Sometimes in life, people feel stuck. They wake up every morning, go to the office on time and work hard to provide for their family and themselves but they don’t seem to get anywhere worthwhile. Why is that? A main reason could be that people get comfortable in their professional lives and develop a fear of change. Consequently, they avoid setting themselves formal goals. As Benjamin E. Mays says, “Failure isn’t in not reaching your goal but in having no goal to reach.”
If you are one of those people who is getting nowhere in life or is just drifting from one job to another without accomplishing much, we have a solution for you and it’s called setting SMART goals. With them, you can clearly define your ideas, concentrate your efforts and learn how to use your time and resources to achieve anything you want in life.
The following article will explore the nature of SMART goals and will provide a guideline of how you can use them. Let’s begin!
What are SMART Goals and How to use SMART?
SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based. Each one of those elements complement each other to help you focus your efforts and work towards a carefully-planned goal.
Some authors out there have expanded it to include extra focus areas and turned it into SMARTER, with the inclusion of Evaluated and Reviewed. For now, we will stick to the original version. Under each element we will also provide examples of smart goals so stay tuned till the end!
S = Specific
Your goal should be as specific and clear as possible. The more narrow your goal, the better you’ll be able to focus your effort and motivation towards it. When picking your goal, answer the five “W” questions:
- What do I want to achieve?
- Why is the goal important to me?
- Who is involved?
- Where is the goal to be achieved?
- Which resources or limits are involved?
Example: Imagine that you’re an office assistant at a marketing company and you’d like to become a marketing consultant one day. A specific goal to set would be, “I want to gain the knowledge and skills needed to become a marketing specialist and work directly with clients.”
M = Measurable
Once you’ve set your mind on a goal, it’s important to make sure it’s measurable. If it’s not, you won’t be able to track your progress and stay motivated. Evaluating your progress is essential for keeping your head in the game. There are many ways to assess your progress, however a measurable aim should answer questions like:
- How much?
- How many?
- How will I know when the goal was accomplished?
Example: If your goal is to get a new job at an advertising agency, you can measure your progress by the number of companies you’ve applied to and the number of interviews you’ve had. Set milestones along the way. You had your first interview and it went well? Reward yourself with something meaningful.
A = Achievable
A SMART goal must be achievable and realistic. Aiming at a reasonable target will help you stay focused and motivated. Not just that but when you set an achievable goal, you can identify previously overlooked resources or opportunities that can help you get closer to it. The achievability of your goal can be stretched. After all, who doesn’t enjoy a little challenge? However, it should still be defined in a way that you can actually achieve it. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I have the resources and capabilities to achieve my goal? If not, what am I still lacking?
- Have other people done it successfully before me?
Example: If your goal is to become a marketing manager and lead a team of people, you have to be honest with yourself and examine the current situation you’re in. For instance, do you have the time to develop the skills required to be a marketing manager? Do you have the money to do it? Are all the necessary resources available to you at this point?
R = Relevant
Ensure that your goal truly matters to you. Look at the big picture for a second. Each one of the targets you’re aiming at should align with your values and long-term objectives. If the goal doesn’t contribute toward your long-term vision, you might have to rethink it.
If you can answer “yes” directly to the following questions, that means your goal is relevant:
- Is this the right time?
- Am I the right person to reach this goal?
- Does this goal seem worthwhile?
- Is it applicable in the current socio-economic context?
- Does this goal match my other efforts/needs?
Example: Let’s go back to the marketing manager example. You are determined to get the knowledge and skills required to become a marketing manager and lead a team of people, however, is it the right time for the training? Do you think your personality and character would make you the perfect leader? Have you taken into consideration your spouse or partner’s goals?
T = Time-based
Deadlines are important! Deadlines give you focus and something to look forward to. They also keep you motivated and help you with prioritizing your goal over everyday tasks and distractions.
A time-based goal will answer the following questions:
- What can I do today?
- What can I do six weeks from now?
- What can I do six months from now?
Example: If your goal is to earn a promotion, you might give yourself a year. If you haven’t achieved your goal within that time frame, it’s time to ask yourself if your timeframe was realistic in the first place. Maybe you have to add another six months or so?
⚠️ Tip: When someone else has power over your goals, the situation might change a little bit. Yes, you might want to get that promotion but what if ten more people apply? At the end, it’s the recruiter’s decision and you have to trust their objectivity. Getting the promotion might not depend just on you but obtaining the knowledge, skills and experience to qualify for a potential promotion is 100% down to you.
Why should I use SMART goals?
It’s simple – by using the SMART goal outline you can easily set boundaries, define the necessary steps you’ll need to take and keep track of progress. SMART goals help you get closer to your dream by organizing your thoughts and ideas into actionable items.
The great thing about SMART goals is that you can apply them to almost every aspect of your life. Whether it’s about a career change or a desire to travel around the world, you can always come back to the SMART goals framework and use it to plan your next move towards fulfilling your dream. You might quickly find out that, for instance, the reason why you haven’t visited that country you admire so much is because your plans were too vague or unrealistic. How can you transform your inner passion into a real event? Rephrase it as a SMART goal and get ready to book a ticket!
There are, of course, some drawbacks when it comes to the SMART goals framework. Some experts say that SMART is not suitable for long-term objectives and it lacks flexibility. Others say that it suppresses creativity. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide if you want to use them for your next goal. However, one thing is for sure – good order is the foundation of all good things.
Examples of SMART goals
Goal: I will get a job at a broadcasting station within 3 months after graduating with my Bachelor of Journalism.
Specific: The goal is to become a journalist at a broadcasting station.
Measurable: Success can be measured by the number of applications, interviews and job offers.
Achievable: The goal is aligned with the goal setter’s Bachelor of Journalism.
Relevant: The goal setter wants to work as a journalist after obtaining a degree in Journalism.
Time-based: There’s a fixed deadline for achieving the goal – 3 months after graduation
Goal: I will get a job as a dog trainer at the local police station by completing the required training course in six months and applying for the role at the end of the year.
Specific: The goal setter wants to become a dog trainer
Measurable: Success can be measured by completing the dog training course and earning the position.
Achievable: The goal setter will complete a six-month training to be able to apply for the job.
Relevant: The goal setter is probably interested in dog training and wants to complete a dog training course so that he/she can get a job as a dog trainer.
Time-based: There’s a deadline for the objective and it’s at the end of the year, after completion of the training.
Tips on How to Accomplish Your Goals
Now that you have familiarized yourself with what SMART goals are and how to use SMART, it’s time to make things happen! Here are a few tips which can help you with organizing your thoughts and actions and you can easily implement to reach your objectives.
- Write down your goal. Set up a journal where you can clearly see what you’re working toward. Don’t let your dreams just hang around in your brain. By writing things down, you will be constantly reminded of what you’re working hard for. In fact, a study by Dr. Gail Matthews confirmed that you are 42% more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down regularly.
- Revisit your goals. Check-in your progress on a daily/weekly or monthly basis to see how things are going. Of course, the big break can’t happen overnight but it’s important to have little milestones.
- Reward yourself for every win along the way, even the small ones. Recognizing smaller achievements is just as important as celebrating the big ones. This way, you know you’re moving in the right direction and the end goal will feel even sweeter once you’re there.
Goals are challenging but they are what keep us motivated and bring that extra spark in our lives. Setting SMART goals is just one way that can help you move forward in your professional and personal life. The framework is designed to provide a solid beginning. The next is, ultimately, up to you!
Are you looking for a way to improve the productivity of your business meetings? Join Mombit – a free meeting management software that lets you calculate your meeting ROI, tracks action and progress and is easily integrated with your work apps!
- https://www.freepik.com/vectors/business – Business vector created by stories – www.freepik.com
- https://www.freepik.com/photos/background – Background photo created by Waewkidja – www.freepik.com