (as well as on what you are willing to do) means you’re more likely to pick goals you will succeed at.
Adjusting Goals as you go Along
Goals don’t have to be rigid, in fact, they shouldn’t be.
If you hit a goal ahead of time, you can update it or make a new one. Overachieving a goal adds tenfold to that feeling of accomplishment. Setting a new goal straight away allows you to channel that energy into being successful at something else or taking that initial goal further than you anticipated.
If you don’t hit a goal on time, reflect on it to discover why. Maybe the goal was too ambitious, maybe you didn’t work hard enough at it. Whatever prevented the goal from being met, learn from it. Use what you learn to set future goals that you have more chance of meeting. The key here is not to let it get you down, instead tweak your goal and approach it with renewed vigour knowing you’re going to smash it this time. Even if you didn’t meet the goal, acknowledge how close you came, some progress towards a goal is infinitely better than no progress towards no goals.
Remember goals don’t have to have a 1-year time frame. You might set some short-term goals intended to be hit in a few weeks or months, others you may set over a few years. The most common way to set ambitious goals is to choose a large goal you want to accomplish over a few years and to break that down into smaller goals. For instance, if you want to write a book, you might set yourself a time frame of 3 years, but you could break that down into:
Outline the book by March 2020
Write chapter 1 by June 2020
And so on. One of the benefits of this approach is that should you miss one of the smaller goals you can adjust the larger goal to account for it. That isn’t to say that you should adjust all your goals so that you are always successful, but you should adjust goals based on what you learn as you go along.
Slipping up / Straying from the Goals
One of the reasons so many new years resolutions fail is because they aren’t measurable and timely. Losing weight, for example, is one of the more common ones. You could try hard at it for weeks, then one day you slip up, eat way too many calories, and suddenly that allows you to conclude that your diet is over. You have failed, end of resolution. Make it a S.M.A.R.T goal though and suddenly you’ve got until January next year to hit your target weight. So, you slipped up, had a bad day, start again tomorrow. That’s the power of having smart goals and adopting an achievement mind set.
As time rumbles on there will be plenty of shiny things that pop up and threaten to take your attention away from the things you need to do to meet your goals.
When you’re working towards something specific it’s easy to see when you’re wasting your time or whether you are furthering your goals. For instance, if one of your business goals is to reduce expenses, spending time looking at new properties isn’t going to help you achieve your goal. Instead you know you need to put time aside to go through your expenditure and identify items you can reduce your spending on, or research cheaper suppliers.
You aren’t super-human, you will stray from your goals now and again, you will have bad days, you will get distracted. But the goals you’ve set should always bring you back to what you need to do.
It is a psychological fact that you are more likely to stick to and achieve your goals if you tell someone else about them. That’s because you feel as if the person you’ve told is going to hold you accountable. When you feel like quitting you can imagine yourself telling that person you’ve failed, and you’ll find some magic resolve you didn’t think you previously had. This is true of business goals as well as personal goals.
Once you’ve set your goals, tell people about them. Choose people you trust and that you can rely on to hold you accountable.
You should also hold yourself accountable by re-visiting your goals on a regular basis, not only to keep them front of mind, but also to assess your progress.
Number of Goals to set
You shouldn’t set too many goals, or you will find them impossible to achieve. Think about how much time you can put towards achieving them and whether they are all achievable in the time frame you’ve set.
You don’t have to have a thousand-page business plan with the latest 3d graphics in branded colours showing a detailed cash flow forecast for the next 10 years. I mean sure, if you’re that way inclined and you love a graph as much as I do, get stuck in, but for most people it just isn’t necessary.
You should write down your business goals and how you’re going to work towards them. This makes them real and gives you something to regularly reflect on. Don’t use statements like “I want to”, or “I could” when writing your goals. Use definitive language, for instance: I will reduce expenses by 10% by January 2022. This helps you to visualise meeting the goal and makes it more likely that you’ll work towards achieving it.
Keep your business goals somewhere you can access easily from any device and make sure you re-visit them regularly. If you ever find yourself wondering what to work on next, look at your goals, they are your answer.
While it’s fine to get business plan templates and ideas from other landlords, you need to make sure the goals you set are not regurgitated from someone or somewhere else. It’s important the goals are something you want to achieve for your business and that they are relevant to you.
Goals shouldn’t just be limited to your business; they have the same powerful effect if you are using them for personal reasons as well.
Setting personal goals can help you change your life for the better and move towards embodying the values and traits you wish you had.
It is easier to set huge goals that are difficult to accomplish when making them for personal reasons. Don’t set too many personal goals and make sure you reflect on what you feel you can truly accomplish. If you work full time and have other responsibilities your free time is going to be limited, so choose goals you can achieve in the time you have free to work on them. It’s great to set yourself the goal of reading 100 books in the next year, but to achieve it you’d need to read nearly 2 books a week, is that realistic? If not, adjust your goal.
Whenever you find yourself with some free time, you can work on your personal goals, or you can put time aside to work on them. When you are given opportunities to spend your personal time differently you can see how this will fit with your goals. If it isn’t furthering your goals, you may want to re-think it. One of my personal goals is to add 50 new recipes to my repertoire by March 2021. This involves trying new foods and recipes and adding them into my food schedule if they are any good. So, if I’m going out to eat with friends, I’m not going to suggest we all go to the same restaurant we’ve eaten at for the last 3 years. I’m going to suggest a different place in order to help me meet my goal.
It is important to set personal goals that motivate you and ones you want to achieve. If you don’t, you’ll give up on them and be less motivated to meet your other goals or to set goals for yourself in future.
Put your goals in a visible place so you see them every day. If you’d rather work electronically consider getting an app to help you. You can use something simple like Loop Habit Tracker where you can enter goals you want to achieve and set notifications to remind you to work towards them daily or weekly. Or you can get something far more complicated like the Life Goals app which comes complete with journal, images and positive affirmations. There are plenty of ways to keep your goals front of mind, pick one and make sure they are easily accessible, so you work toward them regularly.
Once you’ve decided on your S.M.A.R.T goals you’ll need to create an action plan for your business and personal goals. Break larger goals into smaller goals and write down the steps you need to take to meet them. It doesn’t have to be War and Peace; bullet points will do. You can then follow these steps to the success you’re aiming to achieve.
If you struggle to break your goals down into smaller steps, or you can’t envisage the steps it will take to get there do some research to help you. If you’re still struggling, ask yourself if these are the right goals for you.
Now, get out there, ditch your resolutions and make yourself and your business some S.M.A.R.T goals to achieve your ambitions in 2020 and beyond.
Let me know what your goals are in the comments to keep yourself accountable and I may just share mine with you too!
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