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Last Updated on December 14, 2020

How To Set SMART Goals That You Will Accomplish

How To Set SMART Goals That You Will Accomplish
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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 July 29, 2021

A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success

A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success
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If there was a rule book of life, there would be one particular page that was highlighted, underlined, and titled as most important. It would be the one which told you that you need to master effective goal setting and have an aim in mind before you get on with the process. While there may not be an actual rule book of life, we do have this helpful goal setting guide to offer.

Yes, goal setting is important. In fact, it’s more important than achieving the goal itself. This is because it is the sense of direction that is needed for you to fulfill any task in life.

You don’t have to feel overwhelmed if this sounds new to you, as all the following information has you covered.

Today, you’ll find out all about the importance of goal setting, types of goals, and tips to define realistic goals for yourself!

What Are Goals?

To kick off our goal setting tips guide, you need to first recognize what goals are and how they are different from objectives, dreams, and expectations.

A goal is essentially your aim for the long-term future. It is the bigger umbrella, the main focus.

Objectives, on the other hand, fall under the umbrella of goals. They are the stepping stones that help you achieve your goals[1].

Objects vs goals for goal setting tips

    For example, you may decide you want to learn a new language. Your goal is to be fluent in the new language. Everything you do to achieve this goal, such as the daily tasks and monthly learning aims, are the objectives.

    Similarly, your expectations, visions, and dreams are not your goals. If you wish to learn a new language someday, that is your dream. If you see yourself fluently speaking multiple foreign languages, that is your vision. If you think you’re capable of learning a new language, that is your expectation.

    However, if you aim to fulfill these visions, dreams, and expectations practically, that is your goal.

    Why Is Goal Setting Important?

    Why should you bother with goal setting at all? Wouldn’t it be more convenient to just get on with your daily objectives, follow a dream or vision, and let life take you wherever?

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    While that road can feel exciting and spontaneous, if you actually want to tick off things from your list of goals to achieve, learning how to set goals is necessary.

    Being committed to a goal puts your brain to work in one specific direction. Believe it or not, by having a defined goal, your brain does its magic unconsciously, 24/7, with full efficiency, to achieve the desired results[2].

    Goal setting is important to shift your focus, boost your motivation, and give you a sense of direction. Without formally defining a particular aim that you want to reach, you won’t be able to keep your objectives in line.

    Hence, this one tiny step can end up saving you a lot of hassle and time while also encouraging your productivity.

    Types of Goals

    Before we move onto the technique of setting effective goals, we need to first take a look at all types of goals in this goal setting tips guide.

    These categories will not just help you brainstorm new one for yourself, but it will also guide you to list them down in the right way.

    Time-Based

    One of the two broad categories of goals is based on time. These goals define how far in the future you want to achieve them.

    Daily

    There are certain smaller goals that you can easily achieve in a day or two. In fact, some of these daily goals can be recurring, too. For example, you may want to run for an hour every morning.

    Now, these daily goals can also serve as objectives for a long-term goal. You may be running every day because, in the long-term, you want to increase your stamina.

    Daily goals are highly effective for people who want to improve their mental wellbeing, time management skills, and stress management.

    Short-Term

    Next in line are short-term goals. As you would have already guessed, goal setting in this area is aimed at the near future.

    The great thing about these is that they are generally easier to achieve. This is because short-term goals are set for the foreseeable future. You are aware of the circumstances and have a general idea of how much the situation can change.

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    Just like daily goals, short-term goals may also serve as objectives for a long-term goal. Your short-term goal may be to lose 5 pounds in one month. That could be a goal in itself, or maybe it is just one objective to fulfill your goal to adopt a healthy lifestyle in the next two years.

    Another example of a short-term goal is to fulfill the checklist for promotion within the next 6 months. Or, you may want to reduce your screen time within the coming week.

    Long-Term

    Lastly, we have long-term goals that are meant to be completed over a stretched period.

    Whatever you want to achieve in a later stage of life is a long-term goal. An insurance plan, for example, is a long-term goal.

    Some long-term goals don’t have any time frame at all. They are goals that you want to accomplish at some point in your life. So, something like traveling the whole world is a lifelong goal with no specific time constraint at all.

    There’s one thing about long-term goals that isn’t great.

    They are the hardest to keep up with since you’re not seeing any huge achievements regularly. This may take a toll on your motivation. To tackle this problem, it is best to divide a long-term goal into various, short-term and daily objectives so that you’re always tracking the progress you’re making.

    Life-Based

    Moving forward, you can also start goal setting based on the results you want to achieve instead of the time period.

    Career

    Like most people, you will likely want to succeed and excel in your career. Anything that has to do with this intention, regardless of the time frame, is a career goal. These are usually measurable goals, such as receiving a promotion within two years, finding a job at a certain company within the next six months, etc.

    You can learn more about how to set successful career goals here.

    Personal

    The past few years have all been about emphasizing your personal health. So, when it comes to goals, how can we forget the ones that have to do with our personal gains?

    From health to finances to relationships, everything that brings you happiness and composure as a person is a personal goal. It’s important that these are realistic and attainable goals for your life.

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    Whether you want to get rid of your debt, quit smoking, start a side hustle, have children, or travel the world, all of these goals are personal and very important to have on your list.

    How to Set Goals

    The best way to guarantee the fulfillment of goals is to set them the right way.

    1. Use SMART Goals

    Every goal you define has to be SMART[3].

    SMART stands for:

    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Attainable
    • Relevant
    • Time-Bound

    In summary, your specific goals should be very well defined. They shouldn’t be generic or broad, and every detail should be clarified as you’re goal setting. 

    If you want to start running, how often do you want to do it? How long will each session be? For how long will you continue this habit?

    There has to be a connection between your goals and beliefs or you’ll never be able to achieve the results you want. Most importantly, do not be unrealistic. You cannot learn to fly, and forcing yourself to try is only going to demotivate and stress you out.

    2. Prioritize Your Goals

    As you’re looking into how to write goals for the next month or year, it’s likely you’ll come up with more than one. In this case, it’s important to prioritize which are the most important or the ones that have the tightest deadline. This is going to be subjective, as only you know which goals will have the most impact on your life.

    3. Think of Those Around You

    As you’re working on goal setting, keep your loved ones in mind. You may have a partner, children, or employees that depend on you, and you should take them into consideration with your goals. For example, if you set a goal to travel to 10 different countries in the next two years, how will this affect your children?

    If you want to lose 30 pounds this year, is there something your partner can do to support you? S/he will need to be made aware of this before you set off on your weight loss journey.

    4. Take Action

    Setting goals is the first step, but in order to be successful, you have to follow this with action. If you set goals but never act on them, they become dreams. Create an action plan laying out the steps you need to take each day or week in order to achieve your big and small goals.

    You can also check out Lifehack’s free guide: The Dreamers’ Guide for Taking Action and Making Goals Happen. This helpful guide will push you to take action on your goals, so check it out today!

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    5. Don’t Forget the Bigger Picture

    Most people refer to the big picture as their vision. Whether it is the long-term result or the connection of the goal with your desire, keep it in mind to keep yourself from getting distracted.

    You can learn more about creating a vision for your life here.

    I also recommend you to watch this video to learn 7 strategies to set goals effectively:

    How to Reach Your Goals

    You can ensure your progress by following some foolproof tactics. The use of relevant helpful tools can also keep you on the right track.

    Tactics

    One rookie mistake that most people make is that they work on too many goals simultaneously. Create an action plan and focus on one thing at a time.

    Divide your goal into smaller, easily achievable tasks. Taking it one step at a time makes it much easier. However, do not break them down too much. For example, for long-term goals, you should go for weekly checkpoints instead of daily ones.

    Also, keep track of your progress. This will keep you motivated to work harder.

    Tools

    With so many categories of goals and so many aims, it is almost impossible to remember, let alone work, on all of them.

    Luckily, numerous goal tracker apps will help you keep track of your goals, as well as your plan to achieve every single one. Have at least one installed in your smartphone so that your plan is always within reach.

    The Bottom Line

    In conclusion, using a goal setting tips guide is not rocket science. All that it takes is strong will power along with all the knowledge that you’ve learned so far.

    Try out the tactics and goals setting tips mentioned above to be able to set successful goals so that you can achieve the life that you want!

    More Tips on Achieving Success

    Featured photo credit: Danielle MacInnes via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Smart Insights: The difference between marketing objectives and marketing goals?
    [2] Confluence: Goal Setting Theory
    [3] University of California: SMART Goals: A How-To Guide

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