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The Missing Letter in Your SMART Goals

The Missing Letter in Your SMART Goals

    I love the SMART goal setting technique. It really helps me break my goals into smaller and more manageable pieces.

    However, there is one crucial element (or letter) that is missing from this acronym. This missing letter can potentially make it harder for you to reach your goal – no matter how well you have broken down your goal into different pieces and action steps.

    Playing the SMART game

    If you are not familiar with the SMART goal setting technique and what the acronym means, here is a brief rundown with a simple example:

    • S = Specific

    Your goal has to be specific enough (“I want to lose 4 inches off my waist”)

    • M = Measurable

    “My waist line is measured every week, on Saturday mornings after waking up”

    • A = Achievable

    “Do you think that you can do this? Or are you going too far by getting rid of yet another 10 inches? Or should the goal be 5 inches instead, maybe that would be more achievable?”

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    • R = Realistic

    “Is your lifestyle stable enough that you can commit to this goal?  Are you mentally prepared to do this? Do you want to achieve this goal by next week or in six months?”

    • T = Time-framed

    “It’s January 2012 now, so I want to achieve this by July 1st 2012.”

    As you can see, when you break down your goal like this, they become much more manageable and concrete than just saying “I want to to be slimmer”.

    All fine and well, except that there is a crucial letter missing in this package – another letter “A”.

    So, what is this missing letter “A” all about?

    Other letter “A” stands for accountability and this is a great way to make sure that your defined plan is actually executed and it is not left just on the talking or planning level. Even if you crafted a masterful plan by using the SMART goal technique, it becomes useless if you don’t actually execute it. To make sure you start the execution phase, you want to throw some accountability into the mix.

    By having some external pressure on your back (in the form of accountability), you are more likely to take action on your goal steps than if you just kept the plan to yourself. Accountability is based on the fact that you want to stand behind your words and save face. When you announce your goal to the world, you realize that the world is now watching you and you don’t want to let the world down.

    Accountability is also about keeping the expectations of others. If you announce a goal or a task in public, other people are expecting you will achieve the tasks and goals you have laid out for yourself.

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    Different ways to implement the letter “A” in your goal           

    1. Keep it to yourself

    I was a bit hesitant to include this, since in this scenario you are not telling others about your plans or tasks. However, for some people this might work since your conscience is your accountability partner in this situation. And you don’t want to let your conscience down.

    2. Announce it to the people you are dealing with

    Your people could be your colleagues at work, your local golf club buddies, the subscribers and readers of your blog or your Twitter followers. I would say that accountability is more effective when dealing with “offline people”. Being accountable face-to-face to someone is very effective.

    I’m in no way underestimating the power of “online people” either. If you are trying to form solid relationships with others online, you want to keep your word – even if you don’t necessarily meet the people in the same sense as in offline world.

    3. Accountability partner

    A little bit more intimate way of being accountable is to report to your friend or spouse about your doings. When this route is chosen, you might decide to call your partner on a frequent basis how you are doing and how you are progressing on your task that you promised to do.

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    4. Stickk.com

    If none of the above ways work for you it’s time to put Stickk into play.

    Stickk.com is a web site where you can announce your goal (“Commitment Contract”) and to make you even more committed to reaching that goal, there is money on the stake. Money is not mandatory to get set up with Stickk, but knowing that you will lose a certain amount of money if you don’t reach your goal, can give you an extra push to get stuff done.

    5. Mastermind groups

    Mastermind group is a group of like-minded people, gathering on a frequent basis (online or offline) trying to push each other closer to their goals. This type of accountability is very common in business world. When you are in a mastermind group and you have set the objectives you want to achieve by the next meeting, you want to get stuff done and fulfill other’s expectations.

    Mastermind groups are a great way to improve your productivity and reach your goals with the help of others.

    6. Coach

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    If you really want to get personal attention to your goals and a person who will make you to reach your goals (much faster than what you could do by yourself), then hiring a personal coach may be the best way to stay accountable.

    Not only are you accountable to your coach, but you also have to pay for his/her attention. This makes the coach option even more effective. You want to make sure you do everything you can to get the assignments done before the deadline you two have set. So there is a money factor to keep you accountable as well. Since you want to quickly move forward, this option is a very effective for staying accountable with your goals.

    Next time set the goal using “SMARTA” instead

    The next time you are set on reaching a goal, add that letter “A” to the SMART goal setting technique:

    Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-framed, Accountable.

    The accountability factor of reaching your goals may be just the thing you need to make them a reality.

    (Photo credit: Letters and symbols in fire via Shutterstock)

    More by this author

    Timo Kiander

    Productivity Author and Founder of Productive Superdad

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

    How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

    We all have those days when completing our assigned tasks seems beyond reach. With the temptation of social media, mobile games, and the internet in general—not to mention the constant bustle of people in the office—it’s easy to fall prey to disruptions and distractions at work.

    So, what can we do about it? How to be productive at work?

    While we don’t have a foolproof system that can completely eliminate disturbances and diversions, we do have 9 ground rules that can be applied to help give your productivity levels a boost.

    Keep reading to find out our tips on work productivity.

    What Does It Mean to Be Productive?

    How to be productive at work?” is the age-old question plaguing employees and employers alike around the world. Regardless of where you work and what you do, everyone is always looking for new ways to be more efficient and effective.

    But what does being productive actually entail?

    Completing more tasks on your list or working longer hours doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being more productive. It just means you’re more busy, and productivity shouldn’t be confused with busyness.

    Productivity means achieving effective results in as short amount of time as possible, leaving you with more time to enjoy freely.

    It involves working smarter, not harder. It means refining processes, speeding up workflows, and reducing the chances of interruptions.

    Productivity is best achieved when looking at your current way of working, identifying the bottlenecks, flaws, and hindrances, and then finding ways to improve.

    9 Ground Rules on How to Be Productive at Work

    1. Avoid Multitasking

    Multitasking can give the impression that more tasks can be accomplished as you’re doing multiple things at once. However, the opposite is true.

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    Research has shown that attempting to do several things at the same time takes a toll on productivity and that shifting between tasks can cost up to 40 percent of someone’s time.[1] That’s because your focus and concentration is constantly hindered due to having to switch between tasks.

    If you have a lot of tasks on your plate, determine your priorities and allocate enough time for each task. That way you can work on what’s urgent first and have enough time to complete the rest of your tasks.

    2. Turn off Notifications

    According to a Gallup poll, more than 50 percent of US smartphone owners admit to checking their phones a few times an hour.[2]

    Switching off your phone—or at least your notifications—during work hours is a good way to prevent you from checking your phone all the time.

    The same applies to your computer. If you have the privilege of accessing social media on your work desktop, switch off the notifications on there.

    Another good tip is to logout from your social media accounts. Therefore when you feel the urge to check it, you might be swayed because your page isn’t so easily accessible.

    3. Manage Interruptions

    There are certain disruptions in the office that are unavoidable such as your manager requesting a quick meeting or your colleague asking for assistance. In order to deal with this, your best approach is to know how to handle interruptions like a pro.

    Be proactive and inform the people around you of your need to focus. Turn your status on as “busy/unavailable” on your work chat app.

    If you’re on a deadline, let your colleagues know that you need to concentrate and would really appreciate not being interrupted for the moment, or even work from home if that’s a feasible option for you.

    By anticipating and having a plan in place to manage them, this will minimize your chances of being affected by interruptions.

    4. Eat the Frog

    Mark Twain once famously said that:

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    “if it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

    What this basically means is that you should get your biggest, most urgent task out of the way first.

    We all have that big, important task that we don’t want to do but know we have to do because it holds the biggest consequence if we don’t complete it.

    Eat the frog is a productivity technique that encourages you to do your most important, most undesirable task first. Completing this particular task before anything else will give you a huge sense of accomplishment. It will set the ball rolling for the rest of the day and motivate you to eagerly complete your other tasks.

    5. Cut Down on Meetings

    Meetings can use up a lot of time, which is time that can be used to do something useful.

    You have to wait for everyone to arrive, then after the pleasantries are out of the way, you can finally get stuck into it. And sometimes, it may take a whole hour to iron out one single issue.

    The alternative? Don’t arrange a meeting at all. You’ll be surprised at how many things can be resolved through an email or a quick phone call.

    But that doesn’t mean you should eliminate meetings altogether. There are certain circumstances where face-to-face discussions and negotiations are still necessary. Just make sure you weigh up the options prior.

    If it’s just information sharing, you’re probably better off sending an email; but if brainstorming or in-depth discussion is required, then an in-person meeting would be best.

    6. Utilize Tools

    Having the right tools to work with is crucial as you’re only really as good as the resources you have at your disposal. Not only will you be able to complete tasks as efficiently as possible, but they can streamline processes. Said processes are essential to a business as they manage tasks, keep employees connected, and hold important data.

    If you’re the manager or business owner, ensure your team has the right tools in place.

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    And if you’re an employee and think the tools you currently have to work with aren’t quite up to par, let your manager know. A good team leader understands the significance of having the right tools and how it can impact employee productivity.

    Some examples of tools that could be used:

    Communication
    • Slack for team chat and collaboration.
    • Samepage for video conference software.
    • Zendesk for customer service engagement.
    Task Management
    • Zenkit for task and project collaboration.
    • Wunderlist for listing your to-do’s.
    • Wekan for an open source option.
    Database Management
    Time Tracking
    • Clockify for a free tracker.
    • TMetric for workspace integrations.
    • TimeCamp for attendance and productivity monitoring.

    You can also take a look at these Top 10 Productivity Tools to Help You Achieve 10x More in Less Time.

    7. Declutter and Organize

    Having a disorganized and cluttered workspace can limit your ability to focus. According to researchers, physical clutter can negatively impact your ability to concentrate and take in information.[3] Which is why keeping your work environment well ordered and clutter-free is important.

    Ensure you have your own system of organization so you know what to do when the paperwork starts to pile up.

    Being organized will also ensure that you know where to find the appropriate stationery, tools, or documents when you need it. A US study reveals that the average worker can waste up to one week a year looking for misplaced items.[4]

    Here’s a useful guide to help you declutter and organize: How to Declutter Your Life and Reduce Stress (The Ultimate Guide)

    8. Take Breaks

    Taking regular breaks is essential for maintaining productivity at work. Working in front of a computer can lead to a sedentary lifestyle which can place you at a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Even a 30 second microbreak can increase your productivity levels up to 30 percent.

    As well as your physical health, breaks are also crucial for your mental and emotional wellbeing. That’s because your brain is like a muscle, the more it works without a break, the easier it is for it to get worn out.

    Ensuring you actually take your breaks can prevent you from suffering from decision fatigue. It can also help boost creativity.

    Take a look at this article and learn why you should start scheduling time for breaks: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

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    9. Drink Water

    Although we know we should, it’s easy to forget to drink enough water during the working day.

    Many of us turn to tea or coffee for the caffeine hit to keep us going. However, like taking breaks, drinking water is essential for maintaining productivity levels at work. It’s simple and effective.

    Not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration and also headaches, tiredness, and weight gain.

    A good tip to avoid dehydration is to keep a water bottle at your desk as it can serve as a reminder to constantly drink water.

    If you find the taste of water a little bland, add some fruit such as cucumber or lemon to give it a better taste.

    You can also get more ideas on how to drink more water here: How to Drink More Water (and Why You Should)

    The Bottom Line

    The preceding 9 ground rules on work productivity aren’t the be-all, end-all. You and the company you work for may have other tips on how productivity is best increased and maintained.

    After all, it’s something that can be perceived differently depending on the exact job and work environment.

    In saying that, however, the 9 ground rules serve as a good foundation for anyone finding themselves succumbing to disruption and distraction, and are looking for ways to overcome them.

    A good tip to keep in mind is that change doesn’t happen overnight. Start small and be consistent. If you slip up, just dust yourself off and try again.

    Developing habits happens gradually, so as long as you keep up with it, you’ll soon start to notice the changes you’ve been making and eventually enjoy the fruits of your labor.

    More About Boosting Productivity

    Featured photo credit: Cathryn Lavery via unsplash.com

    Reference

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