Last Thursday, i-bank had the pleasure of sponsoring the Greater Memphis Chamber's webinar S.M.A.R.T. Goals on Equity and Diversity with Fred Towler, the Chief Diversity Officer & VP Global Talent Management at International Paper.  If you missed, you can still watch the recorded version!  Fred gave us a fascinating look at how IP approaches diversity - it's a must watch!  We thought we would publish a companion blog article that describes how to start on your path of making S.M.A.R.T. goals.  

So what is a S.M.A.R.T. goal, anyway? 

S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym that stands for "Specific, Measurable, Achievable/Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Based."  It can be applied to anything from individual goals to business goals, so it's a very useful system.  Here is each individual letter broken down with examples.

S - Specific

What does "specific" mean exactly?  Well, ironically, it's a bit broad in that the level of specificity can depend on the person.  Basically, it just means that the goal cannot be something so broad that it's not achievable in the time you want to complete it.  For example, if your goal is "to start a small, independent business like an Etsy store," that's far too broad.  It's better to break that down into smaller bits and pieces.  Obviously, it depends on your business and product, but you need to break this down more so you can be sure it's completed. 

If you're running a sticker-selling business, you need to create designs, determine and buy the necessary materials, determine your clientele base, and more.  These can even be broken down into smaller goals.  So, instead of saying "I want to start a small business" as the beginning of your goal, find a much smaller part like "I want to make three designs for my store that satisfy my clientele's wants." 

M - Measurable 

"Measurable" means that you need to find a way to measure and evaluate your success and progress towards the goal.  You can't just have a nebulous sense of where you're going with the goal.  Since your target is specific, it should be easier to have a sense of how close you are to completing it, but you still need some sort of parameters for how it's going to be measured.  For example, if your goal is to learn a language, you may choose to measure your goal in words learned/memorized.  Or, maybe you can measure it in time speaking the language if that's part of your goal. 

If your goal is more business-oriented, the goal's measurement may depend on what stage the goal takes place in the creation and selling of the product.  Going back to the sticker business, maybe your goal is to make a certain number of sales.  The easiest way to do this is with built-in metrics of an online store, or possibly in counting the number of items packed and shipped.  Your measurement might be related to the number of people reached on social media, for which ad services have built-in metrics and reach data. 

A - Achievable/Attainable

This is extremely important to maintaining your confidence and meeting targets successfully.  Being realistic is the most important part of this step.  When determining a goal, it must be feasible.  With the sticker business, if you're just starting your shop with a low social media following, it wouldn't make sense to say that your goal is to get 10,000 sticker sales in the first month.  It's just not attainable unless a miracle happens.  Instead, set your sights on something lower, using the data you already have at your fingertips.

If your goal is personal, like studying a language or a subject, don't overwork yourself to the point that you'll either be exhausted or extremely disappointed in yourself if you fail.  If you want to learn a language, don't say that you're going to start at a Beginner level and be at an Upper-intermediate level by the end of your first month of learning.  It will just make you discouraged and make you feel like quitting.  Consistency and feasibility are extremely important in wanting to make goals that will work.

R - Relevant

This is another aspect that many don't think about when creating goals.  The relevance of the goal is extremely important.  If it won't serve you as well as doing something else could, it's not worth your time.  For example, if you're running your sticker business, having a goal of making T-shirts may not make sense if you don't even have your stickers made yet.  It makes even less sense if you haven't ironed out all the details with store-providers, printing services, etc.

If relevance relates to a more personal goal, think about it this way: is this what I really want to spend my time on?  If you make a goal about improving your style but you don't really care about looking nice, why spend your time doing it?  Returning to the point about language-learning, if your goal is to buy five textbooks for some reason, it's probably not relevant if you're not going to get through one textbook first.  When planning everything, make sure that it will actually have a positive impact on what you want to get done.

T - Time-based

This may be the most important one.  When making a goal, you need to have parameters for when things will get done.  It's all fine and grand preparing your goal, organizing all the little details, and feeling confident enough to do it.  However, it doesn't matter if you're not going to set a specific time frame in which to get it all done.  Procrastinators, this one's for you.  Make sure it's an achievable time frame, but also one that will push you to stay consistent without feeling overworked.  For example, by looking at your native language and how long it took learners like you to become "fluent" in a language, that can set up a relative time frame for how many hours of focused study you'll need to do.


What does this mean for transforming a goal? Well, to take what was stated before, a non-detailed goal would be "I want to start a sticker-selling business on Etsy."  It's good to have a basic idea of what you want, but that's not a S.M.A.R.T. goal.  If the acronym gets applied, the goal could turn into something like this: "I will make three designs for 3"x3" stickers this week, recording when I finish the sketches, line art, coloring, and test prints."

Once you have all of these skills down, you'll be on your way to having your goals completed in a much faster, smoother, and organized way.  Whether it's to start your own business, learn a new skill, or improve your personal life in one way or another, S.M.A.R.T. goals are the way to go!