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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

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Last Updated on June 3, 2020

How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

We all crave constructive feedback. We want to know not just what we’re doing well but also what we could be doing better.

However, giving and getting constructive feedback isn’t just some feel-good exercise. In the workplace, it’s part and parcel of how companies grow.

Let’s take a closer look.

Why Constructive Feedback Is Critical

A culture of feedback benefits individuals on a team and the team itself. Constructive feedback has the following effects:

Builds Workers’ Skills

Think about the last time you made a mistake. Did you come away from it feeling attacked—a key marker of destructive feedback—or did you feel like you learned something new?

Every time a team member learns something, they become more valuable to the business. The range of tasks they can tackle increases. Over time, they make fewer mistakes, require less supervision, and become more willing to ask for help.

Boosts Employee Loyalty

Constructive feedback is a two-way street. Employees want to receive it, but they also want the feedback they give to be taken seriously.

If employees see their constructive feedback ignored, they may take it to mean they aren’t a valued part of the team. Nine in ten employees say they’d be more likely to stick with a company that takes and acts on their feedback.[1]

Strengthens Team Bonds

Without trust, teams cannot function. Constructive feedback builds trust because it shows that the giver of the feedback cares about the success of the recipient.

However, for constructive feedback to work its magic, both sides have to assume good intentions. Those giving the feedback must genuinely want to help, and those getting it has to assume that the goal is to build them up rather than to tear them down.

Promotes Mentorship

There’s nothing wrong with a single round of constructive feedback. But when it really makes a difference is when it’s repeated—continuous, constructive feedback is the bread and butter of mentorship.

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Be the change you want to see on your team. Give constructive feedback often and authentically, and others will naturally start to see you as a mentor.

Clearly, constructive feedback is something most teams could use more of. But how do you actually give it?

How to Give Constructive Feedback

Giving constructive feedback is tricky. Get it wrong, and your message might fall on deaf ears. Get it really wrong, and you could sow distrust or create tension across the entire team.

Here are ways to give constructive feedback properly:

1. Listen First

Often, what you perceive as a mistake is a decision someone made for a good reason. Listening is the key to effective communication.

Seek to understand: how did the other person arrive at her choice or action?

You could say:

  • “Help me understand your thought process.”
  • “What led you to take that step?”
  • “What’s your perspective?”

2. Lead With a Compliment

In school, you might have heard it called the “sandwich method”: Before (and ideally, after) giving difficult feedback, share a compliment. That signals to the recipient that you value their work.

You could say:

  • “Great design. Can we see it with a different font?”
  • “Good thinking. What if we tried this?”

3. Address the Wider Team

Sometimes, constructive feedback is best given indirectly. If your comment could benefit others on the team, or if the person whom you’re really speaking to might take it the wrong way, try communicating your feedback in a group setting.

You could say:

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  • “Let’s think through this together.”
  • “I want everyone to see . . .”

4. Ask How You Can Help

When you’re on a team, you’re all in it together. When a mistake happens, you have to realize that everyone—not just the person who made it—has a role in fixing it. Give constructive feedback in a way that recognizes this dynamic.

You could say:

  • “What can I do to support you?”
  • “How can I make your life easier?
  • “Is there something I could do better?”

5. Give Examples

To be useful, constructive feedback needs to be concrete. Illustrate your advice by pointing to an ideal.

What should the end result look like? Who has the process down pat?

You could say:

  • “I wanted to show you . . .”
  • “This is what I’d like yours to look like.”
  • “This is a perfect example.”
  • “My ideal is . . .”

6. Be Empathetic

Even when there’s trust in a team, mistakes can be embarrassing. Lessons can be hard to swallow. Constructive feedback is more likely to be taken to heart when it’s accompanied by empathy.

You could say:

  • “I know it’s hard to hear.”
  • “I understand.”
  • “I’m sorry.”

7. Smile

Management consultancies like Credera teach that communication is a combination of the content, delivery, and presentation.[2] When giving constructive feedback, make sure your body language is as positive as your message. Your smile is one of your best tools for getting constructive feedback to connect.

8. Be Grateful

When you’re frustrated about a mistake, it can be tough to see the silver lining. But you don’t have to look that hard. Every constructive feedback session is a chance for the team to get better and grow closer.

You could say:

  • “I’m glad you brought this up.”
  • “We all learned an important lesson.”
  • “I love improving as a team.”

9. Avoid Accusations

Giving tough feedback without losing your cool is one of the toughest parts of working with others. Great leaders and project managers get upset at the mistake, not the person who made it.[3]

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You could say:

  • “We all make mistakes.”
  • “I know you did your best.”
  • “I don’t hold it against you.”

10. Take Responsibility

More often than not, mistakes are made because of miscommunications Recognize your own role in them.

Could you have been clearer in your directions? Did you set the other person up for success?

You could say:

  • “I should have . . .”
  • “Next time, I’ll . . .”

11. Time it Right

Constructive feedback shouldn’t catch people off guard. Don’t give it while everyone is packing up to leave work. Don’t interrupt a good lunch conversation.

If in doubt, ask the person to whom you’re giving feedback to schedule the session themselves. Encourage them to choose a time when they’ll be able to focus on the conversation rather than their next task.

12. Use Their Name

When you hear your name, your ears naturally perk up. Use that when giving constructive feedback. Just remember that constructive feedback should be personalized, not personal.

You could say:

  • “Bob, I wanted to chat through . . .”
  • “Does that make sense, Jesse?”

13. Suggest, Don’t Order

When you give constructive feedback, it’s important not to be adversarial. The very act of giving feedback recognizes that the person who made the mistake had a choice—and when the situation comes up again, they’ll be able to choose differently.

You could say:

  • “Next time, I suggest . . .”
  • “Try it this way.”
  • “Are you on board with that?”

14. Be Brief

Even when given empathetically, constructive feedback can be uncomfortable to receive. Get your message across, make sure there are no hard feelings, and move on.

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One exception? If the feedback isn’t understood, make clear that you have plenty of time for questions. Rushing through what’s clearly an open conversation is disrespectful and discouraging.

15. Follow Up

Not all lessons are learned immediately. After giving a member of your team constructive feedback, follow it up with an email. Make sure you’re just as respectful and helpful in your written feedback as you are on your verbal communication.

You could say:

  • “I wanted to recap . . .”
  • “Thanks for chatting with me about . . .”
  • “Did that make sense?”

16. Expect Improvement

Although you should always deliver constructive feedback in a supportive manner, you should also expect to see it implemented. If it’s a long-term issue, set milestones.

By what date would you like to see what sort of improvement? How will you measure that improvement?

You could say:

  • “I’d like to see you . . .”
  • “Let’s check back in after . . .”
  • “I’m expecting you to . . .”
  • “Let’s make a dent in that by . . .”

17. Give Second Chances

Giving feedback, no matter how constructive, is a waste of time if you don’t provide an opportunity to implement it. Don’t set up a “gotcha” moment, but do tap the recipient of your feedback next time a similar task comes up.

You could say:

  • “I know you’ll rock it next time.”
  • “I’d love to see you try again.”
  • “Let’s give it another go.”

Final Thoughts

Constructive feedback is not an easy nut to crack. If you don’t give it well, then maybe it’s time to get some. Never be afraid to ask.

More on Constructive Feedback

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

Reference

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