How to Get Back on Track with Your 2018 SMART Goal

how to achieve your SMART goalIf you’re like most people, by now you’ve fallen behind on your 2018 goal for your freelance business. Just 8% of people who set New Year’s goals achieve them, according to Statistic Brain. One month after setting a goal, 58.4% of people are still working on it and 6 months later, only 44.8% are still trying.

Many things hold us back from achieving goals, including:

  • Too much work and too little time
  • Goals that are vague instead of SMART
  • Procrastination
  • Lack of motivation.

Don’t Give Up!

It’s okay to fall behind on your goal for your freelance business. But if you want to wind up where you want to be at the end of 2018, with the high-paying clients you deserve, don’t give up.

Instead, get back on track. There’s still plenty of time to reach your goal—if you start working on it soon. And you can adjust your goal if what you planned to achieve isn’t doable.

In a Mighty Marketer post on goals at the beginning of 2018, freelancer Ginny Vachon, PhD and I stated our goals for 2018. Now we’re going to share:

  • What we’ve achieved so far
  • Where we’ve fallen behind on our goals
  • What we plan to do to get back on track.

Then I’ll give you some tips for achieving your goals this year, with insights from Daniel Pink, Jerry Seinfeld, and James Clear.

How 2 Freelancers Are Doing So Far

Ginny and I are both freelance medical writers. Her company is Principal Medvantage Writing, LLC and mine is Lori De Milto Writer for Rent LLC. It’s been about 4 months since we set our goals for 2018. Here’s what we’ve achieved so far and where we’ve fallen behind.

Ginny’s goal was to:

Get 1 new client and create more top-of-mind awareness by developing at least 5 pieces of content to help clients who are hosting advisory boards and the medical writers supporting them.

My goal was to:

Update my marketing and get 1 more anchor client, an extra-large client that I can count on for steady, high-paying work.

Both of us set SMART goals:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time bound.

Ginny’s SMART Goal Progress and Problems

Ginny has already met her 2018 goal of getting 1 new client. In fact, she’s gotten 2 new clients so far, both referrals from other clients. Asking clients for referrals was one of Ginny’s mini-goals for the second quarter of 2018, so she’s ahead of schedule on this one.

With the new clients, Ginny had too much work and too little time to work on the second part of her goal: developing at least 5 pieces of content to create more top-of-mind awareness among her target clients.

For the first quarter of 2018, Ginny’s mini-goal was to conduct market research on the type of content her target clients needed and begin drafting content. She conducted the research and realized that the goals and needs of her two main types of target clients are different. So she decided to develop separate content for each target market. Ginny also found a designer to help with the design.

But Ginny didn’t start drafting the content in the first quarter of 2018. “I have made almost zero progress on my content leads. In fact, I was so burned out at the end of January that I went on a vacation!,” she says.

Too Busy for Marketing

Too much work and too little time is the reason Ginny “fell off the goal wagon.”

But she’s getting back on it because she knows that bad things can happen to freelancers at any time—and it takes time to get new clients.

“My contact at company Y could leave, some manager who loves to talk on the phone could take over an account I am working on, or I could decide that I want to take on some more remote work because I need to dial down my travel. If there are always new opportunities, I will have choices,” says Ginny.

It usually takes about four to six months between marketing and when Ginny gets new clients. “I like to keep things going so that I have the freedom to have the best clients!”

Getting Back on the Goal Wagon

Along with the goal for her freelance business, Ginny set some major goals in her personal life, including training to ride her bike from Canada to Mexico in 2019, exhibiting her paintings in an art gallery, and building an office in her backyard out of a school bus. She admits that she set too many goals, and didn’t prioritize them. “I am not going to beat myself up but I am going to get serious about things,” she says.

Getting serious means that Ginny is adjusting her goal and mini-goals. Instead of writing at least 5 pieces of content to create top-of-mind awareness, she’ll write 2 white papers, 1 on workingwithmedical writers and the other on medical meetings. She’s working on the draft content. If she doesn’t complete this by the end of the second quarter, that’s okay, because she’s making progress.

Ginny also decided not to worry about using her content to drive traffic to her website, an action she had planned for the second quarter of 2018. Instead, she’ll focus on developing great white papers, which she’ll send to prospects and post on her website.

For the third and fourth quarters of 2018, Ginny plans to automate her expense tracking and hire an assistant. Doing these things will give her more time to focus on both her client work and growing her freelance business.

My SMART Goal Progress and Problems

My goal for this year was to update my marketing and get 1 more anchor client.

I’m ahead of schedule on updating my marketing, which I finished in the first quarter of 2018 instead of the second quarter. I updated the content and design of my website, and added a lead magnet (see The Storyteller’s Checklist near the bottom of the home page).

In the second quarter of 2018, I did drop one planned action: developing a video about me and my business.  I started working on this, including drafting the script and taking a course on Udemy on producing videos. But this is more of a “nice to have” than “need to have” marketing tool, and I don’t have the time to do this right this year.

Getting 1 more anchor client is a stretch goal, because we can never know whether a client will become a source of steady work. But I have gotten 2 new clients so far this year, and 1 of those clients has the potential to become an anchor client. I also have 3 prospects who are likely to hire me when they need freelance help.

Here’s how I got these 5 clients and prospects:

Since I was doing so well, I didn’t send out as many direct emails as I had planned to. I should have done this, because it usually takes from a few months to more than a year before an interested prospect hires a freelancer.

My prospect lists are sitting there, waiting for me to take action. In the second, third, and fourth quarters of 2018, I’ve set a mini-goal of sending out 20 direct emails a month. I’ll start in May and keep going until I work through my prospect list or once again have too much work.

So that’s what Ginny and I have achieved so far, and how we plan to meet our SMART goals during the rest of 2018.

If you need some help getting back on track with your 2018 goal, here are 2 things to try.

1. Choose the right time to work on your SMART goal.

The right timing, based on the “science of the day” and your client work, will help you achieve your goals.

How well we do something depends on the time of day, says Daniel H. Pink, the bestselling author of When? The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing and other books.  “We are smarter, faster, and more creative in some parts of the day than others,” he says.

The difference between our best and worst part of the day can be huge. And at certain times of day, we’re better at some things than others.

Choose the time of day that’s right for you and working on your goals will be easier. And you’ll get more done!

The Peak, the Trough, and the Rebound

Research shows that the day has “three acts”: a peak, a trough, and a rebound. The three acts occur in that order for most of us (except for night owls, who tend to rebound, trough, and peak).

The peak is when we focus best. Morning is the peak for most of us, and late morning (around noon) is when we’re really at our best. “That makes the peak the best time to tackle work that requires heads-down attention and analysis,” says Pink.

In the afternoon, energy and alertness drop. That’s the trough. It’s harder to focus during the trough. “The afternoon trough is the Bermuda Triangle of our days—the place where our effectiveness and good intentions disappear,” says Pink. He suggests doing more mindless work during the trough, like administrative work.

The rebound comes in late afternoon and early evening. We’re more creative during the rebound.

Late morning is my peak, but I’m very focused in the afternoon too. I like to start and end my day with administrative work and easier writing work. By about 8:00 PM, my brain is done thinking.

Ginny does her best work in three blocks of about two hours each: 9:30 to 11:30 AM, 1:15 to 3:30 PM, and 7:30-10 PM. She checks her email periodically and does “boring things that don’t take a lot of mental space” from 3:30-4:30 PM. She tries to schedule calls with clients for the afternoon so she can get most of her “heavy lifting” work done first.

Short Breaks

Taking short breaks helps people be more productive, and happier. “Frequent short breaks are more effective than occasional ones,” says Pink. “An ideal break also involves movement.”

Examples of good short breaks:

  • 5-minute walk outside
  • 5 minutes of yoga.

Every day, Ginny and I both take longer breaks. We both exercise, Ginny at lunchtime and me at mid-morning. Ginny’s second break is in the afternoon, to spend some time with her family. My second break is about 20-30 minutes for lunch.

“The breaks keep my mind and body healthy and help me stay balanced,” says Ginny. “They also make the time I am sitting in front of my computer count.” Ditto for me.

Breaks should be “fully detached,” so leave your smart phone behind. Pink even suggests scheduling your breaks the same way you schedule your work.

You can apply the right timing to all of your work, not just to achieving your goal.

2. Do what Jerry Seinfeld did.

What can one of the most successful comedians teach freelancers about achieving goals? Plenty, as it turns out.

Comedian, television producer, screenwriter, and actor Jerry Seinfeld is best known for his TV show Seinfeld, which ran for 9 seasons and was the highest-rated show in the United States. Seinfeld created the show with another comedian, Larry David.

Since his stand-up debut in 1976, Seinfeld worked on becoming a better comedian by writing jokes every day. His advice to a new comedian, Brad Isaac, was to “not break the chain.”

Motivation Doesn’t Matter

“It didn’t matter if he was motivated or not. It didn’t matter if he was writing great jokes or not. It didn’t matter if what he was working on would ever make it into a show. All that mattered was ‘not breaking the chain,’” says James Clear in, “How to Stop Procrastinating on Your Goals by Using the “Seinfeld Strategy.”

Consistent action is one of the secrets to Seinfeld’s success.

Consistent Actions Do Matter

Seinfeld didn’t focus on results, just action. We can’t control the results, but we can control the actions we take. And taking the right actions consistently will eventually lead to the results we want.

Breaking your SMART goal down into mini-goals and actions to achieve those mini-goals gives you small actions that you can take consistently. You don’t need to be motivated to take action. But completing each action will motivate you to keep going until you reach your goal.

“The Seinfeld Strategy works because it helps to take the focus off of each individual performance and puts the emphasis on the process instead,” says Clear. “It’s not about how you feel, how inspired you are, or how brilliant your work is that day. Instead, it’s just about “not breaking the chain.”

Make Your Goal a Priority

You don’t have to work on your goal every day. But you do need to make this a priority and work on it consistently.

Most of the time, Ginny sets aside 1 hour a week to work on her goals, either Friday morning or afternoon. Sometimes she’ll work on her goals less often but for longer.

I like to work on my goals at night and on weekends. I usually do this for a few hours once or twice a month. When I have a lot to do, I set aside most of a Saturday or Sunday. My 2018 goal was more intense than my goal in most years so in January and February, I also spent time during the regular workweek on my goals.

Ginny and I work on our goals at different times and in different ways. But we both have a process that helps us work on our goals consistently, even when we don’t feel like doing this.  Neither of us is perfect about working on our goals but when we “fall off the goal wagon” we get back on it. We are both planning and working to achieve our 2018 goals.

Achieve Your 2018 SMART Goal

You too can achieve your 2018 goal.  Start by consistently taking the right actions at the times that work best for you.


Learn More About Achieving Your SMART Goal

From The Mighty Marketer

Find the Freelance Clients You Deserve with Your 2018 Goal

9 Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Start Getting the Clients You Deserve

Grow Your Freelance Business by Catching a Few Whales

Word of Mouth: The Way to Get the Best Freelance Clients

Direct Email: The Awesome Way that 4 Freelancers Got 12 Clients

5 Ways Freelancers are Getting High-Paying Freelance Clients through LinkedIn

Other Resources

James Clear, “How to Stop Procrastinating on Your Goals by Using the “Seinfeld Strategy””

How to Be Healthier, Happier and More Productive: It’s All in the Timing”