But not all goals are treated equally. That’s why you must set SMART goals.
Setting SMART goals will give you the best chance of taking any goal from inception to completion. The SMART acronym stands for:
Below, we’ll walk you through each of the components of SMART goals and show you how to create your goals correctly.
Setting SMART Goals to Clear the Path Ahead
Whether you want to achieve personal goals or business goals, SMART goal setting will help you turn any vision into your desired outcome.
1. SpecificThis is the most important aspect of your goal creation. When you begin this process, your initial goal can be vague. But your final goal needs to be well-defined. A specific goal will help you stay focused on the right tasks. Your time is valuable and precious; you don’t want to waste it on activities that don’t move you toward your goal. To create a specific goal, ask yourself these questions:
- What do you want to accomplish?
- Why do you want this?
- How can you achieve this goal?
You need to address every aspect of the goal. If this is a large, long-term goal, you may want to break it down into smaller goals that are easier to define. Also, make sure to include everything you know that you don’t know (known unknowns). For example, you may not know how to do the taxes for your new business, but you know that you need to learn or outsource this work, which you would include in your goal. You will need to devise an action plan, which is only possible if your goal is specific enough. By focusing on the details, you’ll know exactly what is needed to see your plan through.
Once your goal is well-defined, you need to make it measurable. Measurable goals allow you to track your progress and determine whether you are meeting your requirements. As management guru Peter Drucker said, “What gets measured, gets managed.” This means your output needs to be quantifiable, even if your end goal is qualitative. Look at the following goals for someone who wants to promote their side business by creating content regularly.
- I want to create and publish content regularly.
- I want to spend one hour writing new content every day.
- I want to publish one piece of content every day.
The first example is not a SMART goal because it’s unmeasurable. What does regularly mean? How will you know if you hit your goal? But the last two examples are measurable because you’d know whether or not you accomplished your goal for the day. If you can answer the question, “Did I accomplish my goal?” with a clear yes or no, then your goal is measurable. It’s also important that you can measure the progress of your goal. If you have a long-term goal with a five-year time frame, you need to know whether you are on track to complete the goal. This is why you need to break large goals into small goals – so you can measure your performance against each small goal. Measuring your progress will help you stay focused because you’ll know exactly what you need to do and it will help you stay motivated because you’ll see the progress you continue to make. If you want to achieve challenging and lofty goals, it’s critical that you make them measurable.
If your goal isn’t attainable, you’re setting yourself up for failure. An attainable or achievable goal is one that is possible to accomplish. This means that it needs to be realistic and within your capabilities. You can push your boundaries, but don’t expect to become a professional basketball player if you can’t dribble and shoot a basketball, or are only 5’ tall. Different people have access to different resources, so don’t pursue a goal because you’ve seen someone else attain it. Instead, use common sense and determine what you’re capable of completing. Assess the constraints and make sure you can overcome any foreseeable obstacles. Identify the skills required and compare them to your experience and abilities. If you go through this process and believe that you have what it takes to see this project through, your chances of meeting your goals become much more likely.
4. RelevantWhen you set goals, make sure they matter to you and the bigger picture of how you envision your life to unfold. Achievable goals are only valuable if the end justifies the means. To help you determine the relevancy of your goal, as yourself questions such as:
- Does this goal align with my values?
- Will conquering this goal help me move closer to achieving a bigger, overarching goal or vision?
- Am I excited, or do I want, to work toward this goal?
This is the time to think about what’s truly important to you. Management’s goals may be important to the firm, but will they help you in your career? Or will this derail your progress and take you off-course? Only you can answer these questions. When you work toward and achieve goals that aren’t meaningful to you, it takes you away from progressing toward your best self. Don’t let other people dictate your life. Be cognizant of the decisions you make and clear about the goals you pursue. Meaning, fulfillment, and happiness are on the line. Choose a goal that is relevant to you and you’ll never regret the decision.
Your SMART goal needs to have an end date, otherwise, you won’t know if you’re progressing at the right speed. And since your goal is measurable, you can track your momentum against your due date. Also, you want to make sure that you set a realistic time-frame. You’re destined for failure if your goal is too lofty or you don’t give yourself enough time to complete it. Assess the tasks and use your best judgment to create your deadline. A target date that is difficult but doable is perfect for your goal. To determine your time-horizon, think about everything you need to accomplish and estimate the amount of time it will take to finish each item. Then, add them up, and add a little more time (maybe 10%) for contingency. Nothing ever goes exactly as planned. Expect different things to get in your way. Once you set a completion date for your goal, you’ve successfully used the SMART criteria to create a worthy goal. These five tactics will increase your odds of completing your goal, and it’ll be a goal that truly interests you. So what are you waiting for?! Create your SMART goals so you can take your life in the direction you desire. And once you do, share your goals with us in the comments below!
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One of the most incredible things about all of us is for all the differences in our journey, the more we consider the path of those who surround us the more success we find. The greatest among us will freely admit that they stand on the shoulders of giants. That their innovation is not the exclusion of ideas, but the inclusion and re-imagining of them. When we connect the dots of ideas to preexisting concepts in ways others have not seen we create amazing things.