A few years ago, I read advice from David Brooks, an American writer for the New York Times and other publications. He said,
“Great creative minds think like artists but work like accountants.”
There’s a time for exploring interesting ideas, but it’s also worth quantifying what success looks like for your business.
You can easily set creative goals that will help you think like a Picasso and work like a forensic accountant, and all without getting bored out of your mind.
Enter The Smarter Goal Framework
SMARTER goals basically build on SMART goals. It is an acronym for:
- One you can Evaluate
- Rewarding (this is key)
So, what does this type of creative goal look like in practice?
Last year, I set a SMARTER goal:
“I will self-publish a compilation of my writing books by April.”
That goal was specific because I was clear about what I planned to do.
It was measurable because I either published the book or put it off again.
It was achievable because I’d already written these books. I just needed to re-edit them as one book and self-publish it.
The goal was time-bound, hence the April deadline.
In other words, I didn’t want the goal to drag on towards the end of the year. I was also able to evaluate my progress towards this goal each week.
Finally, the goal was rewarding because I knew it would help me connect with more content creators on Amazon, increase my earnings as a non-fiction author and build my business.
(You don’t need to wait until New Year to set goals. Once every three months is a good time frame as that’s long enough to move a writing project forwards.)
But enough about me.
Let’s cover SMARTER goals you can set for yourself step-by-step.
1. By Output
An ideal daily word count is the easiest attainable goal to set for a writer.
If you’re not a writer, swap 500-words with another relevant content creation metric like podcasts or videos created.
Keep a little notepad next to where you work. When you’re finished for the day, record the date and your word count for that particular session.
You can also log your progress in a spreadsheet (accountants beware!).
At the end of the week or month, total up your output for that period. Then, try and beat this count next time.
I love a challenge, don’t you?
A variation on this creative goal involves tracking time spent in flow state.
That way, you can gauge the amount of time you spend creating each day and adjust as needed. It’ll allow for working on other areas of your business too.
SMARTER goal example: I will write 500 words a day, five days a week for three months at 06.00.
2. By Project
If I’m working on a book, I set a goal by breaking a large project down into small milestones that I can reach one-by-one.
Milestone one: By the end of November, I will complete the outline of my non-fiction book.
Milestone two: By the end of December, I will write the first draft (no turkey for me).
Milestone two: By the end of January, I will edit the first draft.
Milestone three: By the end of February, I will send the book to an editor.
And so on.
If you’re working on something smaller, your project could involve producing a series of articles, videos or course files to an editor by a particular deadline.
Or if you’re a blogger, a goal like this could mean writing a series of emails that subscribers to your email list receive after opting-in.
In other words, a goal oriented around a project has a beginning, a messy middle, and an end. So check in with yourself early and often.
SMARTER goal example: I will launch a new niche website with 50 search-optimised articles before September of this year.
3. By Deadline
Ah, deadlines, the frenemy of content creators everywhere.
I used to wait until the last minute before working on deadline-oriented projects.
Ain’t nobody got time for a due date.
Then, I lost a writing gig because I submitted my article on Monday morning, hours before the paper went to press. And I missed a few deadlines while writing for a local newspaper, and I almost got fired.
Now, if an editor or a client says, “I need a 1,000-word article about the latest productivity apps by May 30th.”
“Send me an 800-word article by the end of the week about the weird habits of entrepreneurs.”
I ask them, “When do you need it for?”
The topics vary, but my approach to deadlines is consistent.
I use the editor’s deadline as a goal rather than something to fear. I also set myself a deadline a few days before the actual deadline.
I put the deadline into Google Calendar and work towards meeting that deadline or finishing the writing project a day or two in advance.
The same applies for setting content production goals. A good deadline focuses the mind and your resources. It also give you confines within which to create each day, week or month.
SMARTER goal example: I will record, edit and schedule thirty podcast episodes by the end of this season.
4. By Earnings
You might want to earn $500 a month from a book you’re self-publishing. Or perhaps you want to increase your freelance writing income by 10%. Or perhaps you want to convert 1% of your email list into new students.
Those are pretty achievable goals for content creators. Research your niche. Find out what self-published books like yours earn. Explore how you can increase your output of articles. And examine the engagement rate of people on your email list.
Then, track your progress towards this goal and your earnings. Ideally, you’ll need to focus on what drives dollars into your bank account and avoid activities that don’t (that usually means cutting back on social media).
SMARTER goal example: I will sell $5000 worth of courses by launching a new offer this season.
5. By Publication
Perhaps you’re an expert in your field and want to share your knowledge. Or maybe you want to build authority through your writing.
A top publication accepting your writing is a great way to do this.
A year or two ago, I set a goal to be published by a periodical and I like to read Entrepreneur, Mashable and Forbes. I also wanted to write a book about focus and test my ideas in advance with the right audience.
So I studied the styles of content creators for these publications, and I figured out who the editors are (Google and LinkedIn are your friends!).
This process helped me come up with some interesting ideas I was able to pitch to the editor of Forbes and start writing for them.
Now you might not be interested in those topics, but consider what you read and if they accept guest content creators. Setting a publication goal will help you achieve it.
SMARTER goal example: I will pitch the editors of 10 publications with 3 stories ideas each week.
How Often Should You Set Creative Goals?
Typically, I set three to six goals that I work on at any one time. One to two of these are goals usually revolve around a book or large writing project rather than a single article.
I write these goals down and review them once a week, asking myself,
“What have I done during the previous week towards achieving this goal? What will I do during the coming week to advance this goal?”
You can set different types of creative goals for your business. You could set one around money, another around impact and a third around people you serve or help.