Time is a valuable commodity for any business. However, unlike so many other resources - such as money, or labour, or materials, or space, or brand exposure - it's not something that can be increased. No matter how hard you try, you can't eke an extra minute out of a day, you can't make a move that will give you more time to work with. But you can make more of it, and fill each unforgiving minute with sixty-seconds worth of distance run.

If you and your colleagues are to make the most of the time to hand, it's worthwhile knowing how that time needs to be spent - and knowing what constitutes the 'distance run'. What is it that you, or any staff member, ought to be doing at any point? Not knowing will mean wasted time and wasted resources, and can result in a project overrunning schedules and budgets, or simply in inefficiencies and wastage in the normal course of business. To this end, it's good to know where you're heading, and from that, you can more easily understand how you're going to get there, and what needs to be done throughout the process. And to know where it is that you are heading, you'll need to set goals.

Setting the right goals

Of course, it's easy to say that you'll set goals, and a harder task to create goals that you can adhere to and that are right for your organisation. Without suitable goals for the situation, inefficiencies, overrunning and scope creep can be even more of a risk than in an unplanned environment. You'll need to find smart goals that fit your organisation - and creating SMART goals is an established and proven technique for doing just that.

Goals need to be Specific. They need to be well defined, and clear enough to be understood by anyone with even a basic familiarity with the project. A project without specific goals can be difficult to keep focused.

Goals need to be Measurable. It's important to know what needs to be achievable, and within what timeframe - and also how all concerned will know when the goal has been fulfilled. It's easier to remain motivated and on the right path if you and those around you know where you are in the process, and where you need to be.

Goals need to be Attainable. Pie-in-the-sky dreams are not helpful to the development and completion of a project; workers can become demoralised if no end is in sight, and an accurate budget is all but impossible to allocate if the goals you set are unrealistic.

Goals need to be Relevant. You might have a goal which is specific, measurable and attainable, but it won't do you any good if it doesn't suit the situation. Each goal should be a step on the way to somewhere, not an end in itself.

Goals need to be Time-bound. At the start of this article, we said that time is a valuable commodity, and goals can help you make the best of that time. For this to work out, each goal must be take no more time than it needs, and only be allotted as much as is required to allow a successful completion. Similarly, goals need also to be carried through at the right time - carrying out tasks just as they're needed is a far more efficient use of time than carrying the tasks out as soon as they come to mind.

Keeping time on your side

Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound: by keeping your goals within these SMART guidelines, you can help to ensure that time is kept on your side in a number of different ways. Of course, by restricting your goals to what you know can and must be achieved under your company's circumstances, you can avoid wasting time on unnecessary or poorly-planned projects. But setting smart, and SMART, goals can have other, less tangible benefits.

To understand where the business is heading, and to realise what needs to be done (and is capable of being done) in order to get there shows strong leadership. It shows the rest of the team that here is someone who can be trusted to do the best by the company, and by extension make life and prospects better for the employees. And a better-led workforce will be a more efficient and productive workforce.

Also, by setting such effective goals in one project or area of work, the business as a whole can benefit greatly. After all, every company has only limited resources to call upon - setting SMART goals helps to guarantee that resources aren't wasted, and a company that has a number of projects and tasks to complete can more successfully allocate those resources throughout the organisation.

Prosperity in any line of business relies upon careful and successful management of those resources - including, vitally, available time. Goal-setting is important, so a short training course might be very beneficial in helping you to set the most effective, SMART goals - and in helping you to always keep time on your side.