SMART Goals

Setting goals is one of the easiest steps on the path to achievement you can take.  With anything worth doing, it’s worth doing well, in fact to the absolute best of your ability.  This shouldn’t need saying, but I can’t stress enough the value in doing things right, doing your best, striving for perfection.  The benefits are inestimable:

  • The satisfaction from a job well done far exceeds that from doing a shoddy job.
  • Others will recognize the difference and your stock with them will be higher.
  • You will learn more.  Doing the hard thing teaches you more.  Fact.
  • You will earn more.  Isn’t this the point?

Luckily, you have excellent resources available, this website being one of them, to help you set your goals with maximum efficiency, allowing you the greatest chance of success.

The second of my 10 Steps Towards Goal Mastery is to again re-examine your goals, this time in a systematic fashion.  I can think of no better way than to use the SMART acronym which has become the global guidance standard.  For those who have never seen it before, the process is simple.  It’s like putting each objective through a check list and amending if necessary.

Specific

Measurable

Achievable

Relevant

Timebound

Easy to remember.  Everyone should commit this to memory instantly.  Like many models once you have used it a fair number of times it becomes second nature and then it’s business as usual to put of all your goals and objectives through the SMART filter.

Let’s look at the acronym in some small depth and then look at an example.

Specific seems obvious, but is it?  Most goals I see are not specific and therefore absolutely unattainable.  One I’ve seen recently is “Save money for a bigger house”.  Seems reasonable?  Nope.  While saving fifty bucks meets that criterion, in most cases that wouldn’t be what was meant.  “Save $150,000 for a bigger house” is much better.    That’s specific.

Measurable just means that it can be measured somehow.  In the previous example, “Save money for a bigger house” isn’t measurable, there’s nothing to measure.  When you add in the $150,000 you make it measurable.  That’s a real target, you can measure how far from it you are, you can break it down.

Achievable simply refers to whether or not that target is something you will be able to attain thinking realistically.  If you want to save 150k for a bigger house but you can save 3k per year, it’s a goal that will demoralize you.  If you have other SMART goals which will enable other, greater, savings, then it might well be achievable.  Nobody wants to aim small, and you shouldn’t, but aiming too high, too fast, will end up with you flat on your face

Relevant gives you the opportunity to look at whether this is a goal that makes sense within your lifestyle/work.  If your goal is “Date 30 women by the end of the year” and you are married with kids, I would challenge that this is a relevant goal.  It’s often at this stage when people can admit to themselves that their goal isn’t what they actually want.  A recent example of this is when an executive at a client site claimed that their overriding goal for the next quarter was to free up more time to spend coaching his people.  When it came to the Relevant part of SMART they admitted that this had nothing to do with what they wanted and it was just that they wanted to free up more time. Coaching his people wasn’t relevant to him, nor did it align with his business strategy.   Though I believe it should have.

Timebound doesn’t need much clarification, but using the save money example above, adding a time element makes the goal come alive, drives it home.  “Save 150k within two years to buy a bigger house.”  This really enables you to think, “Right, how much will I need to save per month and what will I have to do to reach that amount?  Must I make more money, save more money?”

Just as an aside, in order to illustrate the power of setting great goals, the client who had the goal about getting a bigger house had been thinking about and trying to do this for eighteen months.  When she hired me, I asked her to come with a list of written goals and we sat down and put them through the SMART ringer.  We really delved into what she would need to do to buy this house and looked into her budget, her expenses and so forth.  Within five months she had bought her house.

That’s a life-changer there.  She didn’t earn extra money or change into a hermit, but the action of setting and focusing on SMART goals can have dramatic effects.

Here’s a great example, one that I think has all the elements necessary to show how SMART can be used to move a goal from bland to super-charged.

Goal: I want to write a book.

This goal is close to my heart as I, in my other life, am a novelist so this is sort of cheating as it’s very similar to my personal goals.

From what we know already of SMART, that’s a terrible goal and if that’s what you’re setting for yourself, be prepared for a long and difficult road.  I know numerous people who are in this boat.  They talk about their books constantly and there’s never an end in sight.  Think Brian from Family Guy.

Let’s look at this step-by-step:

Specific – It’s not very specific, so we’ll make it specific.

I want to write and publish a science fiction novel.

Measurable – I suppose you could measure this.  Has it been written or hasn’t it?  You can improve on that.  The whole point is to improve on the goal, not argue semantics.

I want to write and publish a science fiction novel, the length of which will be roughly 100k words.

Achievable – Can you write?  Can you type?  Do you have the spare time?

I want to write and publish a science fiction novel, the length of which will be roughly 100k words.  I will write one thousand words per day.  I will stop watching sports to give myself the time.

Relevant – Have you ever done any creative writing?  Do you have an idea for a story?  Have you read any science fiction?

I want to write and publish a science fiction novel, the length of which will be roughly 100k words.  I will write one thousand words per day.  I will stop watching sports to give myself the time and I will read a science fiction novel every week instead of looking at Social Media for an hour a night.

Timebound – Give yourself some sort of deadline for this.  Hold yourself accountable.  Finishing the writing will take you 100 days alone, the editing and cover will take another three weeks and then if you’re self-publishing, add another week while you add in some marketing (there’s way more to it than that, but for the sake of brevity…)  That’s roughly 18 weeks and you want to do it in four months so you’ll change the goal a little at this stage.

I want to write and publish a science fiction novel, the length of which will be roughly 100k words, by 30th April.  I will write two thousand words per day.  I will stop watching all television to give myself the time and I will read a science fiction novel every week instead of looking at Social Media for an hour a night.  I’ll also employ someone to edit my book starting when I’m halfway through and also a cover artist at the same time.  

Remember that this is only Step 2 Towards Goal Mastery, but what a step it was.  By this time you’ll start feeling your excitement and motivation levels shooting through the roof.  Practice this as much as you can with all your goals, even small objectives and see how much more successful you’ll be.

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