With 2015 drawing to a close I’m starting to review the year and beginning to think about 2016. I’ve got some good goals running at the moment, and I’m about to refresh them and plan out the first quarter of 2016. Since doing my first quarterly personal offsite back in October I’m making good progress. One of the main reasons is that back then I wrote down everything, and I made sure the small list of business and personal goals I carried forward was SMART. The SMART phrase is used so often these days that often we forget what it actually means, so I thought that as we head toward 2016 it was worth taking a look.

SMART = Specific; Measurable; Actionable; Realistic; and Time-bound

The single most important thing in making your goals attainable is making them SMART. A SMART goal becomes achievable because it is Specific; Measurable; Actionable; Realistic; and Time-bound. Plus the process of making your goal smart means you write it down. Research suggests that simply writing your goals down doubles your chances of achieving them. So what should you write down?

Firstly, what exactly is your goal. Be specific about what it is you want to achieve. The difference between a goal and an aspiration is being specific. Lots of people aspire to write a book. When you turn the aspiration into a goal you need to be clear what sort of book you are going to write, what audience you are writing it for, what it is going to contain.

Make it measurable. You want to lose weight? so how much do you want to lose? 5lb? 10lb? There’s an old adage that what gets measured gets done. A SMARTER goal is always measurable. Quantify what you want so you can see your progress and know when you make the target.

Goals are about doing stuff. Make sure the goal you write down starts with a verb. Straight away this makes it actionable. You need to know what to do to make the goal, and this involves a combination of action plans and new habits. You want to get fit? well perhaps you need to adopt the habit of going to the gym a couple of times a week. You want to develop a new business idea, then you need a plan to do it. You don’t need the whole plan right now, but writing down the first couple of steps, so you have enough to get started is essential. When it comes to putting the plan together GoalsOnTrack is my current tool of choice.

A SMART goal is also a realistic goal. It needs to be within your ability. If you are just starting out with a new sport then its unrealistic to have a goal to qualify for the national team in the next year. But being within your capability doesn’t mean it should be in your comfort zone, because you only grow by stretching yourself. You want to increase sales next year? If doubling them feels unachievable, pull back to where unachievable starts becoming achievable. Set your goal where you have a chance of success, and where there is an element of challenge.

Finally you must put some deadlines on yourself and make your goals time-bound.When are you going to achieve the 10lb of weight loss? put a date on it. Also think about some milestones, have a target for this quarter, then next quarter. That way you don’t leave all the action till the month before the goal is due. Also, don’t give all your 2016 goals the same deadline, you really don’t want your target for everything to be 31 December, then stressing in November because you aren’t anywhere near achieving any of them.

Make 2016 your best year ever and set some great SMART goals