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The Key to Achieving Your Goals Is to Define Them SMART-ly

Setting goals, whether they be personal or professional in nature, is such an important piece to our lives and/or business. Goals help us to keep moving forward, even when the odds for achieving them appear insurmountable. They motivate and inspire. When people don’t achieve their goals, the first inclination is to look outwardly. We examine our environment to see what dynamics or obstacles got in the way of our success. Indeed, this type of review is a fundamental requirement to get better.

However, in my experience in working with people across multiple careers, I’ve found that one of the biggest reasons why people don’t achieve their goals is that they fail to look inward and examine how they defined their goals--how they quantified their objectives. While there are a number of methods to help get better at this, probably the most common and well-known goal-setting method is SMART Goals--e.g., goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based.

Developed in the early-80s by George Doran, a consultant to corporate leaders, this method has been used in the corporate world to guide performance-related conversations between employees and their bosses in achieving work-related success. The good thing is that the SMART Goals approach can be applied to any endeavor.

In a photography business setting, here’s an example of how to use the SMART goal approach in your goal-setting:

  • Specific: Vague goals are the killers of effective goal-setting. If part of your business growth strategy is to better leverage your website, then saying “I’m going to increase the number of Instagram (IG) followers” is not a good goal, as it’s not specific (quantifiable) at all. A specific (and better) goal would be “I’m going to get 1,000 new followers within a year, from which I will attract 25 new real estate agent clients.”
  • Measurable: Goals are most valuable when they’re measurable. If so, you always have a reference point for your goals. So, establishing a metric is very important. For instance, to help you attain your goal, you can say something like: “I will make two posts a week, showing my top three images from that week’s photoshoots, as well as post one 'IG story' a week.”
  • Attainable: Yes, it’s important to aspire to great, big things but achieving a grand vision requires meeting a number of smaller, attainable goals along the way. Achieving these shorter-term goals breeds confidence that, in turn, keeps the momentum going.
  • Relevant: It’s also important to make sure that these shorter-goals are actually working toward helping you achieve your ultimate aim of new business development for your photography business.
  • Time-Based: Your goal should be time-specific and deadline-oriented. Having an ultimate “date-stamp” (e.g., I will achieve X by this date”) allows you to better establish measurable intermediary markers of success because you can work backwards from your time-stamp to figure out what’s needed along the way to help you achieve the overall goal.

I hope this overview of SMART Goals will be helpful to you in establishing new goals or even tightening up current ones!

Tony Colangelo is a residential and commercial photographer, as well as a photography coach, based in Victoria, BC, Canada. He is a long-time contributor to PFRE and is the creator of The Art & Science of Great Composition tutorial series.

16 comments on “The Key to Achieving Your Goals Is to Define Them SMART-ly”

  1. @Jerry

    One of the major priorities with the update/re design of the PFRE site is to improve the commenting process I.e. being able to edit posts, not having to input your info each time, the ability to like or dislike a comment etc.

    We’ve settled on a new login process that will make engaging with each other much easier and more efficient while also making it almost impossible to comment anonymously. There are a handful of anonymous posters that have actually added value over the years but to your point, usually if someone doesn’t want to share their identity it’s because they have no value to add and are just trying to stir the pot.


    Great article!

  2. I love the SMART system. I use it a lot when evaluating the decision in my business. Especially now that I've moved and my business has moved as well. I have to make a lot of decisions that I didn't when I was more established.

    Another great way to evaluate what you're doing on a daily basis is to the use the Eisenhower Decision MAtrix
    4 quadrants: Top 2 squares are Urgent, Not Urgent
    Bottom 2 squares are Important Not important

    Top Line: Urgent / Not Urgent

    Then along the left side
    Important / Unimportant

    Take all your tasks and To-Do Lists and put them into a category.

    Important/ Urgent: Do it now. ( IE Deadlines, Editing, responding to income-generating emails, proposals.)

    Important Not Urgent: schedule time daily to work on it. (IE Marketing for a new service, reaching out to network connection to maintain that relationship, testing a new piece of gear, evaluating your competition)

    Not Important/ Urgent: Try to delegate/ hire out/ or use a Virtual Assistant. (The daily distractions that keep us from being efficient in our tasks, responding to emails that won't generate income, or client satisfaction, unimportant phone calls while on a shoot, etc, etc)

    Not Important/ Not Urgent: Find a way to eliminate it from your life. ( Don't waste your time, get rid of it)

    Hope this helps, I use this system every day to cut through the clutter


  3. Jerry - A classic response from a poster like you. What is wrong with my question? Tony publicly makes claims of this long standing career in psychology and uses it to profit for coaching, so why shouldn't we all be privy to this information? There is no information anywhere about his career in psychology, he just talks about it constantly. You realize anyone could do that right Jerry? Or do you just take peoples word for what they say?

    Tony - So I ask again, where did you hang your hat all those years and why is there no record of it anywhere? On his photography website under "about" there is no mention of psychology or his high up position in a large corporation where he was a senior vice president. What company? Those are both pretty strong accolades and I would think, proud achievements to at least touch on, so that people have an understanding of how solid this individual is. No it's nothing to do with photography but he also advertises coaching on his website, where mention of a psychology background. Also his coaching video promo, you would think, ok he should touch on his psychology experience to explain why people like one composition and not another, but nope, just a vague mention of neuroscience and 28 years of coaching clients.

    Listen to this podcast at the 6 minute mark where he talks about his career and how he coached thousands of clients as a psychologist and then another 15 years in the business side of things, then another career coaching BC leaders in government etc, but zero mention of what company, where etc. Also by the sounds of all these years, Tony must be 100 years old. Do you know how long it takes to become a Psychologist? Then to have a long career coaching "thousands" of clients only to leave and join a large cooperation as a Senior VP, then move into another career coaching leaders in our government, and give it all up to shoot real estate photography across the country. HAHA

    If he doesn't respond, it shows he's full of it. If he can prove it, well it will only gain you more credibility and you shouldn't be afraid to do that Tony as you'll likely continue to sell more snake oil.

    You might think I have a personal issue with Tony. I actually don't. The issue I have is when people beat their chests and gloat about things, without offering any proof of their grandeur claims. He is profiting from these claims and no-one has ever called him out, so I thought it's about time since another of his expert posts arrived and another "shameless plug"

    Oh Brandon, what do you mean "we've settled on a new login process"? Who is "WE"? You mean you and Tony?

  4. It is beyond me to understand why people cry so much about not knowing who they're talking to. People feel they can be more open and honest when being anonymous. Cry much? People have reasons. I don't know anyone here and I could care less. What I care about is if I am getting something of value. Stop crying.

  5. Jerry,

    If we change your name to anonymous, would that negate all your comments? You sound like a 5 year old running around screaming about stranger danger.

  6. @Anonymous, If you do a search on any one of use I doubt that you will find much information about their past life experiences. Do a search on my name....did you find that I spent my first career of 20 years in the Army? I doubt it. Or what my professions were after the Army for 18 years before becoming a photographer? I doubt that as well. I guess that you think that since it isn't found in a Google search, or any other search engine, that it must not be true.

  7. Kerry Bern - What does being in the Army for 20 years have to do with your Real Estate photography services? Nobody cares as you're not claiming to be a better photographer because of your service? What are you missing?

    Tony on the other hand is making strong claims about Psychology as being the building blocks of his coaching foundation. He is charging a lot of money for these services too don't kid yourself. Whether he is a great coach and legitimately helps people achieve their goals is beyond the point. I just think everyone should know more about these claims he's basing his experience on.

  8. "Whether he is a great coach and legitimately helps people achieve their goals is beyond the point."

    Really? I think you are focussing on the wrong thing here. I've only ever read great things about Tony's coaching (from his clients, not from him!), and most of us are aware that a good few of his coaching clients have gone on to win POTM awards; and that's aside from seeing the clear improvement in their work in general. So, assuming his coaching credentials aren't in doubt, and you aren't questioning his coaching ability anyway, why does the other stuff matter? You say not, but it really does come across as a personal issue you have.

  9. Charles - Tell me what you found out about his background on Linkedin....I'm not an idiot. There is nothing on there about being a psychologist. Nothing.

    Matt - It's about entering into a contract with someone who is truthful or not. If you found out he in fact was never a psychologist and you paid him money based on that information, wouldn't you be a bit disappointed?

    Seems it was thrown out there loosely at one point and took on a life of it's own which he's decided to roll with. If that's not the case, prove me wrong…

  10. @Anonymous -- "There is nothing on there about being a psychologist. Nothing." Actually it was the other way, there was only information about his career in psychology with no mention of the photography side.

    Now maybe I got the wrong Tony but I'm not really sure how many "Tony Colangelo"s there are running around BC practising as psychologists? I could post the link but like I said, it's not too hard to find him yourself.

    Do you really think there is some nefarious, evil scheme that Tony is plotting to dupe everyone with?

    Try watching something like this by Grant Johnston about how much he makes from different aspects of his business and what he has to say about the revenue from his tutorial videos:

    Now Grant is in NZ and I am in Australia but our currencies are pretty close in value -- so I can comfortably say I make a lot more than Grant in a year so it seems that the training side is far from a get rich scheme considering the amount of work you have to put into it.

    Like Matt Davis says, most people that have used Tony seemed to been very happy with their progress. I think you could do far worse if you are considering to up your game to a higher level than to take on someone like Tony as a mentor or coach?

    I am sure that what motivates people like Tony and Grant to give training like this is something more like a genuine desire to help people improve rather than some devious duplicitious plot to fleece people out of their hard earned dollars...

  11. @Anonymous - So, you're the truth police now? If so, here are some terms you should understand if you're going to continue operating the way you do:

    Virtue Signaling: The action or practice of publicly expressing opinions or sentiments intended to demonstrate one's good character or the moral correctness of one's position on a particular issue.

    Hypocrisy: the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one's own behavior does not conform

    You may have taken offence to those definitions, but if you're even remotely self-aware and have an ounce of integrity, you will recognize the inconsistencies of your ways and read the following with at least an ounce of humility.

    Since you've decided to appoint yourself the PFRE morality police and on numerous occasions presented your concern for honesty and transparency. Let me shed some light on your own commitment to transparency:


    1) Let's start with the obvious. If you're so committed to transparency, why the multiple pseudonyms? What are you hiding from? Do you not value your own opinion enough that you need a security blanket to hide behind, to say what you really want to say? As an FYI, I've got *zero* problems with anonymous comments if people do so because they're discussing a sensitive topic or protecting another party in making a point that will serve the community. That said, in all the years I've been on PFRE, I've only seen a handful of anonymous comments among the thousands and thousands of comments where people actually attach their name. But there's a difference between making an anonymous comment that adds value and hiding behind anonymity to disparage and hurt someone's reputation. On top of that, you derail educational opportunities regularly, as I know a great many people read these comment threads to get different perspectives and learn from one another.

    2) I know who you are. Whether you call yourself @Anonymous, @Calvin, @Saveur or @Innocent Bystander, I've *always* known who you are but haven't made it public out of common courtesy (contrary to numerous requests from others in our community to do so). I'm also familiar with your trusty sidekick "Jesse"

    3) You are a liar. Straight up. There are *multiple* examples I could share about how you have used lies to stir the pot. A recent one that comes to mind is a comment you made on my post February 3rd about generating ideas for the next PFRE Conference in the Fall. In that comment, you claimed to have attended the conference, last November and went on to slam every aspect of it. Again, I know who you are, and you did NOT attend the conference. So for you to challenge ANYONE'S honesty or integrity is laughable.

    4) You're selfish. For whatever reason, you have a bone to pick with PFRE. That's fine, but it's also interesting because you've got no problem placing your PFRE Photographer of the Month and videographer of the year winner's badge on your website, google listing and social media (I can use Google, too!). It must feel good to be so comfortable with duplicity. And now, you've decided to make Tony Colangelo your pet project. I've advocated for Tony on numerous occasions because I've witnessed first-hand his commitment to helping others. That's why I've encouraged him to contribute to PFRE by writing articles and producing videos, and he does a great job. In fact, he's written more posts for PFRE than anyone other than Larry himself. I know those articles are important to him and I can tell you they're important to me because they add value to a lot of people, which is the entire goal of PFRE. You, on the other hand, contribute NOTHING but vile, hateful and harmful rumours. And BTW, just because you keep reiterating the same false rhetoric about someone (in this case, Tony Colangelo) doesn't make it true.

    Think and say what you want, but we have a great community of like-minded people who want to support each other and elevate the industry as a whole, and I can say with confidence that there is no room for people like you. If the unlikely day comes that you actually want to contribute something of value to your industry and community, then, by all means, come back, until then please take all the free time you have and apply it somewhere else.

    BTW, this thread was supposed to be about discussing the SMART approach to goal setting, so I hope we can get back to discussing the actual topic at hand.

  12. Ok, here's a little response to both the SMART goals, as well as a little bit of an endorsement. I worked in corporate America as a supervisor for years. The only way I was able to perform my job was through SMART goals. I was literally the worst pick for a supervisor. I didn't really care about my job - I just needed to get by and SMART goals made it happen for me. I haven't consciously applied them to my business, but the practice is engrained in my head. For example, I knew that 2019 was going to be the year that I focus all of my energy on shooting less real estate and more commercial and residential interiors and architecture. I believe that was in April or May. I told myself that by the end of the year, I would give the majority of my real estate shoots to my other photographer and I would only focus on luxury properties, interiors and architecture. I could have been more specific, but end of the year was my goal and how I was going to measure it was by whether or not I was following through on my goal of what I wanted to shoot.

    Now, I always knew the "A" as "Actionable". The "R" stood for "Realistic". At least, that is how they positioned it in my company. That basically meant that you need to write out the steps you were going to take to get there and they needed to be attainable or realistic. For me, the answer was simple... I hired a coach (some highly-controversial and dangerous person who just happens to have a proven track record of helping people fast track their careers using psychology principals, and also giving away an entire LIBRARY of free knowledge on this site... not going to name any names) to help guide me through the process. While I am fairly business and marketing savvy and have a lot of knowledge about branding... I needed someone to help bring me clarity to my OWN brand and help me reach my goals faster. I couldn't do it on my own. Within 2 months, I better understood why I shoot the way I shoot. I understood my brand. I was given actionable steps that landed me my first target clients who I had been wanting to work with for years, and most recently landed a 10-shoot agreement with another firm that I have been trying to convince for literally 5 years to work with me. Literally 2 weeks after having my portfolio updated on my website, an out-of-state architect hired me to shoot a project of his. He said "I just search for photographers within 100 miles of the project and I liked your work the best".

    Now, coaching wasn't a magic bullet... I had done a LOT of work on my own and again - was fairly savvy so I can confidently say that I was likely an easy client for Mr. Controversy... but I can honestly say that I never would have been able to pull it off without his guidance as quickly and efficiently as I did and most importantly with the clarity that I received.

    I still have a long way to go before I am where I want to be in my career, but I have a really good road map. I do think that if I consciously went back to applying SMART goals, it would do a lot of good.

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