Think SMART: Business goals for 2021
If you’re anything like us, you can’t wait to see the back of 2020. What an absolute sh*tshow of a year! Time to put it behind us and set some goals for the year ahead, then. Let’s make them SMART…
Goals for 2021? Really!?
You’d be forgiven for wondering if there’s any point in setting SMART business goals for 2021. Coronavirus took a massive dump on all the things we hoped to achieve in 2020 and, while we’re in the midst of another national lockdown, the future doesn’t look any more certain than it did back in May.
We’re all still floundering at the whims of a global pandemic, whether in business or in life. And do you know what? That’s completely understandable. So if you don’t have the time or the headspace to sit down and map out your plan for world domination, that’s fine. Don’t. Because your mental health is more important than almost everything else right now. As long as you can still put food on the table, and your families are still smiling, you’re doing a bloody good job of keeping on keeping on. So take a moment to celebrate that. Because this year, that’s a pretty massive win.
Give yourself a break. Take some time to breathe. And when the time is right, and the world finds its balance, you can bounce back with renewed vigour to start making plans and powering towards your goals.
Be SMART about your small-business goals
For others, the idea of setting SMART goals for their small business is more important this year than any other. Some are desperate to give themselves a fighting chance of business success in 2021 after an absolute shocker of a 2020. Others relish the thought of having something to aim for, something to motivate them, something to distract them from everything that’s going on in the world.
It might be that you feel the need to re-establish a sense of control, given the past nine months when many business owners have felt powerless to control their own fates. If this is you, you’re going to want to make a plan.
COVID still looms large
It might be that you managed to hit all your targets this year. If you did, that’s no doubt testament to the strength of your will and determination.
Your business may even have flourished during what has been an epically shit year for so many people on so many levels.
But even if you’re looking forward to setting your goals for 2021, it’s worth bearing in mind that the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over yet. Whatever plans you have in mind for 2021 are going to have to be a fairly moveable feast. We don’t know if/when the next lockdown will happen. If you’re a parent, you won’t know when your kid(s) might be sent home to isolate for two weeks. All these things represent a huge Sword of Damocles hanging precariously over our heads, ready to fall at any moment and put a halt to our plans.
That’s why, for 2021, we’re going to have to set our goals in bite-sized chunks rather than 16oz sirloins.
Playing it SMART
Over the next few weeks, we at Comma Chameleon are going to be sitting down and mapping out our plan of attack for 2021. We’ll be honing in on exactly what it is we want to achieve. We’ll be thinking about what we need to do to get there. We’ll be focussing on everything that’s going to be driving us forwards. And we’re going to be making sure that, whatever we come up with, we won’t have to bin the whole lot if we suddenly find ourselves home-schooling again.
As a small business or start-up, with hopes and ambitions of your own, it’s important to set down in writing what it is you want to achieve by the end of the year. Whether you want to launch a new business, add new products or services to your range, double the profit you made in 2020, or grow your following on social media, your goal needs to be something you’re so desperate to achieve that it will power every decision you make. Because the next step is to come up with a plan for making it happen. That plan is called a SMART goal.
What’s a SMART goal?
A SMART goal is a targeted way of focussing your vision and identifying your objectives.
SMART goals are designed to make your overarching goal seem achievable by breaking it down into smaller steps, negating the overwhelm that comes with a massive objective and amplifying your chances of success. It also gives you plenty of opportunities to celebrate your smaller wins along the way, keeping you motivated and focussed on the end goal.
SMART stands for:
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Attainable
R – Relevant
T – Time-bound
So how does this translate into setting your business goals?
The primary reason many of us don’t achieve our goals (shout out to all those unfulfilled new year resolutions!) is that we are far too general when we set them. Take that ‘Grow my social media following’ example from above. Great goal, obviously. But really, where the heck do you even start with that one? It’s far too vague to be achievable. And way too overwhelming to manage on its own.
So what you need to do when you’re setting your big goal for the year is to be as specific as possible.
Instead of saying ‘Grow my social media following’, you could say ‘Increase my social media following by 5,000 people’.
If you just say ‘Grow my social media following’, are you going to say you’ve achieved that goal if you only pick up an extra 200 followers over the year? Maybe you will. But if your heart was set on 5,000, you’re going to feel like it’s a ‘less-than’ win and you’ll be pretty deflated.
So be specific. Say exactly how many new followers you want.
Setting regular, bite-sized objectives that you can celebrate when you achieve them will keep you focussed on and working towards your big goal, because you’ll have worked out in advance that if you hit each small target, you’re on track to achieving your year-end goal
You can be even more specific than that and break it down according to how many new followers you want to gain on each platform: say 1,000 on Facebook, 1,000 on Twitter, 250 on LinkedIn, 250 on Pinterest and 2,500 on Instagram.
Being as specific as possible is important, because it means you know exactly what you’re aiming for. And that will mean you can focus your efforts more productively, and you’ll work that bit harder and more efficiently to achieve your goal.
Another important element of your goal setting is making sure it is measurable. Because if you’re able to track your progress on your way towards achieving your big goal, those smaller wins are going to keep you motivated.
Setting regular, bite-sized objectives that you can celebrate when you achieve them will keep you focussed on and working towards your big goal, because you’ll have worked out in advance that if you hit each small target, you’re on track to achieve your year-end goal. Just as important, though, is that it will give you loads of opportunities for re-evaluating your targets if you don’t hit them, so you can tweak your plan or timeframe accordingly.
So for the social media example above, you could break it down into how many new followers you want to add on each platform every week or month. If you know you need to add 208 new Instagram followers every month (or 52 each week), you’ll know by week three if you need to up your game. Maybe you need to push out more content or place a sponsored ad to hit your target for the month – having that short-term target means you can be much more responsive, and you’ll stand a much better chance of achieving your year-end goal.
Regularly checking in on your progress like this is absolutely vital if you want to avoid having to make a mad dash for the finish line later in the year, when it’s going to feel much less achievable.
When setting your big goal, it’s important to make it realistic. Far too many people fall into the trap of setting impossible goals and dooming themselves to failure. There’s no harm in aiming for the stars, but unless you’re realistic about it you simply risk exploding on take-off. Your goals should be challenging yet achievable.
… set yourself some smaller objectives. You’ll be ticking them off as you achieve them, so if you reach August and find you’re flying ahead of your plan, you can always up the ante and aim higher
Don’t say ‘I want to make a million quid by the end of the year’ if you’re currently struggling to pay the bills: you’re more than likely setting yourself up for failure by aiming for something that is beyond the bounds of possibility. So you could start your goal setting by writing down your dream, and then thinking realistically about what might get in the way of that. What barriers are there to you achieving it? What would be a realistic compromise? There’s nothing stopping you building on that goal in the future. So maybe aim for £500k this year. You can do another £500k the year after and still make your million.
The important thing is to establish your one, attainable big goal for the year, and then set yourself some smaller objectives. You’ll be ticking them off as you achieve them, so if you reach August and find you’re flying ahead of your plan, you can always up the ante and aim higher.
There’s little point in setting a goal just because you have to. Unless you’re invested in your goal, you’re not going to give a monkey’s about whether or not you achieve it. So make your goal something you care passionately about. Make it matter. Make it have value for you or your business.
A common issue we face while trying to succeed is having too many goals at the same time, and many of them are irrelevant. If what you actually want to achieve is growing your social media following, don’t waste time faffing about in the backend of your website. An all-singing, all-dancing website might be nice, but it does nothing to propel you towards your goal. Instead, spend that time engaging on social media, pushing out content and growing your audience.
Narrowing your goals down to just one, which aligns perfectly with the direction you want your life or career to take, offers you the best chance of success. Because unless your goal fits in with the overall plan for your future, accomplishing it is not going to achieve anything. Use your time and energy productively, on things that will carry you closer to your year-end dream.
If you can hit every milestone and every deadline, you’re going to know, at every point, that your BIG GOAL is achievable. And there’s no overestimating how bloody good that will feel.
This is one of the most important elements of goal setting. Without a timeframe for achieving your goals, you risk them becoming a lifelong dream rather than an achievable new direction. Your plans MUST have a deadline if you are to put them into action, because a deadline increases the sense of urgency and makes it much more likely that you’ll complete the task.
Think back to when you were at school. Hands up who generally ended up writing their assignments the night before they were due to be handed in, even if they’d been given a month to complete each one. That’s because you had no choice but to do it that night.
The same goes for your goals – you should always set yourself a deadline if you want to stand any chance of achieving it.
Breaking your goals down into smaller, more manageable tasks will mean you can assign objectives and set deadlines that are in the very near future. This will have the knock-on effect of keeping your year-end goal alive, as well as sustaining your motivation to achieve it. If you can hit every milestone and every deadline, you’re going to know, at every point, that your BIG GOAL is achievable. And there’s no overestimating how bloody good that will feel.
The benefits of SMART goals amid coronavirus
COVID-19 shat on many people’s goals last year. People lost their jobs, businesses were forced to close and the economy tanked. There’s an awful lot going on in peoples lives right now, and above all else, it’s important to be kind to ourselves.
If, for you, that means not putting any extra pressure on yourself by setting goals, then don’t do it. Simple. Your number one priority right now is your mental health – don’t give yourself another stick to beat yourself with.
If, on the other hand, setting goals is going to be a positive thing – something that will help you prioritise the myriad competing demands currently being put on us, then do it. They don’t have to be business goals, either. If setting some personal SMART goals is going to help you navigate the next 12 months in a better frame of mind than any business goals would, then make those instead. Plan for spending time doing the things you love. Put down in writing all the things you want to change or achieve to make your life feel full. The principles and the steps are the same, no matter what kind of goals you are setting.
So that’s the SMART way of setting goals.
What else can we do to make our goals more achievable?
Bring your goals to life
Make it so that you can actually see your goals. Write your weekly or monthly objectives on Post-It notes and stick them around the house. Have a picture or collage of your BIG GOAL stuck on the bathroom mirror to remind you of what you can get if you keep working hard on your smaller goals. A daily reminder of what you’re aiming for will work wonders to keep you motivated.
Aim for more
Most people make the mistake of setting a goal and then calling it a job well done as soon as it’s achieved. But if you achieve your year’s goal by the end of October, why stop there when you could up the ante and aim for bigger and better things? Setting goals should be an ongoing process, whereby objectives are set, deadlines are revised and the plan of action is reviewed continually. This will ensure you’re always growing. It’s amazing how quickly achieving your BIG GOAL will become the new normal. So don’t stop there. Keep pushing for more and working towards bigger things.
Ready to set some goals? Download our free SMART goals template and get cracking.