Goal-setting 101 — S.M.A.R.T. style
A step-by-step guide to setting goals so you keep them
At a Glance: Make sure that your goals are S.M.A.R.T.: specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time-bound.
Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes, 19 seconds
It can often feel daunting to define your goals and even more difficult to achieve them. But you can develop a totally different relationship with that often-elusive “goals” idea by getting smart, as in S.M.A.R.T. Check out this simple yet revolutionary approach to achieving your goals:
Make sure it’s S.M.A.R.T.
S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym designed to help evaluate a goal for max achievability. Write your goals and make sure it meets the criteria behind each letter.
Your goal should clearly answer the 5 Ws: Who, what, where, when and why. “Get a degree,” for example, isn’t specific enough. Build it out to, “Go to the University of Phoenix to earn my Bachelor’s in Nursing.” This will help you narrow in on what it is you really want, which is a great place to start.
There must be a concrete way to know that you’ve met your goal. If you can easily state exactly how you’ll know your goal is accomplished — for example, you’ve gotten your degree, lost 10 pounds or gotten out of debt — your goal is measurable.
Your goal should be a challenge you can reach, even if you have to stretch to get there. With that in mind, if you truly believe that there’s a specific set of realistic actions that you can take to accomplish your goal, it’s probably achievable.
Is your goal something you really want? Does it really seem like a good idea to go after it right now? Is it going to be worth what it takes to achieve it, to you and your family? Yes to all means it’s realistic.
To be time-bound, your goal requires a very specific target date that’s near enough to lend momentum and urgency. This keeps you from delaying it for yet another year. This can vary widely, depending on the goal.
Draw up a plan
Once the goal has met the S.M.A.R.T. test, it’s time to make it happen. Break it down into a series of smaller, chronological goals, and then break those down, too, as far as possible, until you have a list of manageable, concrete actions. Now schedule that very first one ASAP. Like today or tomorrow. Pencil the rest of them in as best you can, too.
Check in and adjust
Schedule a regular time to check in on your goal, such as once a week on Sunday. If things aren’t moving forward, troubleshoot to change that. Maybe you need to break your actions down even further. Maybe you should choose a different route. Perhaps your next step should be to reach out to someone for insight. No worries — obstacles and adjustments are a natural part of the process. Just keep nurturing your goal regularly, giving it the time, attention and flexibility it deserves, and eventually, you will meet it.