Smart Approach to Goal Setting

Goal Setting – the right way

The end of 2015 is just around the corner and I (like most creatives) have got GOALS on my mind! But I know this time of year can be so stressful for creatives:

You’re trying to finish up what you need to finish up and get ready for the start of a New Year. You’re torn between taking a much-needed break and wanting to jump right back in. You’re tired, but the New Year holds so much promise, and you’re feeling so inspired. You want to dig deep into what worked and what didn’t work so you can do business differently. You frequently feel both overwhelmed and excited.

I’ve so been there.

But I actually love this time of year! And I secretly hope I can help you love it, too! By walking you step-by-step through my New Year prep including my goal setting and planning process that helped me accomplish so many goals this year (and understand exactly why I didn’t accomplish others), and what I’m doing to set myself up (early) for success in the New Year!

In this 4-week series, #GoalSetPlanDo, I’m going to be sharing the following:

  1. The SMART Approach to Goal Setting
  2. The Top 3 Approach to Goal Planning
  3. 6 Tools That Will Help You Have a Successful Year
  4. 3 Secrets That Will Help You Prepare for Success This Year
  5. My 16 Goals for 2016

So if you’re ready to intentionally #GoalSetPlanDo and make your goals happen; keep on reading! I’m SUPER pumped! How about you?! 🙂



People use goal setting and goal planning interchangeably, but they’re actually two very different things. You see, goal setting is just the beginning. The first step in the process of making goals happen. Goal setting is nothing if you don’t take the time to PLAN how you’re going to achieve your goals. That’s where goal planning comes in.

For example, I want to lose weight this year sounds more like a wish because it’s a goal without a plan. You need to set your goal, plan out exactly what and how you’re going to accomplish this goal, and then get out there and do whatever it is!

The bottom line is this…

Goal setting is a list of goals. Goal planning is your action plan to achieving them. You need both to succeed! 

Make sense? I thought so 😉

Let’s continue!

We’re going to focus on intentionally making that list of goals today and tackle the action plan you’ll need to succeed next week!


The SMART approach to goal setting isn’t a new phenomenon. In fact, you might recognize it, or at least an interpretation of it (there are quite a few). I like to look at it a little differently, so I guess you could say this is my SMART approach to goal setting. Not to say that any other form of goal setting is dumb. I just happen to think that an intentional list of goals is a SMART list of goals.

That is to say that the goals are Specific, Meaningful, Actionable, Results-Focused, and Time-Sensitive. But let’s break those down a bit more, shall we? I’m even going to use my 2015 goals as examples for how I did or didn’t fully apply the SMART approach, why I did or didn’t find success, and what I should have done instead. (Putting myself in the hot seat now! #yikes)


You want your goals to be simple, but specific. Think of this step as the who, what, where, when, why, or how of your goal setting.

For example, drink more water (one of my 2015 goals) was a great goal! But it was also kind of vague. Drink 4 (cute) tumblers full of water a day is better. It’s simple, but it’s specific. It says exactly what I want to do, how I want to do it, and when. It even sets me up for my action plan!

BOOM! Done. Next?!


Your goals should really, truly mean something to you, or someone you love. Otherwise, you may not exactly be motivated to get up off your butt and DO whatever it takes to make it happen.

For example, I realized that my goal of seeing a movie by myself wasn’t very meaningful to me—so I nixed it. I don’t really care to see a movie by myself. I’m sure that I could because I watch movies by myself all the time at home. But I see going to the movies as a special occasion—I have ever since I was a little girl—and I’d rather share that special occasion with someone.

A better goal would be to treat myself and someone else to a movie once a month if there’s a movie worth going to see. (I had to throw a caveat in there because there have been some pretty crappy movies made lately.)

Ok. Moving on!


Your goals should be well-thought-out, carefully considered, and actionable. If you can’t think of an action plan or at least 3 action steps when you’re goal setting—you may need to head back to the drawing board and put on your thinking cap.

For example, get in front of someone’s camera wasn’t very specific (whoops!), but I had an action plan. As soon as I knew I wanted to make this happen in 2015 and why, I put on my big girl pants and emailed Natalie Franke. Natalie is someone I love and respect as a photographer, fellow boss lady, and friend (and it was basically my greatest wish to get in front of her camera).

I emailed her and asked if she would be at all interested in coming down to Captiva, Florida over Memorial Day weekend to photograph for HLA. I included all the details I’d already thought of and hit send! (Then I ran away from my computer because I was so nervous! hahaha) I came back an hour or so later to her saying YES!!

And guess what?! We had an amazing time and now I have (fabulous) new headshots!! #winning 😉


Your goals should not be open-ended or left flapping in the breeze. They should be results-focused and have a target or end point in mind. Otherwise, how will you know you’ve reached or accomplished it? (Hint: you won’t!)

For example, start a newsletter wasn’t a very SMART goal. While it was simple, it wasn’t very specific. Why did I want to start a newsletter? Who was I starting it for? How was I going to do it? When was I going to do it? Etc. I knew nothing past the fact that I wanted to start one because everyone else was starting one. Not exactly meaningful, I (clearly) didn’t have an action plan, and I really had no end-result in my mind. So it didn’t happen.

My 2016 goal of starting a newsletter is very different. I know my why, my who, my how, and my when. I have my action plan. It’s actually already in motion… COMING JANUARY 2016!! I couldn’t be more excited!!!

Again I say…

BOOM! Done. Next?! 😉


Your goals should have start and end dates and/or have a timeline. Why? Because it creates a sense of urgency and should help hold you accountable. (Even better if you make the statement publicly that you’re going to have something done by a certain date. THAT will hold you accountable for sure.)

For example, my goal of having a solid social media routine and strategy had no start date, no end date, and no timeline. I hung it out on the line to dry and left it hanging there all year. I hated not having a solid social media routine or strategy, but because I didn’t create an action plan or a schedule, I had no focused motivation. And because I didn’t have an end date, I had no real sense of urgency. Which left me waffling.

My 2016 goal of having a solid social media routine and strategy has an action plan (more on that next week), a start date (January 1, 2016), and an end date (March 31st, 2016).


Are you ready to start goal setting? I hope so! And I hope you’re pumped! I actually hope you finish reading this post and grab a sheet of paper or open a new document on your computer or a new note on your phone and start writing down a list of your goals! Don’t worry too much about each goal’s action plan—I’ll be going over that next week—but make sure each goal is SMART!!

Bookmark or pin this post so you can refer back to it if you have to. Don’t be scared! And don’t be overwhelmed! Just start! And don’t feel like you have to write down a hundred goals. You can write just one!! But I almost guarantee that once you start writing down your goals for your business and yourself, you’ll have a hard time stopping!!

I’m so pumped for you and can’t wait to hear all about your goals and how the SMART approach to goal setting is working for you!! Leave a comment below to let us know how it’s going or if you have any questions. If you share this series or your progress on social media, please use the hashtag #GoalSetPlanDo so we can all follow along and cheer each other on!!

FYI: I’m already cheering for you… with confetti and pompoms!! 😉

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