How SMART goals will help you feel like a genius
Raise your hand if you’ve ever been personally victimised by your own goals 🙋
I hear your cries of ‘Life got in the way!’, ‘I’ll do it next month’, and ‘But look at all the other stuff I got done!’ Believe me, I get it – there have been countless goals I’ve abandoned for various reasons.
But what if the problem isn’t with you, but with the goal itself?
That’s right, we’re letting you off the hook for this one! We’re all usually so busy with our lives that we don’t spend enough time actively planning the ways we’re going to actually accomplish our goals. SMART goals help us to clarify our ideas, allocate time and resources to them, and set about achieving these dreams, no matter what they are.
We’ve talked before about the importance of making career goals that will actually stick. Today we’re going into more detail about the benefits of SMART goal setting, and how to go about making them.
What is a SMART goal?
The SMART method was originally introduced by Robert S. Rubin in his paper Will the Real SMART Goals Please Stand Up? In it, Rubin details the aforementioned rubric to help you set realistic and achievable goals. SMART stands for:
Rubin even went on to expand the words that SMART could represent, including:
S_ Simple, sensible, significant
M_ Meaningful, motivating
A_ Acceptable, attainable, accountable, agreed-upon
R_ Realistic, relative, rewarding, reasonable
T_ Timed, timely, time-related, time-sensitive, etc.
So, if one of the original SMART words doesn’t work for you, just pick one from the list above that does! Remember, SMART goals are less about rigidity and more about helping you to achieve what you want.
A great way to see if you’re hitting all the marks of a SMART goal is by slotting all your information into the below template.
My goal is to [specific objective] by [deadline]. I will accomplish this goal by [list of steps]. Accomplishing this goal will result in [outcome or benefit].
How do I set a SMART goal?
Luckily for us, the process of setting a SMART goal is just as easy to break into chunks as the acronym itself.
Let’s say your broad goal is to transfer out of the general workforce to start your own business. How can we make it SMARTer?
The goal that you set out to achieve should be as clear and specific as possible. Not only will these help you focus your attention on what your aim actually is, it will ensure you remain motivated and driven.
When you’re deciding on the specificity of your goal ask yourself:
- What exactly do I want to achieve?
- Why is this significant to me?
- Is there anyone else I could involve?
- What resources will I need?
Your goal is to start your own business – how non-specific is that?! Instead, your specific goal could be something like, “I want to gain the skills I need to make my business profitable enough that it is my main source of income.”
Tracking the ongoing progress of your goal is a great way to keep your spirits up, get you excited with every milestone you hit, and keep you accountable.
When you’re determining how to measure the progress of your goal, ask yourself:
- What steps are necessary in completing this goal?
- When will I be satisfied that these steps have been reached?
- How will I know when the goal has been achieved?
You’re trying to gain the skills to have a profitable business, so maybe the way you measure the success of this goal is by completing courses or programs, reaching a particular financial milestone by certain dates, or hiring a certain number of employees. The measurability of your goal will depend on the goal itself.
In order for your goal to work, it has to be one you can actually achieve. Sure, it’s great to have lofty dreams, but if they don’t seem remotely possible, how likely is it that you’ll even try?
If a goal is achievable, you should be able to answer these questions:
- Do I have the ability to reach this goal?
- Are the steps necessary to reach this goal also achievable?
- How realistic is the goal based on external factors (finances, time, resources)?
If your goal is to support yourself with your own business, there are lots of things to consider with its achievability. First of all, do you have an idea for a business? Do you have access to relevant courses or a network of other business owners? Can you afford to pursue this goal in the short and long term?
MindTools have a great piece of advice on whether a goal is achievable or not:
“Beware setting goals that someone else has power over. For example, “Get that promotion!” depends on who else applies, and on the recruiter’s decision. But “Get the experience and training that I need to be considered for that promotion” is entirely down to you.”
Oftentimes, we have several goals on the go at once. Maybe you have different personal goals to professional, or other priorities that are more important at that time. So when we think about relevant goals, we have to think about whether our specific goal matters to us.
When you’re tossing up whether to set a certain goal, ask yourself:
- Does it feel worthwhile?
- Does it reflect my worldview?
- Do I want to achieve this goal for me or because of outside influence?
- Is this the right time for me?
You might want to financially support yourself with your business, but are you passionate about it? Consider the people around you who you’ll be relying on – is it the right time for you and them to undertake this task? Can you see yourself still enjoying running the business in five years’ time? Do you have the bandwidth and access to necessary training long term?
Having a target deadline will give you something to work towards! This elevates the SMART goal from an abstract concept to something you prioritise and build forward.
Keeping a goal time-bound makes it more likely you’ll achieve success. Ask yourself:
- When would I like to reach this goal?
- What tasks can I work on now/in a week/in a month?
- What will I do if I don’t reach this goal on time?
Our original goal was way too broad, with no set dates or timelines to follow. Instead, you could set a time by which you’ve gained some skills, financial capital, or professional network. Time-bound goals need deadlines for each step, let alone the bigger picture.
So, if we use our template from the beginning, our goal is looking much SMARTer. It could be something like:
My goal is to have my business making $X within the next five years. I will accomplish this goal by attending business classes at TAFE, investigating loans and finding investors, and asking my friends to assist in a working bee. Accomplishing this goal will result in me being able to quit my corporate job, and becoming financially independent.
SMART goals are great tools to help you focus in on what really matters to you, and keep you motivated to achieve everything you set out to do. Don’t let yourself be victimised by your goals any more – make them work for you!
Featured image courtesy of Pexels
Lily Cameron is a writer and editor based in Sydney. She is a UTS Communications (Creative Writing) graduate, and current Communications Assistant at UTS Careers. She is passionate about telling stories, both hers and others’, and the way digital and social media is changing the literary landscape. Her writing has appeared in Voiceworks, The Brag, and elsewhere.