Depending on who you ask, there could be three, five, ten, or 20 different ways to be successful. Goal setting is consistently one of them. Whether it is for you personally or for your business organization, you do not need to wait until the end of December — or fiscal year — to set up goals. It will be here before you know it. So, let’s not wait until then to start thinking about the future and reflecting on the past. I have the most success with combining 5-Year planning with SMART goals. The categorization and detail-orientation of this combination brings life into focus. Let’s take a look out how to create it.
I typically look at my 5-year plan at least twice a year. If there was a major event or milestone reached, I will go through and update appropriately beyond the twice a year. I was introduced to the idea of documenting a 5-year plan and having SMART goals by Professor Pond in one of my college leadership courses. I had plenty of dreams about the future, and I knew the general direction I wanted to go. It was, however, like navigating the United States with an old compass rather than with an updated GPS. (Texas, you know what I mean about updated; it’s like streets move around here.) Sure, you will eventually get there, but there will be a lot of wasted time and effort.
I believe Professor Pond’s teachings really kicked in after I was laid off for the third time in my young marriage. So I took out a pen and paper or Microsoft Word. (Who remembers these things?) I began mapping out what I wanted to accomplish in the future. I like the Business Dictionary definition of goal, “an observable and measurable end result having one or more objectives to be achieved within a more or less fixed timeframe.” (1) A 5-year plan takes those goals – which will we make SMART — categorizes them, and places them in a timeframe.
Goals are important to help an individual visualize what s/he wants to achieve and to formulate a plan for how they are going to achieve it. Dave Ramsey says, “The difference between a dream and a goal is a plan.” (2) Having a goal, with a written plan, makes that goal more likely to be achieved. A Harvard study found that “the 3% of students who write down goals for their life, accomplish more than the 97% who do not.” (3) Luke 14:28 states, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” (4) There are plenty of great reasons to not only have goals but to write them down. But, you have to execute the plan. That is where SMART goals come in to help us.
From experience, I would recommend having some kind of accountability partner on this, whether it is a spouse, mentor, leader, parent, child, or friend. My wife helped me and kept me from stretching too far and also allowed her to buy-in on the goals themselves.
First, let’s set up our ‘outline’ for goal planning. I use Microsoft Excel to organize my 5-year plan with the years as the column headers and the categories as the rows. Now, you can, of course, go beyond 5 years, but I would only recommend it for certain things. For example, you might define at what age you’d like to retire or do a bucket list item like playing golf in Scotland. So, let’s take a look at the eight different categories.
- Financial: budget, income, investments, savings, debt.
- Physical: health, appearance, exercise, diet.
- Personal Development: knowledge, education, self-improvement, certifications.
- Family: spousal relationship, relationship to others, development of children, the location of your household, vacations.
- Spiritual: church involvement, personal commitment, scripture study, prayer/meditation, volunteering, and mission trips.
- Social: increase/decrease number of friends, community involvement, personal brand, online presence.
- Career: ambitions, dreams, hopes, role/positions, objectives, leadership style, improvement of your strengths.
- Personal: pretty much everything else that doesn’t fit in the first 7. (E.G. go through backlog of fiction books, movies, video games, try a new show, and so forth.)
We have our outline! Let’s place some high-level goals in there. Let me list some examples. Once you have your high level in there, you can see how they relate to each other and start providing more details around them. Each cell will hold one goal, so you will more than likely be inserting more rows as you go.
- Financial: debt free, emergency fund.
- Physical: lose weight.
- Personal Development: earn a professional certification, go back to school, read non-fiction books.
- Family: date night with spouse, family outings, family vacations.
- Spiritual: attend church more regularly, volunteer.
- Social: post more on social media, spend time with friends, happy hour with the team.
- Career: promoted, enhance strengths.
- Personal: finally watch Dr. Who and Game of Thrones so you can see what all the fuss is about.
So, you have an idea of what you are wanting, let’s put a plan to that. A SMART Goal is a type of notated plan to achieve a particular goal or objective. Depending on who you ask, there are several different variations to the meaning of the mnemonic acronym. To my understanding, it stems from project management, so let’s look at what Project Smart says about it. This broader, more comprehensive definition will help you to be successful in both your business and personal life. I will be focusing on the bold-faced words.
- S – specific, significant, stretching.
- M – measurable, meaningful, motivational.
- A – agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented.
- R – realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented.
- T – timely, time-based, time-bound, tangible, trackable. (5)
Within the SMART Goal format, you are answering the following: who, what, how, and when. You can add where and why to the overall goal, as well. As we go through each of these, I will be defining them and providing an example centered around weight loss – one of my actual goal
Specific is an adjective defined as “clearly and exactly presented or stated; precise or exact.” (6) This answers the who and/or what. It should be well defined and clear to anyone with knowledge in that area – maybe even layman’s terms. What exactly do you want to accomplish? Let’s look at an example. If your goal is to lose weight, don’t just say, “I want to lose weight.” Instead, how many pounds do you want to lose? Or how many inches do you want to lose off of your waistline? Do you not really care and you just want to fit back in that favorite t-shirt of yours? As an example: I want to lose 20 pounds.
Measurable is an adjective “capable of being measured.” That didn’t help, what is measure? As a verb, measure is “to find out the size, length, or amount of (something); to judge the importance, value, or extent of (something).” (7) This answers the how. How will you know if you’re achieving your goal? Set certain milestone dates to track your progress. Whether it is by a weekly standard or monthly standard, it needs to be notated and measured accordingly. As an example: by replacing fast food meals with healthy prepared substitutes. I will weigh myself on the same scale every Monday morning as soon as I wake up and track it in an app.
Agreed-upon. To agree, as a verb is “to say that you will do, accept, or allow something that is suggested or requested.” (9) If this particular goal involves more than just you, is everyone on the same page? If this is a solo goal, did your accountability partner agree to it?
Realistic, as an adjective, is “the quality of seeming to be real.” (10) Is this doable (not necessarily easy)? Is the goal within the availability of your resources, knowledge, and time? This is just a check-and-balance with a yes or no answer. If you answer it no, make adjustments. Let the goal stretch and challenge you, and make it worthy of your best effort. What do you have to do in order to make it happen? As an example: would losing 50 pounds in one month be realistic — without surgery or a magic genie?
Timely, as an adjective is “occurring at a suitable time; seasonable; opportune; well-timed.” (11) This answers the when. Have a due date or an approximate timetable in place. This is very important because if you don’t have this in place, your motivation will decrease dramatically. You won’t be able to see a finish line. We all know things never go exactly according to plan, but that is why we have the milestones in place, to keep us in check and on track. In my example, the goal month is December 2016.
So, let’s put all this together. Please note: I switched the order of ‘R’ and ‘T’ as it makes more sense to me. (S / WHAT) I want to lose 20 pounds (M / HOW) by replacing fast food meals with healthy prepared substitutes. I will weigh myself on the same scale every Monday morning as soon as I wake up and track it in MyFitnessPal. (A / WHO) My wife will be keeping me accountable and be encouraging. (T / WHEN) I will reach my goal by Saturday, December 31, 2016. (R) Let’s say it is September 1, 2016. That is about 17 weeks, which would be 0.85 pounds a week. According to the MyFitnessPal app, a healthy weight loss is 2 pounds and under per week. So, this is realistic. You can now take a step back and see if you want to adjust the end weight to be more aligned with maybe 1.5 pounds a week, to make this a stretch goal. (WHY) I want to lose weight to be healthier, keep up with my children, and fit into that one particular t-shirt again.
Do this for every single goal that you have in your 5-year plan. You may run into some goals where you cannot answer every question. Use your best judgment on what to do. This is a living document. Do not be afraid to come back and update. Life happens and we have to make slight course corrections from time to time. As time passes, I go back and fill in the cells. Green if I achieved the goal as planned. Yellow if I achieved the goal, but not as planned; e.g., took longer, met most of the goal, and so forth. Red if I didn’t achieve that goal.
This was a lot to take in, but hopefully, the break-down was helpful. If you are like me, you think a lot; however, as soon as I write it down, my head becomes clear again. Doing SMART goals and 5-year plans have helped me out a ton. Good luck with your goals.
Thank you for your time,
(1) Business Dictionary. August 12, 2016. Web. http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/goal.html
(2) Ramsey, Dave. The Dave Ramsey Show. Nov. 2010. The Lampo Group.
(3) Study about goals at Harvard MBA program, 1979.
(4) Bible Gateway. New International Version. 2010. Web. Dec 28, 2010. http://www.biblegateway.com
(5) Project Smart. August 12, 2016. Web. https://www.projectsmart.co.uk/smart-goals.php
(6) Merriam-Webster. August 12, 2016. Web. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/specific
(7) Merriam-Webster. August 12, 2016. Web. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/measurable
(8) Merriam-Webster. August 12, 2016. Web. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Achievable
(9) Merriam-Webster. August 12, 2016. Web. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/agreed
(10) Merriam-Webster. August 12, 2016. Web. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Realistic
(11) Dictionary. August 12, 2016. Web. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/timely