Be SMARTER – Be Successful

It’s amazing what going back to school can teach an old dog like me.

One of the great perks of being a freelance copywriter, for me, is that I get to spend time volunteering in the seventh- and eighth-grade classes of my local elementary school.

But I didn’t expect to learn a lesson in goal setting I could pass on to you from these classes. This is exactly what happened a couple of weeks ago when Rose – the college options teacher – talked to the eighth-graders about goal setting.

Rose expressed what I’d been teaching my Circle of Success members about goal setting with a simple mnemonic. I researched it. It turns out this approach is over 30 years old. I just hadn’t heard it expressed in the way Rose did.

So if you’ve heard this before, bear with me. It should be a good review. If it’s new to you, her approach is an excellent and simple way to approach your goal setting.

When setting goals – be SMARTER.

Each letter of that word represents one factor in setting effective goals. We’ll be talking about each of these steps in greater detail over the next few weeks. But today I want to give you an overview of the system.

S – SMARTER goals are Specific …

Because you’re an AWAI member, you want to be a successful copywriter. That’s an admirable, large-scale goal. But it’s not specific. It’s too general. Too broad. And too big.

The question to ask is, “What exactly do I mean when I say this?”

For your goal to be SMARTER, it must be specific. You have to state exactly what you want to accomplish. You have to answer these questions: Who? What? Why?

For example, instead of saying, “I want to be a successful copywriter,” you should say, “I will have my first paying copywriting client.” This covers the “Who” (I) and “What” (get a paying client). But it doesn’t answer, “Why?”

It’s easy to answer that question in a general way by saying something like, “Because I want to become a successful copywriter.” But that’s still not specific enough. Your “Why” would be better answered with something like, “Because it will allow me to create the first sample for my copywriting portfolio.”

This first part of setting smart goals is the most important. By being very specific, you force yourself to look closely at your goals. You gain insight into what you really need to accomplish to reach your large, overarching goal.

We’ll be looking at exactly how to drill down from general to specific goals in the next issue of The Golden Thread that discusses SMART goals.

M – SMARTER goals are Measurable …

When you write measurable goals, you build a process for determining if you’ve reached them. And – just as important – if you haven’t reached them.

Measurable goals don’t have to be complicated. In the case of our goal here, the measurable part is one paying client. It’s that simple.

A – SMARTER goals are Attainable …

Writing attainable goals is very important to keep you focused on what you can accomplish in a reasonable amount of time. This doesn’t mean you need to abandon your dreams.

Certainly, if you’re writing in the financial niche, you’d love to have a client like Agora. But if you’re just starting out as a copywriter, is that a reasonable goal? Is it attainable in a short enough amount of time?

R – SMARTER goals are Relevant …

This part of SMART goals can be tricky. After all, much of the work you do relates to your overall goal of becoming a successful copywriter. But it’s important to make sure the goal you write truly relates to your dream of attaining that success.

“Getting your first client” relates directly to that dream. It’s relevant. “Getting interviewed in the local paper about my career” is not relevant, even though it might be an indicator of your success.

T – SMARTER goals are Time-bound …

Setting time-bound goals is as important as making your goals specific. With a time-bound goal, you set a target date when you will accomplish your specific goal. Knowing you have a specific deadline for accomplishing your goal puts pressure on you to work toward that goal.

Your time-bound goal must be reasonable. The time you allot for achieving your goal will depend, of course, on where you are right now.

ER – SMARTER goals must be Evaluated and Reevaluated …

You can’t simply set your goals following the SMARTER structure and expect to accomplish them. You must evaluate – and reevaluate – your progress along the way.

There you have it for today: a broad overview of setting SMARTER goals. We’ll go into greater detail for each part of the process very soon in future issues of The Golden Thread.

But don’t let that stop you from setting SMARTER goals right now. To use a cliché (and I don’t normally like using clichés), there’s no time like the present.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: December 9, 2013

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