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Depending on your area of the country, it’s getting to be the time of year when students young and old return to school. And depending on your age, line of work, and whether or not you have kids at home, this can either be fantastic news or the cause of end-of-summer blues.

But whether or not you’re skipping through the back-to-school aisles or mourning the end of summer, this is a perfect time of year to work on setting your short- and long-term business goals. The most effective way to do this is through a process called backwards mapping (or backwards design).

But why backwards mapping? Teachers employ this technique at the beginning of the school year in order to plan their curriculums, but how does that relate to the business world? Let’s take a look! 

Clarity and a Time-Saver! 

Backwards mapping offers two distinct advantages- clarity and efficiency. Backwards mapping begins with your ultimate goal in mind. Then, smaller milestones that are needed to meet this goal are identified. This allows you to clearly identify what you want, and ensures that you aren’t wasting time doing things that don’t get you to that goal. With backwards mapping, you know that each milestone will lead to your final goal. 

Get Smart 

When setting goals, they should be SMART! SMART is an acronym that stands for the following words: 

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound 

Specific goals target a specific area of improvement. Measurable goals are able to be quantified or have an indicator or indicators of progress. Attainable goals are realistic- setting goals that are unattainable leads to discouragement and giving up! Relevant goals align with the purpose of your business and what you want to achieve. Finally, time-bound goals give a set amount of time in order to reach your goal. An example of a SMART goal for a small business might be something like this: 

“I will pay off $5000 of business debt by making an extra payment of $100 per month by December 20XX by signing three more clients”. 

A non-example of a SMART goal would be something like this: 

“I will make one million dollars.” 


Now that we know how backwards mapping can benefit our businesses, and how to set SMART goals, next week we will take a look at how to begin backwards mapping!