Why Goal Setting Does’t Work for Most Bloggers

Just a few months ago I helped a friend lay out a plan for a blogging business. Every time I did this, I picked up as much, if not more information than the person I helped.

For instance, when I asked about his plan, he proudly announced that he would like to take the affiliate marketing route. As with any typical guide or e-book out there, his plan was to pick a niche, find products, and write contents to promote the products.

Rinse and repeat.

He even went into the specifics, i.e. making at least a thousand bucks per month in two months. Starting from scratch. His eyes glimmered as he said it.

I bet whoever read this blog know it is doable. I was happy for him, as a good friend should. But another part of me told me I had to talk to him seriously. At the risk of burying his dream.

And that I did.

What’s Wrong with His Plan?

I know a lot of people may relate to this. Not so long ago, I was guilty to create such a plan too.

First of all, we create a plan as a roadmap for our actions. That may sound simple, but you could not just create any plan and expect that it will give you an understanding about what to do next as you go.

Clarity is key. Without it you will be more likely to give up on your plan. Don’t believe me?

How many of us have given up the new year’s resolution that we set just almost three months ago? My list could not make it past the first week. And I know I am not the only one.

By now you should know the reason. The lack of clarity about what to do often results in self-sabotage. If you find yourself checking email, reading a page, listening to recent podcast, checking email again and so on in the loop, you know how it feels.

Writing down “become an authority in my niche” is easy. Translating that into an action plan takes much more effort. Even more sweat when it comes to implementation.

The SMART Formula to Goal Setting

I’ve been using this method of goal setting for quite some time. It worked okay for me so far. If there’s something I failed to achieve that year, I just continued the next year.

You also probably read and heard a lot about goal setting. Perhaps you’ve even heard about the S.M.A.R.T formula.

The formula says that for goal setting to be effective, it has to be:

  • Specific. Drill down to the specific by asking the 6W: who, what, where, when, why and which.
  • Measurable. You can’t improve what you don’t measure. How could you possibly know you are making progress if you don’t measure?
  • Attainable. What attitudes, abilities, skills and financial capacity do you need to achieve it? How could you grow to match your goal?
  • Realistic. A goal has to be realistic. Set it too high and you are living in the bubble.
  • Timely. Ground the goal within a time frame. “Someday” is not good enough.

Sounds good so far, but there is still a missing piece. And that came to me as I tried to convey my points about my friend’s plan.

Like it or not, that may as well be the most important part of goal setting.

Roll up Your Sleeves, Get Your Hands Dirty

S.M.A.R.T formula is a safe way to set goal. It kind of keeps you inside the comfort zone.

As the result, many people tend to stay inside the rigid box to avoid disappointment of not reaching their goal. Everyone should be happy if they achieve what they set.

The thing is how could anyone be enthusiastic with a dull box?

The missing piece in the formula is that a goal has to be challenging. It has to get you outside of the box and be unreasonable. No, I’m not suggesting you become totally unreasonable.

A goal still has to be realistic. But perhaps it should be high enough that you cannot see the border between realistic and unrealistic. What from your point seem impossible may not be that way a few months from now. As long as you are willing to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty, why not push your limit a bit and see what you could do?

As it turned out, the more I think about it, the more I like the idea. I’ve been using this principle since then and the result is impressive. More about this later.

Apply it to Blogging

How do you apply what you’ve just learned to blogging? And most importantly, how will it make a different, if any?

  • The number of visitors you attract per month. Strange things happen in life. Some bloggers aim for 1,000 visitors per day but never reach it. Some plan to drive much more, but actually get a whole lot more. If I guess right, that started with a challenging goal. Don’t buy into other people’s comments, you know best what you could possibly achieve. Just set that goal and take action.
  • Moving beyond money making to business building. In many bloggers’ book, creating multiple stream of income is about producing little money machine and duplicate it. I don’t know where this idea came from but certainly that’s exactly the opposite way to do it offline. If you think about it, you’ll be earning much more — and do it easier — if you sell 1,000 shoes rather than 2 shoes, 2 books, 2 packs of candy, 2 mosquito traps, and so on. If the thought of building a business gets you out of the comfort zone a bit, you know you are on the right track.
  • Attracting the right blog audience. Admitting that I can’t be everything to everyone was an epiphany. It changed how I conduct business. If you think that you should treat every single visitor the same, you are leaving money on the table. Attract more people that you like to work with and focus on them. You will be a much richer person – and happier too. This is easier said than done. That’s why it is a good goal to achieve.

Isn’t getting 1,000 (or whatever figure it might be) visitors per day to your blog challenging? How about building a business and sell more products? If not, the fact that you are finally able to fire your customers and clients certainly sounds intriguing, if not ambitious — in a good way.

And certainly they are all more than just S.M.A.R.T.

To continue with my story, I’ve since used this exact method to write guest posts for more than 10 authority blogs in a few months. Yes, those blogs that I thought I would never write for. And earlier this year, I just planned to guest post at two more new blogs per month. That besides what I have been doing right now.

As with my friend, he used to dread writing. If not about working from home, he would not think about starting a blog. But now he even promotes his blog with article marketing and writes at least 5 articles per day.

I don’t know what it is about goal setting, but volumes of books have been written about it. While by no means I claim this method is flawless, at least it gives you clarity and the necessary oomph to actually motivate you into doing.

Now it’s your turn. What’s your trick for goal setting? How well does it work for you? What do you plan to do with your goal today?

Hendry Lee helps bloggers overcome strategic and technological challenges in starting and growing their blogs.

He also writes about make money blogging on his blog Blog Tips for a Better Blog – Blog Building University. While you are there, download your free eBook and subscribe to his blogging e-course where he reveals his secret about blogging and content writing!

23 thoughts on “Why Goal Setting Does’t Work for Most Bloggers”

  1. Derek says:

    The problem with most goal setting is this: people focus on things they can’t control.

    For example, they say something like, I want 1,000 visitors a day. That’s not a goal. That’s a dream. Instead, you should do this: I want to do 1 post per day and then I will e-mail it to 10 people I know.

    These are things you control and thats how you become successful.

    1. Steven Roddy says:

      I agree. Also your goal needs to line up with your habits. For example if you have a goal to lose 10lbs but do not go to the gym then the likelihood of you achieving that goal is not good.

      Rather, set an activity goal of being at the gym every morning M-F at 7 a.m. knowing that you are doing this to lose 10lbs.

    2. Faisal Anwar says:

      So in short, aim for a goal within your reach. And also know how to aim and what to aim for. I admit to a few mistakes mentioned by John. Very Good long post!

      Just don’t disappoint yourself with your goal.

      1. fas says:

        Yes, you summed it right, you need to make goals which can be achieved in real and not in dreams.

  2. Michael Kwan says:

    I wrote a post on S.M.A.R.T. goals a while ago too. Far too many set goals like “lose weight.” That’s neither measurable nor timely. You need to say that you’ll lose 10 pounds in 2 months (for example). Then, you need to lay out a specific plan on how you plan on achieving that. Track it.

    1. I think the “HOW” is the most difficult and important part of any plan.

      1. Travis says:

        In my experience, if your goals are well defined, it’s not that difficult to break them down into individual tasks or “sub goals”. Where the “How” becomes difficult is when a goal is too broad – the best way to deal with those is to break them up into separate goals that are more easily quantified and broken down.

  3. Good call Derek on worrying about things you can control.

    I feel trying to make your content as appealing as possible and shamelessly talking about your blog on all your social media profiles are my current strategies to attain visitors.

    Also commenting on really popular blogs is great. Maybe a goal could be: comment on 5 “celebrity” posts a day and measure the amount of traffic coming in from each.

  4. joe gelb says:

    good post, very interesting info

  5. Eddie Gear says:

    I would partially agree with your views. I start a niche site two weeks back and I’ve been able to achieve 80% of the set goals and targets so far. I expect to hit 100% within the next month.

    Thank you for sharing your views.

    Eddie Gear

  6. Still better setting goals that look unattainable than setting none.
    We always need to think big, then you need to put all of your effort and even if you do not reach that goal since you have put a higher effort than normal then you will still get a higher result then you normally do.

  7. SMART is an age old maxim that works well across the board but in blogging and IM there are so many things out of control.

    Especially the “R”, you may have no idea what is actually realistic until you test the market.

    I think it’s best to come up with a plan and commit to it, but with a review period after 2 weeks. Analyze your results and continue with your existing plan or modify it.

    The key criteria here is to make sure that you are making the most dollars per unit of your time, or at least laying the foundation for this.


  8. Bibokz says:

    how, why, what, when, where. Make it a habit… a passion.

    1. Jay Castillo says:

      I totally agree Bibokz, in addition to what John wrote, in my opinion, having the passion burning inside of you and sustaining it is just as important.

  9. Silvia says:

    I’d rather choose achievable goals and step by step I’ll achieve them during a month.I’ll set the other goals next month if I see the situation changes to the best.

  10. Yes, I would think big as they say, Think of stars and you’ill end up being on the moon!

  11. Jensen Ackles [he’s an actor; plays Dean Winchester on “Supernatural”] said in an interview last month that he doesn’t believe in setting goals because it’d be limiting his potential. And I think he’s right.

  12. Work hard and you’ll get what you want. This formula works everywhere 🙂

  13. Hendry Lee says:

    Thanks all for your comments. I picked up a few things here that will surely make my goal setting process better next time.

  14. Pahn says:

    I just realize all of this a month ago,, and it sure is really crushing me with guilt,, but then again , if the guilt is there, there is perseverance.. I know I can also make it someday

  15. You should place a gap in your plan so that you can be easily flexible for those. If you are not enough flexible than there are high chances that you will broke in the middle.

  16. tom says:

    Goal setting works for me if I focus on one thing at a time.

    Also, another thing is being realistic, meaning not assuming you will make more money later.

    It is almost like a worst case scenario, you plan for the worst and work to get the best.

  17. TStrump says:

    Another thing is to not have too many goals – focus on a few at a time.

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