A Guide to Setting Smart Goals

Do you set goals or do you set SMART goals. There is a big difference. We can define goals as objects of a person’s ambition or an aim at a desired result. Most of us have some goals set out for ourselves to improve our lives. But using the smart goals acronym will help you achieve those goals.  Remember the quote from James Clear:

Winners and Losers have the same goals.

A Guide to Setting Smart Goals
A Guide to Setting Smart Goals

Setting Smart Goals

What kind of goals do you have? A general goal? Business Goals? A professional goal?  Perhaps you have goals for every part of your life. Whatever your area of focus, without goals, there’s not much room for advancement and without the challenge of reaching a goal you’ve set for yourself, life would be stagnant. 

The process in which we set goals for ourselves matters. You need an action plan. And a s.m.a.r.t. goal if you want to Although, you are responsible for whether you follow through with the goals you’ve set for yourself, how you set them has a hand in determining how successful you’ll be in achieving them. And goals are not resolutions. When many of us think about goals, we thing New Year’s Resolutions and make our goals in the same voice: unclear, unspecific instead of being achievable goals. 

The term SMART framework refers to a process in which you set your goals that will give you greater success. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Bound.

This goals method will help you with your organization, focus, and clarity with your goals. 

Research has shown that using the SMART goals method can save you time and simplify reaching your goals. SMART goals are easy to implement and can be used by anyone with the desire to improve their life by setting and achieving goals.

The SMART Goals method of goal setting works because it lays each step out for you

S in Smart Goals Stands for Specific

The S stands for specific, meaning the goal needs to be clear and specific. This is necessary because you want a specific outcome. This is probably the most important first step is creating your goals. When setting a goal for yourself, you must steer away from generalized statements. The more precise the goal is the better.

Example: How many of us have set goals that look like this: I wan to lose weight, I want to exercise more or I want to eat healthier. Those are fine aspirations, but as goals, they are not specific enough to be measurable and attainable.

Being specific  is crucial as it relates to mapping out the goals you set for yourself. Overly generalized goals will produce a lack of direction and ability to focus on what’s important. Goals that are too vague will end up setting you up for failure. For example, let’s say you want to drink more water per day. “I will drink more water every day,” is far too general. 

If you are not specific you will  make excuses. The wording doesn’t hold you accountable; it is not enough of a detailed plan to follow through with. Instead, clarify the specifics. One of the  best ways of being specific is to answer  some questions about your goal. 

This is a great way to pinpoint your intention and narrow down the specifics. You must answer what’s known as the “5 W’s” of basic information gathering; Who? What? When? Where? Why? Answering these five questions will help you develop specific clarity and motivation towards your goal. Answer these following questions to draft your goal:

Will this goal involve others, if so who? 

What exactly do I want to accomplish?

When do I want to accomplish this goal?

Where will you achieve this goal?

Why is this goal important to me?

After filling in the blanks to the five information gathering questions, your goal will  look something like this: “I will drink 8 glasses of water every day – 2 glasses of water in the morning before breakfast, two glasses with lunch, two glasses after the gym and two glasses before bed to become healthier. This goal is specific and direct. It explicitly states what your expectations are for yourself and enables accountability. And it helps you make better decisions about what is important and how you will achieve. 

M in Smart Goals Stands for Measurable

Measuring your progress for the goals you’ve set is the second part of the SMART Goals method. After all, you won’t know if you’re making progress or gaining on your goal without a way to measure it. When progress is measurable, you can track how far you’ve come, keep focused and stay motivated by celebrating the small milestones you complete along the way. In order to facilitate assessing your progress, you’ll need a set of criteria for your measurable goals. 

Similar to the Specific step used in SMART Goals, you will need to answer a few questions regarding your goal as a criterion for measuring progress data:

How many?

How much?

What is the indicator of progress?

How many or how much refers to progress as an indicator of what success for your specific goal looks like. The indicator of progress signifies the way in which you decide to track the progress you have made. This varies significantly depending on the goal. This is the only way to keep on the right track. 

If it’s a business goal for an established business or a new business venture, maybe the indicator of progress is gross sales. Or it might be the number of pounds lost per week, if your goal is to get to a healthier weight. Tracking how far you’ve come within the goal is important because it will keep you focused on your ultimate goal. Motivation will be gained by ability to celebrate the milestones of the progress you have along the way. 

A in Smart Goals Stands for Attainable

The A, in SMART Goals, represents attainable. When setting goals, be sure to choose attainable goals – your goals should be within reasonable reach for you. Although the goals you set should stretch you out of your comfort zone and excite you, your goals should remain within reach.  

When I am doing goal setting workshops I give the example that one unattainable goal for me is to be an Olympic Ice Skater. Attendees often laugh at that one. Now I am what used to be called a senior citizen, and have never been on ice skates in my life. Can I learn to ice skate? Yes, of course. But not compete in the Olympics. That would be an unrealistic goal and unrealistic goals are a waste of energy. Setting a goal is not about making a wish list. It is about taking a realistic look at your life and finding those things that you want to accomplish that will bring joy and both personal and business success

If a goal is impossible to achieve your efforts are futile. It becomes unproductive to put your time and energy toward a goal that will never come to fruition. You will end up losing motivation and feel like giving up if you aren’t able to succeed or celebrate your milestones along the way. 

Instead, be sure to set a goal that you can accomplish, this way you will keep focus and motivation, and have a chance of greater success. Along with your goal being unattainable, be sure that when you draft your goal, it’s written in a way that allows you responsibility for your goal. You should state your goals in a way that gives you control over the outcome. No one other than you should be the subject of your goal.

R in Smart Goals Stands for Relevant

In goal setting, “your why,” refers to the relevance that the particular goal has in your life.  This next level of setting a goal for yourself is crucial because it’s about ensuring that the goal is meaningful to you. 

There’s little point in putting time and effort into a goal that truly doesn’t matter to you. Goals should drive us forward towards something significant. Relevant goals you are setting should also align well with your other life plans. Decide the relevance of a goal by answering a few questions pertaining to the goal and your current life. Questions like:

Does this goal seem worthwhile? Is the tradeoff of time and effort worth the result?

Does it align well with my other efforts and goals? Are other aspects of your life driving forward in the same direction?

Is this the right time for this goal? Does this goal fit in with your personal goals? Does it make sense financially?

Am I the right person for this goal? Is this goal attainable? Do I have the skills and ability for success in the goal?

Coming up with answers to these questions will help you determine the goal’s relevance in your life. Some of these questions are not necessarily straightforward, black and white. You will need to dig deep to answer some of these questions to find the real “why” of your desired goal, to know if it’s relevant enough to move forward.

Relevance of a goal is an important part of goal setting. Deciding if a goal is relevant helps you match your goals to the rest of your life, helps you know if the goal matters to you, and if the time is the right time to achieve the goal. If you are a small business owner with your own business, you will want to make better business decisions.  

Sometimes this means learning new skills and building new confidence levels. Sometimes, one must truly examine themselves and their life to determine relevance of a desired goal.

T in Smart Goals Stands for Time Bound

Finally, the last point is this: T is  for time bound. 

Deadlines are important motivators in goal setting, that’s why the T, in SMART Goals, refers to the term time bound. Time bound means the time period you allocate for you to complete your goal. An obvious start and end date for your goals are a momentous piece of your goal-setting plan. When you set start and end times for yourself, you are better able to stay on track. 

It’s like having a full-time job outside the home. You have to have routine for both the beginning of the day and end of the day, you don’t just show up and wing it. Same with goals. Goals have a significant impact when they have time constraints to achieve. 

Mini-deadlines will help you keep up motivation because you will celebrate your smaller successes along the way, especially when you have a long-term goal. Deadlines will also help with time management, making your goal more easily accomplished. Managing your time well will help you allocate your time where needed, toward achieving your goal. 

Time-bound goals have start and end dates. Setting a time frame for yourself in whom you expect to complete your goal, will give you a sense of urgency. Time bound goals also keep you focused on the task you have laid out for yourself by helping prioritize your everyday tasks. 

It’s easy to get caught up in the things we have to get done in life, work and family obligations often take over. Parkinson’s Law states that work will expand to fill the time allotted; meaning that other tasks will take over, if you let them. But, when the goal is time bound, it helps keep the goal in the forefront, with a sense of necessity.

Mini-deadlines are another way that time-bound goals help ensure success. You can set yourself some smaller deadlines within your primary goal and reward yourself for those mini successes along the way. For example, let’s say your goal is to walk for 30 minutes, 5 times a week for 3 months, in the evening when you get home from work, to get healthier. 

The deadline here is 3 months. An example of a useful mini goal could be at the 1 week mark. If you check in with yourself every Friday evening and you have followed through with walking for 30 minutes every evening after work for that week, you have successfully completed your mini goal. If you allow yourself a small reward for achieving the mini goal, you will further solidify success.

Time sensitive goals are an important part of the SMART Goals method. Setting deadlines will increase your hard work and help ensure your success.

This is not a one and done type of process. It is an ongoing process of reviewing you goals on a regular basis. This will  increase your chances of success. In fact, some studies show that you are as much as 42% more likely to follow through with your goals if you write them down. Writing down anything is the driving force to remembering and achieving. Another study shows Smart goals work for both academic and health related goals.

Writing your goals down will help you get a clear picture of your plan and what you want to accomplish. Logging your goals will also help motivate you to complete the tasks needed in order for success of your goal. Frequently reviewing what you’ve written will aid in reminding you of your plan, as well as remind you of your “why,” in turn, boosting your motivation and business confidence to keep progressing toward your goal.

If you are looking for additional tips on achieving more, check out the previous blog post 9 Tips for Prioritizing Tasks or How to Achieve more in Less Time with 12 Week plan.

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