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Published on April 13, 2020

How To Set SMART Goals That You Will Accomplish

How To Set SMART Goals That You Will Accomplish

Goals are the foundation of a successful life. You won’t go anywhere unless you are someone with a vision and various systems in place to help you along that path. Ultimately, how you can get there is through setting goals.

Now, over the years, there have been many people discussing how to set goals and achieve them. However, the focus of this article is on a method developed in 1981. It’s the idea of setting SMART goals.

However, setting goals isn’t going to be enough. Like many other goal theorists over the years, they’ve learned there is more to setting goals. After setting SMART goals, you need to accomplish them.

What Are SMART Goals?

The theorist behind this goal-setting process is George T. Doran, a consultant and former director of corporate planning for Washington Water Power Company. He wrote a paper in 1981 outlining the SMART goal process.

As you might’ve guessed, SMART is an acronym where the goals that we set follow five criteria:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Bound (or Timely)

Let’s dig into each one.

Specific

Doran determined the best way for a goal to be specific was by going into detail with your answers to six questions:

  • Who is needed to achieve your goal?
  • What exactly are you trying to accomplish?
  • When do you expect to complete the task? (For this question, you don’t need to be too specific since this is covered in Time-Bound)
  • Where will this take place? This question isn’t always relevant but if there is a location or relevant event, it’s smart to identify that.
  • Which obstacles or requirements must be met to achieve this goal?
  • Why are you working towards this goal?

The idea with these questions is to look for potential obstacles in your process. Of course, there will be obstacles no matter what, but making your goal specific will ensure you remove the more obvious roadblocks.

Measurable

To make a goal measurable, you need to place a metric in place to evaluate your progress. If this is work that will take several months to complete, have milestones for when you want things to be done.

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Some other measuring tactics are making to-do lists or reflecting on your week to see if any progress has been made.

Achievable

The third aspect is achievable. This is one that many people trip up on as many focus more on the big question of “Can I achieve this with my current skills and abilities?”

Instead, it’s important you look beyond that as goals in most situations push us to do things beyond our capabilities. That’s not to say we’re doing something impossible, but rather we’re motivating ourselves to learn new skills we otherwise wouldn’t have worked on before setting SMART goals.

This is also the point to determine what sort of skills and tools you need to even start working on this goal properly.

Relevant

To make a goal relevant, it needs to be alignment with your overall life. For example, I used to place a lot of my focus on my work to the point that the relationship with my kids, my wife, and my own health started to suffer.

At that point, I decided to turn my life around as my health, wife, and kids are aspects I care about. A relevant goal for me at that point was to cut back on my work and develop small habits like doing stretches, setting time aside for my family, and so on.

A non-relevant goal in that situation would be setting goals on my work and financial prosperity.

Time-Bound

The final aspect is time-bound. This is where you want to be bringing your answer from Specific into the mix. Time-bound is the final important aspect, and it’s a tricky one.

Anyone can be setting goals, but not everyone can make them timely. The key is to set dates of course, but you want to dig further into it.

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Set a date and determine whether that’s enough time for you to reach that goal. Don’t be afraid to do some research either and see if others discuss how long it’s taken them.

It’s also a good idea to be setting milestones with expectations for where you want to be. Consider Parkinson’s Law:

Work expands to fill the time allotted.

In other words, the tighter the deadline you set, the more of an urgency you create to complete it. By keeping deadlines tight and reasonable, you can find other incentives to complete your goals.

How To Write Effective SMART Goals

Now that you have an in-depth understanding of what SMART goals are, you’ll want to commit these goals to paper. Keeping them locked in your head might make sense, but if you don’t write them down, you’re not going to feel as compelled to complete them.

We have billions of thoughts over the course of the day, and sometimes having a written reminder for some things helps.[1]

However, when you get into writing, you’ll find that there is more to writing these goals down than simply ensuring they hit the SMART criteria.

You’ll find yourself asking more questions, and the answers will begin to adjust your goals further and your strategy to achieve them. If questions aren’t coming to mind, consider this SMART goals template that Smart Sheet put together.[2]

Another tip when it comes to setting SMART goals is that you want to be setting only one and working it through the SMART criteria. After that, you can consolidate the goal into one statement.

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You’ll only want to set one goal because when we set multiple goals, it can create competition for our attention. Similar to how we shouldn’t be multitasking, we don’t want to set multiple goals for similar reasons.[3]

It breaks our focus and can lead to more problems down the road. Instead, it’s important that we set goals, achieve them, and then maintain the results as we progress towards other goals.

Evaluating Success and Failure When Setting SMART Goals

Despite understanding what SMART goals are and how to effectively write them out, some of you will succeed in your goals while some of you will fail.

That is the nature of goals. Despite your best efforts, sometimes you’ll come out short. But that’s okay because this reveals another aspect of goals.

You see, goals help us change in so many ways, and they themselves can change, too. As you work through your goals, you might make adjustments to them. Maybe you need a little more time, or you weren’t expecting other life distractions to dig into your time.

Regardless, here is how you want to approach and evaluate these aspects:

Evaluating Failure

Take failure as a learning opportunity. It’s a chance for you to learn about yourself, your goal-setting strategy, and the goal itself. From there, you can take that information and begin to make adjustments before attempting the goal again.

It is essential that if you experience roadblocks or failure, you don’t take them as such. These are challenges and opportunities for growth and further adjustment. The key is to walk away from these aspects with more knowledge than before.

Evaluating Success

While this is a good opportunity to enjoy your rewards, you should also use this opportunity for reflection, perhaps even more than with failure.

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Success is great, but that often leads to the question of “What’s next?” And for many people, this is not an easy question to answer.[4] All in all, success can lead to us stagnating, which is dangerous.

That’s not to say we need to be constantly achieving and setting goals. You should certainly be celebrating victories big or small. Not only that, but it’s key that we enjoy the results of our efforts.

However, there comes a point where we need to reflect on that success. What have you gained from that success? What can you do moving forward to achieve more? What do you want to do next?

By asking deeper questions about what you have achieved, you can further develop yourself and narrow down what needs to be focused on next.

Setting SMART Goals Is Smart

When you’re setting SMART goals, there is more to it than writing down a goal and making sure it checks off the five criteria. How you approach your goals and evaluate the results of your efforts towards those goals is important information.

Goals, no matter the method you set to achieve them, are ways for you to implement systems and to develop habits and skills to achieve your desires. By understanding this relationship thoroughly, you can now set SMART goals that you will put more effort into achieving.

More Tips on Setting SMART Goals

Featured photo credit: Helloquence via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

How Long Does It Take to Learn a Language? Science Will Tell You Delegation of Authority: The Complete Guide for Effective Leaders How To Be Successful In Life: 13 Life-Changing Tips 12 Things High Self-Esteem People Don’t Do A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success

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Last Updated on October 20, 2020

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future. Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

Bonus: Think Like a Rhino

More Tips for Procrastinators to Start Taking Action

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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