Do you want to get stuff done? Make your goals smarter

If you are interested in self-improvement and goal setting, you surely already know about smart goals.

If you are interested in self-improvement and goal setting, you surely already know about SMART goals.

That said, SMART goals are so last century. These days, you’re aiming for SMARTER goals.

The new and improved acronym describes goals that are specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, time-based, exciting, and rewarded. Note there are several variations in the meaning of the letters (needless to say, this version is better). Let’s look at each:


Goals need to be specific, rather than vague. In other words, they need to clearly describe what you are trying to accomplish.

For example, “Our practice needs to make more money,” is broad, vague, and uninspiring. Instead, a specific goal could read as follows: “I want to achieve a 10 percent increase in revenue.”


When setting your goals, it is important to make them measurable. If they are not quantifiable, how will you be able to gauge your progress and ultimately, your success?

Choose goals you can track easily. Log your progress along the way and check off steps as you go. Having a measurable goal will help you stay on track and focus on priorities required to reach your goals.

Applying the same logic as in the previous section, “Our practice needs to make more money,” is not quantifiable. Instead, “I want to achieve a 10 percent increase in revenue,” is trackable and measurable. It’s easy to determine whether you reached your goal or not.


Action-oriented goals should have active processes you can create, track, and adapt. Goals aren’t spaghetti—you can’t merely throw a handful of pasta at the wall and see whether it sticks. Plan out the path you need to take to successfully complete each step.

Your goal is the ultimate outcome. By laying out a step-by-step plan, you not only know what needs to be done to move to the next step, but each one you achieve becomes a mini-victory that will further drive your motivation.

In our example, you could say: “I want to achieve a 10 percent increase in revenue by training my team and systematically recommend dental care to all patients who need it.”


Coming up with a goal that is unrealistic and unachievable is setting yourself up for failure. You cannot be successful if you don’t start out with the correct tools. If you have to aim lower or think a little smaller, at least you know that if you put in the effort, your goal is attainable. Each mini-goal that is achieved becomes fuel for the next one, driving you toward success. Multiple, small realistic goals can be your stepping stones to a much larger objective.

In our example, a 50 percent increase in revenue is not likely to happen in a mature practice.
A 10 percent increase is much more realistic.


As the saying goes, “A goal without a deadline is merely a dream.” In addition, goals should always be documented in writing. Ideally, you should have reminders in several places.

Goals need to have deadlines—they create a sense of urgency that will help you stick to them and work harder to achieve.

Keeping with our example, our goal could be: “I want to achieve a 10 percent increase in revenue by Dec. 31.”


If you wonder why goals such as, “I need to clean my desk,” or “I need to do my taxes,” are rarely achieved in a timely fashion, it may be because they are typically uninspiring (unless you are, respectfully, a Marie Kondo fan or an accountant).

Your goals need to be exciting. If they are something you are passionate about, you are more likely to drive harder toward them. New business prospects, buying equipment, and doing renovations might be examples of exciting goals. Having promising, exciting objectives help keep you focused and motivated to achieve them.


Most people deny themselves any special treatment until they’ve reached the final goal. This can lead to feelings of negativity and a lack of motivation.

When you tackle a long-term goal, however, you may want to consider coming up with smaller rewards throughout the goal-achieving process. If you reward yourself (and your team if applicable), it becomes much more fun and motivating to go after a goal.

Examples include a pizza party, a concert, or a movie. Or it could be a more personalized reward, such as a gift card, a massage, or a manicure.

Celebrate the little wins you have along the way and plan a big celebration for the end when you successfully reach your long-term goal.

Even cleaning your desk can be gamified if you place a chocolate bar under a big pile of papers to entice you to organize.

You can reach just about any goal in life. The key is to take a few minutes to set yourself up for success and to make sure you chose a SMARTER goal.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified, is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and serial entrepreneur whose traveling surgery practice takes him all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey.
You can visit his website at He also is cofounder of Veterinary Financial Summit, an online community and conference dedicated to personal and practice finance ( Kat Christman, a certified veterinary technician in Effort, Pa., contributed to this article.

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