So this will be the year that you tackle your bad habits and meet your perennial goals. This time, no amount of procrastination, distraction or plain stubbornness will get in your way. Right? This time you will create SMART Goals.
While it can be difficult to follow through on your goals – the big ones that would require fundamental changes, the small ones that get lost in the shuffle – there are certain tips that can ensure your aspirations prove fruitful.
These tips are outlined in a framework called SMART goals, with each letter of the acronym representing a key part of any successful SMART goal session. We’ll look at each letter, one at a time, and what each component means for you.
How To Create Smart Goals:
S = Specific
SMART Goals have to be specific. Don’t “get in shape” – instead, if fitness is your game, make it a goal to lose 2 inches off of your waistline, or to be able to walk five miles at an aerobically challenging pace. A goal that is too general has all kinds of problems – for instance, it’s easy to renege on your plan, it’s hard to tell when you’re succeeding, and it’s impossible to adjust for evolving circumstances. In our example, “getting in shape” means all kinds of things to different people – figure out what it means for you.
Think about the five “W” questions you learned in English class. Who, what, where, when, why – outline the details! Who can assist and, on the flip side, who might be a hindrance in achieving your goal? What do I want to accomplish? Specifics! Where and when help outline the logistics and provide the timeframe for your goal. Answering the “why” question reminds you of your motivation – to keep you inspired and grounded when the going gets tough.
SMART goals are measurable, which leads nicely into the next letter…
Goals can be overwhelming, and sometimes hard to track. As the experts say – if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it! No one can really tell if they’ve become a better reader; they can, however, know whether they’ve read Milton’s Complete Works by the end of the year.
A = Attainable
Speaking of Milton, SMART goals should be attainable! If you’re not into the esoteric literature scene, steer clear of the heavy stuff. In more general terms, you should have a realistic perspective on your own abilities. A weekend warrior won’t make the Wimbledon circuit, a fledgling runner won’t race an elite marathon in the next month. That said, any goal should stretch and challenge you. Striking the balance can be tricky but is important to making sure the goal is a worthwhile endeavor.
R = Realistic
While “realistic” may seem like a synonym for “attainable,” this part of the goal-setting process is more involved with the process of laying out a road map for achieving that goal. (An end result is attainable; the process to get there is realistic.) Realistic doesn’t mean “easy” – it means do-able. A realistic goal involves benchmarks that allow for incremental growth. Quitting sweets cold-turkey (which is a weird mixed-food-metaphor) is likely not very realistic for someone who loves their chocolate, but setting a daily limit to start, and upping daily fruits and veggies, would likely provide a more realistic plan of action. Moving forward, after time has passed, sweets allowances can be decreased; a goal is more realistic when it is phased and adapted to change over time. Which brings us to our last letter….
T = Timely
Timing is an important part of goals. Sometimes goals have a built-in deadline – the marathon next month – but often they could float on forever if you don’t impose benchmarks. Without time constraints, there’s no urgency, and less of an ability to measure progress. The last two letters – realistic and timely – are closely related, since any realistic goal includes incremental change, introduced over time.
The SMART goal framework is a powerful tool, and it can be adapted to just about any goal that you could hope to achieve. The more planning and thought that goes into goal setting, the more success and reward you’ll experience from your efforts. Good luck and happy goal-setting!
Simple huh! You now know how to create SMART goals. Use the SMART goal framework to create a SMART goal today!
Question: How have you have used SMART Goals to become more successful? Comment here.
This is a guest post by Angie Picardo. Angie is a writer for NerdWallet.com, a website dedicated to helping people meet their goals personally and financially when making decisions ranging from investing, predicting jetblue baggage fees, to choosing the right graduate school.