A simple question made me realize I had skipped something important. In several blogs, conversations, and social media posts, I've referred to the importance of goal-setting, how to achieve goals, and the value of setting weekly and daily goals to increase productivity. However, this past week someone said to me that "the thing with me is that I just don’t know how to set clear goals that I can actually pursue. How do I do that?"
Immediately, a lightbulb went off in my head. Have I never written about the basics of goal-planning? Time to rectify! To build a goal you can confidently put your effort toward achieving, you must follow specific steps to increase your chances at success. Let me start by explaining the anatomy of a well-planned goal: the SMART criteria. SMART is the backbone of every goal description. You can adapt these criteria to whatever your objective is; just make sure you follow all of the acronym’s five points.
Some productivity experts have their versions of this strategy, but here I’ll stick to the basic form. Breaking it down, SMART stands for:
Now, how would you apply this acronym to your individual goal? Keep reading.
Specific. The more explicit and specific your goal, the better your chances to accomplish it. It's not the same to say I want to run than to say I want to run 1 mile at an easy pace. To make your goal as specific as possible, answer these questions: What do I want to accomplish? What do I need in order to achieve this goal? Am I the only person responsible for producing results? The answers to these questions will guide you to a more precise goal.
Measurable. It’s said that what can't be measured doesn't happen. Hence, make sure you collect data to measure your progress -or lack of it. Measure it in time, miles, pounds, dollars, calories, how much, how many, dates, etc. For instance, and continuing with the running example, now your goal should be I want to run 1 mile at about 12 minutes/mile on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for the first two weeks and increase one mile every week after that. Measuring your progress motivates you to keep going. Even if slow, progress is success.
Achievable. Being the high-achievers that we are, we tend to set lofty goals thinking that the more ambitious the goal, the better—quite the opposite. Big goals may sound like a cool idea; however, they may be intimidating and even demoralizing if we don't see progress quickly. If you're a first-time runner, you won't be able to run 10 miles at a fast pace on your first try -and if you can, hats off to you! Make sure your goal is realistic.
Relevant. How important is it for you to achieve this particular goal? What’s the benefit you’ll get once you accomplish it? The more relevant your goal, the more driven you’ll be to pursue it and stay on track. For instance, if your cousins are planning to run a 5K race on Thanksgiving Day to raise funds for your aunt Doro’s nonprofit and you wholeheartedly want to be part of this noble initiative, you’ll be super motivated to train. Then, the description of your goal up to here should be I want to run 1 mile at about 12 minutes/mile on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for the first week and increase one mile every week after that to run in my aunt Doro's fundraiser with my cousins.
Time-bound. Because we’re all human, even high-achievers procrastinate from time to time on things that are complicated or boring, mainly when there is no due date attached. Your goal has to have a specific start and end date. If the goal calls for it, you can have several deadlines attached to it to measure short-time progress.
So, taking this last point into account, let's see how the goal looks now:
I want to run 1 mile at about 12 minutes/mile on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for the first two weeks and add one mile every week after that to run in my aunt Doro's 5K fundraiser with my cousins on Thanksgiving Day.
Planning your goal the SMART way is a vital first step. Now, you actually have to work toward accomplishing it. Next week, I'll write about two tips on achieving your goals effectively and efficiently: One is breaking your goal down into the smallest possible steps, and the second is to attach your goal to a routine you currently have in place. Stay tuned and read next week's post for more on reaching your goals.
Do you follow the SMART criteria when planning your goals? Has it worked for you? Let me know; I would love to hear from you about this and other topics related to time optimization and productivity. Sharing your experience may help others improve their lives! If you found this information useful, please like, share, and leave a comment to help others find this post. Thanks for reading, and may good planning bring you peace of mind!