Let’s talk about goals and your game plan, because it’s time to move on from dreams and vision boards to actionable, tangible results. Whether you’re a team of one, or the owner of a thriving small business, your success relies on setting and achieving your goals.

Level up your business and business management by using the SMART goal setting technique. SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-sensitive.

  • Specific. Get laser focused and define exactly what you want to achieve. This is the difference between “I want to eat healthier” and “I aim to eat fresh vegetables, lean meats, and non-processed food.” When your goal is vague, the odds are you won’t achieve it. If you own a coffee shop and want to increase revenue, your goal could be to upsell 10 people a day to add a pastry with their morning cup of coffee.
  • Measurable. How can you measure whether you’ve met your goal? This could be an increase in sales, traffic, reviews, or referrals. Define how you’ll be able to tell the difference between when you started and when you’ve achieved your goal.
  • Achievable. There’s a difference between a stretch goal and one that’s straight out of the stratosphere. Is your goal one you can realistically meet, given your time, resources, and expertise?
  • Relevant. How does the goal relate to your business? Useful goals are strategic and thoughtful. Make sure that you don’t veer too far off the road. This is the difference between taking courses so your bookkeeping skills are up to date vs. wanting to venture into selling homemade cookies. You can have many passions and side hustles, but your goals should be relevant to your skill set and business.
  • Time-sensitive. When do you want to achieve your goal? Set a clear, by-this-time target date. You can set (and measure) milestones to get you there, so the outcome doesn’t feel as overwhelming.

Now that you have a clear plan of action, let’s focus on the five biggest mistakes that can derail your efforts to meet your goals.

1. You set your sights too high.

Remember the achievable part of your SMART goal? You want to make sure that you set realistic, manageable goals. It’s okay to have big dreams, but break those dreams down into bite-sized components. And don’t try to change too many aspects of your behavior, or your business, at the same time. If you want your business to make you a millionaire, perhaps it’s better to start by focusing on a five-year plan with annual revenue goals.

2. You’re vague about the outcome.

Get concrete about what you aim to master. For example, let’s say your goal is to learn search engine optimization, or SEO. That’s not an achievable goal in and of itself since SEO has many moving parts. How about saying something like this instead: For the next 30 days, I will take a Skillshare course to learn SEO basics, including onsite and offsite optimizations. Being specific also helps you identify the next right steps to take.

3. You don’t see failure as a path to success.

Failure gets such a bad rap! Even the most successful business owners have a long list of failures. Steve Jobs was fired from Apple in 1985, the company he cofounded from his garage. Then he later returned and went on to revolutionize music and mobile phones. Consider viewing success as a million little failures — failures that give you important information that can help you refine your strategies, so that you can achieve your next goal. Your missteps could also give you the strength to overcome obstacles in your way. Learn to see your failures only as slight detours off the path to achieving your goals.

4. You don’t plan for problems.

Even with the best of intentions, life sometimes gets in the way. If you know that certain obstacles will sidetrack you from your goal, create a game plan to sidestep the landmines. For example, if you want to eat whole and healthy foods, but you’re on a plane every week, you can plan to pack snacks and research healthy local markets and food options. There’s a reason it’s called a goal and not an outcome; no matter how well you plan in advance, making changes along the way is inevitable. Plan to be flexible.

5. You’re allergic to commitment.

When you’re setting SMART goals, make your calendar your new BFF. According to productivity author and Columbia University professor Heidi Grant Halvorson’s landmark research on goal-setting, deciding in advance when and where to transform your goals into reality can double or triple your success. It’s not only about self-control; it’s about the strategies and plans you put in place to meet your goals. Block out time each week so that you can focus on taking steps to move your goal forward.

You can simply dream about having a thriving business or you can create a deliberate and concrete path to success by employing the SMART goal method. At their core, SMART goals foster discipline and help keep you focused on your goals and the strategies and tactics you need to use to achieve them. However, it’s important to stay the course and not get derailed by lofty, vague dreams, potential roadblocks, a fear of failure, or the desire to run screaming from your calendar.

Have you tried the SMART goal method? Tell us about your business goals and any roadblocks you’ve encountered in achieving your goals.