How to set SMARTER goals, with Positive Economist Susan HayesCulleton [webinar]

Marlon Mai April 18, 2018 14 mins read

Entrepreneur, economist and author Susan HayesCulleton shares how she actively, productively and effectively uses SMARTER goals to deliver key milestones in her career.

If you want to grow your prospects or are currently trying to figure out the next stage in your career or may be possibly feeling stuck in a rut at the moment, this webinar will benefit you. Susan shares her use of SMARTER goals to deliver key milestones including building an international financial training company to writing three books.

In this Q&A video, following the main webinar, Susan answers:


Can you explain what you mean by SMARTER goals?

A SMARTER goal framework has seven key points. I personally have used this process over and over again both professionally and personally.

S - Specific

The first one is specific, so how can you make a goal specific so that you could recognize if you got there?

Use a positive word. What I mean by that is rather than saying, "I would like to get out of debt," instead  use a term like, "I would like to have £10,000 savings in my bank account in X number of years." Or instead of saying, "I would like to lose weight," saying, "Well, I would like to move towards a weight of where I am 12 stone." Or instead of, "I want to get out of my job," saying, "I would like a job where I work 30 hours a week and I get paid start £30,000 a year."
So where you're moving towards something first of all and secondly you recognize it when you see it.

M - Measurable

The second thing is to make it measurable so that you know as you're tracking off successes that you're moving closer and closer and closer towards those. Every single application that you make brings you closer to that job, every pound that you save brings you closer to that eventual goal of having savings that you're looking for.

AR - Attainable and Realistic

But it's also wanting to be for that goal to be attainable and realistic. Because if you are trying to work 25 hours a day or you're trying to do something that just really is beyond all capacity, you're setting yourself up for failure before you ever begin. It's important to say:

"Okay, this might be difficult. This might be very difficult. This might seem impossible. But you know what? Other people have done it, so therefore it's not impossible. I just have to work out a SMART framework in order to move towards this.”

Success Series contributor Susan Hayes "The Positive Economist" shares her advice on goal-setting:

Posted by Morgan McKinley on Wednesday, November 1, 2017

T - Timely

The really key element is that it's timely. I remember when I took on my PA, it was the first time that I had to document every single thing that I did in my diary because of course she couldn't be scheduling appointments for 11:00 if I was out finishing a meeting at 10:40 because I needed travel time. 
Previously I would have, for example, given myself ten tasks, which when I had to document it worked out around about 16 hour working days, 7 days a week. You may be able to do for one week but you certainly can't do indefinitely. And then I realized, "This is a reason that I never could complete to-do lists before, because I never had the time to do them."
That brings you back into attainable and realistic as well. So timely is key. Make sure you give yourself the time and put it in your diary - physically, write it down in your diary, create that space so that you can create your goals.

"Make sure you give yourself the time and put it in your diary - physically, write it down in your diary, create that space so that you can create your goals."

E - Extending

Make sure that they extend you. It's important to make sure that you're growing as a result of them, whether it's in a business capacity that you want to grow your market share or whether it is in a personal capacity that you want to grow your wages, or whether it is in a totally different capacity entirely that you want to do something that you haven't done before.

Maybe it's run a marathon or whether it is go on a holiday of your dreams, or take three months off to travel to India. As long as that if something where you can see yourself benefiting as a result.

R - Rewarding

I think one of the reasons that people fail with their goals is because they don't see results fast enough. For example I go on a crash crazy day for three days and afterwards I'm just exhausted, I have no energy and I just think, "This is ridiculous, and therefore dieting is not for me." Because of course I haven't seen any results.
Whereas instead if you give yourself little rewards along the way, as you clock up those measurable actions it's much easier to keep going. When I was doing my professional exams I think I took the best care of myself that I ever did, because studying is hard. It's hard on the brain, it's hard on the body, it's hard on your psychology. And it can often impact other areas of your life.
And it's very, very difficult to do that for nine months straight, unless you take care of yourself along the way, to remind yourself of why you're doing it and in my case occasionally go for a massage so that you can take the tension out of your neck. Really savour that moment when you've got that question right that you've been working on for two days, and then switch off on a Sunday evening and enjoy sitting down with the cup of tea and a good movie.

It's really important to reward yourself little and large along the way.

Do you have any practical tools that will help achieve our goals?

Yes, I do. Many of these tools are well within your own reach and most cases they're free. One of the key things that we can all do is network within our network. There's lots of ways, lots and lots of ways that we can utilize the existing connections that we have in order to propel us forward. 

Enterprise Organisations and Training Organisations

So for example, if I'm in business and I want to move in the direction of greater profit or greater customers or greater number of leads or a new service, I can always turn to enterprise organizations to help me get there. Whether that might be:

  • the UKTI which helps me expand outside of the UK
  • the Enterprise Europe Network, an organization funded by the European Union to help companies export across the EU
  • or Enterprise Ireland that helps companies move up the enterprise ladder in Ireland.


There's so many, so many state agencies and private organizations that are there to help us move forward.

FDI Agencies

Also if people are interested in expanding abroad there are many FDI agencies interested in talking to businesses who do want to expand.

When I was looking at expanding into Manchester my desk was very, very helpful in helping us find new accommodation, in looking to meet new people, again networking events, service providers, research funding. Similarly we have an organization called Connect Ireland which is an organization in Ireland which helps companies expand into and across Europe, and particularly obviously with the focus of creating employment in Ireland as well.
There's lots of trade missions that these agencies organized. There's also and lots of international networking events that these agencies organize. So particularly if you want to expand abroad, that there's so many, so many supports out there.

Career coaches

And also we have a lot of career coaches around. Some people are actually called career coaches, but there's also there are informal career coaches, possibly people who are simply in your organization or in your family circle or in your social circle who are a little bit more experienced than you. You can go to them and say, "Well, I'm feeling stop in a rut. Or I'm feeling that I would like to move forward and embrace a challenge, and I don't quite know how to do it."

Alumni or Careers Office

You could go to your own alumni in college, the university, and go back possibly through your LinkedIn group if there's one set up. But also you could go back to the careers office within your own university as well where you are now a graduate and just say to them, "I'm at a certain stage of my life and I need some advice." There may well be capacity there too.

Recruitment Experiences

A few years ago I moved to Edinburgh for summer. I didn't know where to start, I didn't know anybody and didn't have any contacts, didn't have any references. Not there anyway. I had them in Ireland all right, but not in Scotland.
I approached a recruitment company. They took me through my CV, they took me through interview techniques, they asked me questiones about my ambitions in work, what type of environment I'd like to have, what salary expectations I'd like to have, where I saw myself in five years' time.
It was really like a personal coaching session. Apart from a wealth of experience in dealing with employers,  they knew what I should be asking for in terms of salary and of course they ultimately got me my job as well.  I would certainly go and talk to a recruitment expert. Morgan McKinley, I've worked with them before, a really fantastic organization that has a lot of capacity within the company. 

There's no reason that anybody should feel alone or on this journey on their own. There are so many people out there and they're willing and able and so proficiently able to help you.

Other resources

Trello is an app that I use. I have it on my iPhone, my iPad, on the site as well. I've linked the three together. What it allows me to do is create three separate lists, so I have to do, doing and done. You might say, "But anybody could just write it down in a piece of paper." Yes, you can but you tend to throw away a piece of paper as it's done or you forget it somewhere.
Whereas with Trello I can really manage what I'm doing, I can see what I have actually been doing, where my time has been spent.  I can get a great piece of satisfaction out of moving a card from doing to done and from to do into doing. I open up the app on my iPad in the morning and I get a sense of where I'm at.
It's also great if you're working with a client on a project, because both of you can gain access to this board and you can both see where you're at and see what each other are doing. And you can attach things, you can have checklists, you can sign people to them, you can put comments. I found that it's really been fantastic for my productivity and I don't have to say, "Oh, gee, where was that to do list that I put again?" is my own blog and anybody can sign up for free and to get articles every week. I write about a lot of different things, but they come under the umbrella terms of personal finance, entrepreneurship, economics and financial markets. 

What is the secret to achieving our goals?

For me the secret is accountability. I don't let procrastination set in. It's very easy if I say to myself I'd love to earn an extra £5,000 this year but nobody knows about it, nobody's going to ask me about it again. If it doesn't happen, the only person that knows about it is me.

Add it to your diary

If you involve external sources, you up the ante, even if that external source is only a diary. If  I write down that three months from no I am going to have made 20 distinct efforts to raise my revenue by £5,000, and let's say I get to that point and I haven't taken one single action, there's just not a nice feeling about that.
Whereas instead by actually holding yourself to account, you can say, "Okay, I'm going to give myself to three months, break it down, how many actions per week can I do, put them into the diary." You're scheduling, you're actually scheduling your goals into happening, you're making sure that you're giving them the time to actually manifest

Team meetings

I found team meetings are very good. If people openly and are happy to do it, if they openly share their goals and then they can be supported, they can be reminded, they can be encouraged. And if they fall off the bandwagon somebody else can pull them right back up there.

One of the most effective things I did in my business was my business partner and I started meeting once a week. And we go through every single thing that's going on in the business and we both take away actions from it we have to do them by next week, or else explain why.

Accountability partner

And I also have another accountability partner. This is one of my friend Sarah and we  hold each other to account of personal goals. So whether it might be to run a marathon or  climb a mountain or go on a cookery course. Whatever it is that we might want to do that's outside of the professional realm, what we do is just two friends simply catch up every couple of months and we say, "So how are you doing on X? And how you do learn Y?"

I have to say it's also a really enjoyable way because it's normal to share your goal, it's normal to share the success. And it's far more impactful if somebody gives you a call and they say, "Okay, well you've got a little bit of a knock-back. Just get right back on there. Let's just move forward." Then you've got five more of a stimulus rather than, "Oh, nobody else know."

Now again you might say, "But could anybody do it?" Yes, of course anybody could do it. But the point is do you do it?

Do you actually take the time out to really look at what you're doing, where you're going and how you're going to get there. When we're singing Auld Lang Syne on New Year's Eve, that's the time we start thinking about where our lives are and what we're going to do and what we should have done by now, whereas we actually do it every single week, and that make sure that procrastination is just not allowed.
And when you keep procrastinating out of it, and you create actions towards us and you'll have the accountability to turbo boost all of that, your goals really become almost imminent. They really do.

 So for me personally the secret of it is like I mentioned earlier, the practical tools and support behind me that I can go on and reach for the stars, but particularly it's been the people who have helped me to get there. 

And it's actually on that very note that I just would like to encourage everybody to make sure and remember that you never know how close you are from an incredible opportunity. Many, many things that have happened in my life have done so serendipitously, and it's just because I really do believe that if you keep chipping away at small actions, a mega one is sure to come a little bit down the line.
I would like to finish this on a quote, because as a trained economist we're often asked by organizations to come in and to predict the future. But really in my opinion the words appear, "The way to predict the future is to create it."

About Susan:

Susan Hayes is internationally known as the The Positive Economist, is Managing Director of Hayes Culleton Ltd and author of The Savvy Woman's Guide to Financial Freedom , as well as a successful individual trader, financial trainer and speaker. 

Susan has the title of The Positive Economist because she is a breath of fresh air in the world of economics. While not wanting to overlook the suffering that the recession has brought about, Susan maintains a belief that it is possible to find many things to be positive about. Susan hails positivity as it allows for a can-do attitude, enables you to spot opportunities, even in a recession, and to get ready for when the tide changes. She says that although, yes we are in a recession, it also means that we are pre-boom which is something to be positive about.

Marlon Mai's picture
Managing Director | Finance & Accounting, IT, Sales & Marketing Recruitment