How to Set Annual Goals

nook desk claire diazortiz

Interested in setting goals? Every December, Michael Hyatt opens up his popular course, Best Year Ever. I highly recommend it. Watch three FREE videos from him about goal-setting here.

New year, new goals.

My inbox seems full of folks talking about what they want to accomplish in 2014. How to decide what they want to achieve, how to set annual goals, and how to make themselves actually reach them.

If you’ve been around these blog parts for awhile, you’ve heard me say before that goals must be actionable in order to work. Good goals must also have a timeline, or deadline. (The “line” at which said aim is “dead”, if you will.) I didn’t come up with this stuff, and instead I draw most of it from a certain smart guy (Paul Meyer) who is known for coming up with a great way to think about goals.

It’s called a SMART goal, and you’re not aware of the concept, let’s review.

A SMART goal, as defined by Meyer’s productivity tome Attitude is Everything (a quick 144-page read for just $2.99 on Kindle), fits the following criteria:

Specific: A specific goal is specific. Simple enough? In 2013, I set a goal to read 200 books. I did not say, “I want to read books” or “I want to read a lot of books”. I said a number. 200. (And I exceeded it!) In 2014, I’ll be setting another specific number for the books I want to read (more on that number and how I chose it below.)

Measurable: Choose goals you can count progress against. For my reading goal, I can count that easily to tell if I’m ahead or behind. If it is May 1 and I’ve read one book, I know I am behind. If it is May and I have read 120 already, I am ahead. Although measurable goals don’t need numbers attached, they need a yardstick you can work against. They should not be things that will randomly be either done or not done come December 31.

Actionable: Actionable goals tell you (or at least strongly hint at) what needs to happen next. To read those books, I better fire up my Kindle. Do you have a goal to expand your business? You’ve got to turn off Duck Dynasty and get cracking.

Relevant: Make sure that your goals are relevant to the particular season of life you are in. In early 2014, I’ll be having a baby. This means that I do not think that I should set a goal to read 200 books in 2014, and I’m instead dropping that to 150. (I hear babies keep you busy, y’all!)

Timely: Goals must be timely.  Going along with the baby line of thinking, if I have a goal to have at least one reunion with my college roommates (I set this goal every year, and luckily it’s a fun one to cross off), I should not plan for that to happen in the Spring, when my babe will be making its grand appearance.

Got it?

Now go ahead and clear off some time on your calendar to go and set those 2014 goals. Get a comfy chair, a fully charged laptop (or blank Moleskine notebook and fancy pen), and get writing. The image above is the lovely desk I set my 2013 goals at;)

And, for fun, give me a preview. What’s one of your 2014 goals?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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24 thoughts on “How to Set Annual Goals

  1. An impressive share! I have just firwarded
    this onto a co-worker whho had been doing a little homework on this.
    And he actually bought me ddinner because I found it for
    him… lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thanks for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanx for spending some tme to talk about thiis matter here on your site.

  2. Love the SMART acronym and all it stands for, but honestly what gets me more motivated right now to set goals is that photo… I could sit in that corner for days and create. Maybe it’s just me 😉 thanks for posting. Did you take it? (I wonder who to ask if I want to borrow and it give credit).

  3. Excellent ! Make a clear goal and plan is good, but if no action ,all is zero ! So take action is more important ! I’ll make my goal for new year 2014 before I have my Spring Festival , no matter on work or on life . 🙂

  4. I’m crazy about my January goal setting ritual and in fact this was my big weekend where my family knew I’d be locked away for a few hours with my journals and notebooks, plotting out 2014! I also blog about my methods and I’ve created Action Sheets on my website to help turn goals into plans of action. I hope more women will realise what a great way this is to make changes for the better 🙂

  5. One goal for this year is to organise my books into a resource that I can offer to the local community here in Labason, Philippines. So I will catalogue my 1000 books, paper and digital, by Author and Subject and make a paper version available to each local school by July 2014.

  6. A baby! Congratulations. Reading your book lists always inspires me to read more…and I often draw from your list. I’ve started using Audible to up my count a little bit so I can “read” when I walk.

  7. Am not sure if Paul Meyer is to be credited with the original idea of `SMART’, but this principle has been Schlumberger’s basis for setting objectives.. where Specifc / Measurable / Actionable / Relevant / Time-bound are the metrics which must be met. When annual objectives are set by managers for employees, `Actionable’ becomes `Agreed-Upon’ where empoyees agree that their given objectives are feasible before they are sealed, with quarterly evalutions on progress and not just a single annual review, when it may be too late for course corrections.

    While this article is good, it has nothing original and is just old wine boxed in a new blog..

    – Jason

    • Jason,
      Firstly nothing wrong with old wine. Profound truth can often get lost in the daily clutter of our lives. Secondly attribution is by any accounting is murky, MBO was the fertiliser that spawned the Smart formula and was found in Peter Druckers, Management by Objectives publication in 1951, the first reference to it a a formula being in the November 1981 issue of Management Review, by George Doran. (All found in numerous references including Wikipedia) In terms of Claire’s post, Meyer is more relevant because he extended the concept into a person’s everyday life. Meyer a renowned business consultant made further shifts away from the cold MBO ideas which employees “didn’t get” because it meant little to them personally. Claire was saying Meyer had the more human approach and took the idea into the realm of personal choice. Schumberger’s approach could be better classed as the more MBO based SMARTER approach, the SMART approach plus evaluate and re-evaluate. I think the words may be similar but the driving force behind the words are worlds apart. SMARTER gets employees to say they will work to achieve the companies goals by doing their jobs well or better. Smart says today I can change my world, in Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time Bound steps, much more exciting I think.

  8. Best article I’ve read in 3 weeks!! I like that you mentioned “measurable” and timely…
    Yup…I have a goal. I’m reading everything I can on “learning organizations” and then I’m going to switch my work to creating and supporting a learning organization.
    It’s relevant to me!! I love the creativity that learning affords me..not to mention keeping my brain active and my heart and soul, together!!!
    Thanks Claire!! You are inspirational!!

  9. One of my major goals for 2014 is to stop procrastinating. I am the “Procrastination Queen”. Does that mean that I think I work better under pressure? NO!!! I just procrastinate. This is certainly a “Measurable” goal for me because in eliminating procrastination, I should only have to think about doing it once, get it done and that particular goal is eliminated from my ability to procrastinate to get it done. THis is the one habit that really bugs me to no end and this is the year to tackle this one habit. I t would also cover so many other behaviors and actions. Procrastination is Number 1 on my 2014 Resolutions List.

    • Yes it is but it can solve several problems at once. By the way, congratulatons on your upcoming bundle of joy. I send you wishes for a short labor and a healthy and happy bundle.

  10. Starting in March, I will be driving around the edge of the US (not including Alaska) as an extended art project. I’ve wanted to do this for years, and it’s now time. Crowd funding will be involved.
    I’ve already mapped out the entire route.
    Next step is getting specific on destination dates between Santa Monica and South Carolina to book rooms.
    And get the Indiegogo campaign going!

  11. Well First off Congratulations Claire on your news about having a baby early this year!

    SMART is a technique we use in Sales Training and I think it creates a very successful strategy.
    Thanks for the specific examples though, that help really to sharpen the focus.

    Happy New Year!

  12. My goal for 2014 is to write more. I’m participating in Jon Acuff’s 30 Days of Hustle in order to get it done! For the month of January, I will:

    1.) Get up at 5:30 AM CT
    2.) Drink a full glass of water & eat a good breakfast.
    3.) Do 10-15 minutes of yoga/stretching.
    4.) Write! A blog post, a chunk of my novel, free flowing thoughts. Whatever, just so long as I get some words on the page.
    5.) THEN go to the day job.

    I’m hoping that this beginning of the year hustle kicks me into gear!

    Thanks for the actionable advice, as always, Claire.