Should you – and how do you – set SMART goals for a passion project? Keep reading, my creative friend, because I’ll talk you through all these in a minute.
I’m probably a broken record on the subject of passion projects – from talking about how we can benefit from having one, ways to design your own passion project, and even the reasons you should keep your passion project even if it doesn’t make you money (not everything has to be a hustle, yo).
But one common problem I hear from people when it comes to passion projects?
Actually seeing these passion projects through.
We’ve all been there: we start a passion project, all fired up, feeling like this is going to be the coolest thing since sliced cheese, have a go at it for a few days, and then...blam, it takes a huge amount of work to even care about the thing you started on.
So the best thing I can recommend: setting goals for your passion project. And not just any kinda goal, either. I’m talking about SMART goals.
Revisiting SMART Goals
I don’t know where you might have first heard about SMART goals – be it middle school, university, or heck, on this blog – but here’s a little rundown of what they are.
SMART goals stand for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
S.M.A.R.T. GOALS REFRESHER
Specific: your goals should be narrowed down instead of broad and general.
Measurable: your goal ought to have some kind of target or metric that you can track as you go along.
Achievable: your goal should be challenging but not impossible.
Relevant: relevant goals for your passion project are goals that make sense to you and other Big Picture goals you have in your life.
Time-bound: I do love a good deadline, and making goals time-bound makes sure you actually work towards them instead of resigning yourself to think you’ll “get there someday."
Now that you know the what, here’s the why.
Why Setting SMART Goals is Important for Your Passion Project
In case it isn’t obvious, SMART goal-setting for your passion project can be super helpful. So helpful, in fact, that I’ve thought of 3 big reasons why you should set SMART goals for your passion project, stat.
1. SMART goals make your passion project feel more real
The biggest reason I love goal-setting is because they just make our goals feel more real and attainable.
My favorite metaphor for the amazing benefits of goal-setting is, before setting your goals and breaking them down, you’re walking through some thick fog and have no idea where you’re going.
But when you set your goals and make your action plans, a light cuts through the fog, telling you where to go while avoiding detours (like shiny object syndrome) along the way.
SMART goal-setting is a way to make that passion project feel more real, more tangible. It’s a tool that lets you go from “working on the project once in a while” to “working on the project with more purpose, vigor, and direction.”
2. SMART goals help you stay motivated to finish
I hinted at it before, but by setting SMART goals for your passion project, you’re able to stay on track and actually work towards something.
This kind of ties in with the first reason – after all, if you can see it, you can be it.
SMART goals help you flesh out the finish line for your passion project. Or if it’s for a really, really big passion project you intend on continuing for years to come (like this blog of mine that started out as a passion project), SMART goals help you flesh out mini finish lines and make the whole long-term process more achievable.
I’m a firm believer in the power of seeing our end goal. Like, imagine if you wanted to save up enough money for your first house, and you crunched the numbers, and you set a budget, and you think of other streams of income…
I guarantee you: having that super-clear roadmap will light a fire under your butt, and you are going to want to accomplish that goal, no matter what.
3. SMART goals teach you discipline, perseverance, and problem-solving
Last but not least, I believe SMART goal-setting just teaches you to be more disciplined and persevering all the time.
I can’t tell you exactly why or how, but when I started being more intentional with my goals and treating my passion projects like real life projects I really wanted to see through to the end, something in my brain shifted.
I was suddenly more purposeful. I treated work for my passion project (and other life goals) more seriously, like a class or a doctor’s appointment.
Plus, setbacks didn’t set me back for long. Sure, I’d be bummed if I didn’t hit my goal for my passion project – but instead of looking at it as a failed attempt, I saw it as a way to try a different course of action.
Like, maybe it wasn’t that I’d set the wrong goal. Maybe I just needed to change my action plan. Maybe I could try this strategy or that strategy. I could switch up the amount of time I spent on my passion project each week.
Over time, I became more, well, gritty. (And I’m talking about the Angela Duckworth definition of grit: where I found more passion and perseverance in working towards my goal; not, like, the gritty-like-the-Sandman gritty.)
I’m better at problem-solving, I’m more organized and intentional, and I bounce back from failure better.
Honestly, SMART goal-setting? Gotta give it more credit than it currently gets, yo.
How to Set SMART Goals for Any Passion Project
So you didn’t really think I’d leave ya without first walking you through how to set SMART goals for your passion project, did ya? ?
Now that I’ve walked you through that what and the why, it’s time to jump into the how – so that you can start setting SMART goals for your own passion project too.
For this section, I’ll be using the example of somebody who wants to start a podcast for their passion project.
having a super-clear roadmap will light a fire under your butt, and you are going to want to accomplish that goal, no matter what.
Remember, specific means narrowing down your passion project goals. You can think about answering the 5Ws – who, what, where, when, why – if this helps you be more specific.
So the example here might be:
I want to start a podcast all about relationships. I’d talk about what I learned about dating other people, familial relationships, so that people can learn from my experiences too. I’d put out weekly episodes.
In this example, this aspiring podcaster answered what the passion project goal was (a podcast about relationships). They even narrowed it down to timing (weekly) and the scope of the relationship topics (lessons from dating, family relationships).
How can you make that passion project idea more specific? Does your passion project feel more real and narrowed down?
Setting Measurable goals can mean setting a numeric goal. For our example, this can go a few ways:
I want to put out one episode each week for 12 weeks, making a total of 12 episodes. I also want to get my first 1,000 downloads.
In this example, one measurable goal is for the output (12 episodes). And for a little added challenge – that would entail its own action steps, of course – is for the result (1,000 downloads).
As a general rule, I do like to think of both output and result, since being able to set and measure results helps me to challenge myself more – but if you’d rather stick purely on an output-related goal, then that’s still 100% fine.
How do you track and measure your passion project success? What does success look like to you for the first few months of working on your passion project?
Next, making your passion project goal Achievable may mean taking a good look at your specific circumstances that might make it harder for you to accomplish your goal.
Inversely, it also means making sure your goal is challenging enough and you’re not playing it safe – personal growth, yo.
So for our podcast example, this could go like this:
In order to hit my goal of producing one new podcast episode each week, I need to have basic recording equipment (my computer and an external microphone I already own), outlines for each episode, as well as the platform to publish my podcast on (Apply Podcasts and Spotify). I can also think about getting 1 or 2 guests to come on the show.
In this example, our aspiring podcaster knows that what they need to get started and accomplish their goal (equipment, guests, podcast episode outlines).
If you want to go an extra step, you can evaluate how much time you have for your passion project and when you’d want to work on it. For example, thirty minutes every day or two hours every other day.
Pro-tip: I recommend sticking to small tasks you can accomplish every day. This just helps you build momentum and keep productive – what we do every day matters more than we do every once in a while!
What do you need to accomplish your passion project SMART goals? How can you make these goals more achievable?
What we do every day matters more than what we do every once in a while.
When you’re setting your passion project goals, they need to be relevant to you.
While it’s easier to think of Relevant goals in the context of companies or organizations who will often always have big company goals, in your case, this might mean how your passion project fits into your life or bigger life goals you might have.
I want to pursue a fulfilling career in media and publication, so starting my own podcast helps me get my feet wet in the world of creating digital content. And for my podcast project to be worthwhile, I should be able to outline, record, edit, and upload episodes for up to 8 hours each week. Any more than that, it might eat up time I have for other commitments.
As you can see from the example, the goal ties in to a bigger life goal (career goals).
It also takes into consideration the time and effort required for the goal that might interfere with other big goals, like time you can spend with friends and family or with other commitments and learning opportunities – say, piano or language lessons.
How is your passion project fit into your big picture goal for your life? What makes this goal more worthwhile?
if it's not on your calendar, then it doesn't exist.
Last but not least, you need a deadline. The best way I can support this is with the popular adage: if it’s not on your calendar, then it doesn’t exist.
In our example, this can be:
I want to put out 12 episodes after 3 months. In these 3 months, I should also have my first 1,000 downloads.
Here, the timeline is simple: 3 months.
It’s a realistic goal: coming out with one new episode each week is reasonable, and getting to 1,000 downloads within that time frame is challenging enough but totally possible with a brand-new podcast – that’s almost 100 downloads per episode, after all.
By when do you want to hit your measurable goals? What are deadlines you can set that are long enough to see progress but short enough that it doesn’t feel like forever?
psst! thought YOU MIGHT LIKE:
Putting It All Together
After walking you through how to set SMART goals for your passion project, here’s what our aspiring podcaster’s entire SMART goal looks like:
S.M.A.R.T. GOALS FOR A NEW PODCAST
Specific: I want to start a podcast all about relationships. I’d talk about what I learned about dating other people, familial relationships, so that people can learn from my experiences too. I’d put out weekly episodes.
Measurable: I want to put out one episode each week for 12 weeks, making a total of 12 episodes. I also want to get my first 1,000 downloads.
Achievable: In order to hit my goal of producing one new podcast episode each week, I need to have basic recording equipment (my computer and an external microphone I already own), outlines for each episode, as well as the platform to publish my podcast on (Apply Podcasts and Spotify). I can also think about getting 1 or 2 guests to come on the show.
Relevant: I want to pursue a fulfilling career in media and publication, so starting my own podcast helps me get my feet wet in the world of creating digital content. And for my podcast project to be worthwhile, I should be able to outline, record, edit, and upload episodes for up to 8 hours each week. Any more than that, it might eat up time I have for other commitments.
Time-bound: I want to put out 12 episodes after 3 months. In these 3 months, I should also have my first 1,000 downloads.
What to Do After Setting SMART Goals for Your Passion Project
Needless to say, setting those SMART goals is only the first step for your passion project. Goals are the finish line, but you still need to run the race.
After you’ve set your goals, create an action plan that breaks down those goals into actionable milestones.
In the case of our aspiring podcaster friend here, that could mean strategies to manage their time better so that they can hit their episode production targets.
It also means looking at different ways to promote their new podcast so they get those 1,000 downloads within their timeline.
Your action plan is the next step to accomplishing your goals. And of course, after you create your action plan, you need to actually take action.
There’s no progress if there’s no action, my friend, so buck up and hit the ground running.
goals are the finish line, but you still need to run the race.
Create the Action Plan for Your Passion Project Goals
If you’ve made it this far into this long blog post, I’ve got a free gift for you! This is my free workbook all about helping you find Your Next Big Focus.
I know you’re probably an ideas machine of a creative unicorn, so this worksheet will help you be more intentional among your list of many, many ideas and passions.
So if you’re a classic multi-passionate, you’ll love going through these worksheets.
The workbook is absolutely fo’ free, so download it here:
And when it comes to making action plans, I’m probably the Queen Nerd.
If you’re interested in leveling up your progress on setting clearer goals and designing the roadmap to achieving them, download a copy of The Goal-Getter Playbook, a digital and interactive planner that implements all the steps you’ve read in this blog post today.
The planner comes complete with prompts and guide questions to help you set better goals, and you have a year’s worth of guided sheets to create an action plan, review your progress, and rinse and repeat the process.
Plus, it’s reusable each year. Simply print out a fresh copy, or use it right on your computer or iPad.
All this for a one-time fee of $27 – with forever access.