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Why You Need a S.M.A.R.T. Goal Refresher (or Primer)

Why You Need a S.M.A.R.T. Goal Refresher (or Primer)

The key to achieving goals is to make sure that they’re created in a defined way that makes the outcome and time frame clear, and by using the well-known S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting method, we can increase the likelihood of success. While no system is a guarantee for success, an effective strategy is a very useful tool when trying to achieve something that is important to us.

The problem is that though many of us are familiar with this method and may have even used it in the past, we often overlook it or cut corners because we’re in a hurry to get moving towards our goals. However, by these actions, we may be unwittingly undermining ourselves.

For those who are not familiar with S.M.A.R.T., this is a primer; for those who are, it’ll be a refresher.

SMART Goal Method

Specific: Goals must be very clear, not vague ideas. We often set goals that are so generic, it’s nearly impossible to measure progress or successful achievement—you need to know what has to be done, or what specifically the desired end result will be.

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POOR EXAMPLE:

  • I really want to lose weight”—Who doesn’t? What does that mean?

BETTER EXAMPLE:

  • “I will lose 20 pounds by September 1st  by performing a half-hour of cardio and half hour of strength training per day, 5 times a week.”

Measurable: Goals need to be measurable. They should be well-defined, concrete goals, and must be laid out in qualitative or quantitative terms. If there are no metrics or other way of measuring progress, it’s difficult to determine if you are making sufficient headway towards your end result. Choose a method of measurement that will allow you to gauge your progress.

POOR EXAMPLE:

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  • “I wish to be wealthy and successful so that I never have to worry about money again.”

BETTER EXAMPLE:

  • I will gross 1 million dollars and have a team of five within 5 years.”

Attainable: Goals need to be realistic and achievable. Time and again, success or failure is determined by having a realistic view of your ability to achieve your specific goal, and the best goals require you to stretch a bit to achieve, but aren’t out of reach. You should consider what resources you have and your level of skills necessary to achieve your goal. Setting goals that are not achievable can be very disheartening, and will only serve to discourage you in other aspects of your life.

POOR EXAMPLE:

  • “I hope to become a best-selling author in three months” (You never know—it could happen, but it’s highly unlikely.)

BETTER EXAMPLE:

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  • “I will increase my savings account by $10,000 in 3 years.”

Relevant: Goals must be relevant to your purpose (or your company’s.) Setting goals that are relevant will keep you on the right path to your long-term goals, and will also make certain that you stay focused on your personal vision, professional objectives, or overall strategic long-term plan in life. It also helps if the goal is related in some way to your area of expertise or knowledge, and revolves around an area in which you desire either personal or professional growth.

POOR EXAMPLE:

  • “I’d really like to network more”—Why? What does that get you? How do you plant to do so?

BETTER EXAMPLE:

  • “I will attain my Masters degree in two years so that I can attain professional certification in my field.”

Time-Sensitive: Goals need to have a time frame, milestones, and a deadline. Setting a specific period of time in which to achieve said goal will help to give you a timeline for steps needed, and a deadline for achievement. Doing this also helps you monitor your progress. Not having time constraints attached to your goal triggers procrastination: without an end date, there is no sense of urgency, no impetus to take any action today. Without this component, we are tempted to put off the goal, relegating it to the “someday,” pile—you may possibly never get around to it, or it will get lost in the shuffle of the day-to-day grind.

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For EXAMPLE:

  • “I would love to write a best-selling book.”
  • “I have always wanted to start my own business.”

Better EXAMPLE:

  • “I will write a book on financial planning and submit it to publishers 1 year from today.”
  • “I will have a retirement account with at least $500,000 within 5 years from this date.”

By taking a little extra time determining goals to ensure that they fit the S.M.A.R.T. criteria, you can not only improve your chance of success, but also in many cases make the actual attainment of the goal less of a challenge. A small dose of preparation will result in better results, smoother progress, and a higher rate of goal-achievement success.

Featured photo credit:  Young archer training with the bow via Shutterstock

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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