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Set SMART goals for your farm for 2015

Julie Sievert
University of Minnesota Extension Educator – Agricultural Production Systems

December 13, 2014

Where did 2014 go? If you're like me, it seems the days, weeks, and even years are flying by at an ever-increasing pace lately. Perhaps we are all busier in our lives – endless work to do, families to raise, and church or community commitments all seem to stake a claim to our time. As the end of 2014 draws near, it can leave us all wondering "what did I accomplish in 2014?" Hopefully you took the time in December of 2013 or January 2014 to write down some specific goals that you wanted to achieve in your farm operation this year. If so, you can look back at those goals and know exactly what you accomplished in 2014. If not, you may still be wondering. I encourage you to take some time now to become a goal setter and write down your goals for 2015.

How can you get started at setting goals for yourself or your farm? First, grab some paper and be prepared to write them down. Research shows that when you write down your goals, you are more likely to achieve them. Grab your paper and brainstorm. Perhaps you're not sure where to start. Start brainstorming and you can sort through the details once you have a few thoughts on paper. As you are writing your goals, remember to make them SMART goals:

S - Specific

Don't be vague with your goals. For example, instead of stating "I want to milk more cows next year" be specific, such as: "By the end of 2015, I want to increase the number of milking cows in my herd by 5%."

M - Measurable

Make sure your goal is something that can be measured. Maybe your goal is to be happier doing your job next year. That can be pretty tough to measure. Think about things that CAN be measured that would lead to or signify you being happier – for example, a certain number of days or nights away from the farm, taking a short vacation, or having family members help a certain number of days each week – these are all things that can be measured that are related to what your overall goal is.

A - Achievable or Attainable

If you are setting goals for the 2015 year, make sure the goals you are looking to reach are achievable within a 12-month period. They should be something that you realistically can accomplish during that period of time. It's great to have long-term goals to guide you, but be honest with yourself about whether your goals are short-term or long-term and plan for them accordingly.

R - Realistic or Rewarding

Again, your goals should be realistic to your situation. If you are currently milking 30 cows, it may not be realistic to have a goal of milking 300 cows by December 2015 (without a lot of planning and prep work already under way!). Ideally, your goals should be rewarding if you reach them and should give you a sense of accomplishment.

T - Timely

Ideally you will write goals that will be achievable in the time frame you are looking at, and that will be the right fit for your farm at this time.

Once you've brainstormed some goals for yourself or your farm, choose no more than 5 that represent what you want to achieve next year. Analyze your goals. If this is what your goal is, what will you have to do to reach that goal? You can use your goals like a roadmap to help in your decision-making throughout the year in this way. Additionally, you can break your annual goals into mini-goals to reach along the way and to keep you on track. Come to a consensus and write your goals down.

Now, don't write them and forget about them. Write them down somewhere you will see them often. If you keep a daily journal, write them on the inside cover or even on the cover of your journal. Write them on a whiteboard in your office. You get the idea – make them visible. If you have employees, share them with your employees – or better yet, get key employees involved in setting goals. Employees are more apt to take ownership and work toward goals if they feel involved in the goal-setting process.

Fast forward to December 2015. Where will your farm operation be? What will you have accomplished in one year? The twelve months will pass anyway. What will you do to make the most of them? Goal setting is important for businesses, and farm businesses are no exception. I can't wait to talk with everyone in one year and hear about the SMART goals they have achieved in 2015. Here's to a great year ahead.

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