When it comes to setting goals or targets for ourselves most people fail because they make their goals too vague or too general. Unfortunately, “do more work” or “workout more” is rarely a measurable target and therefore, most people will not reach their end goal, or will always feel like they are not doing enough because they have not set markers out that they can tick off to measure progress.
Success is all about setting smaller goals within your main goal that you reward yourself for completing, that way, achieving your main goal feels far less daunting. If we fail to set targets, then we run the risk of giving up control of our situations and simply becoming a bystander, while events unfold in front of us that we were not prepared for.
This is where setting up and implementing SMART goals can be of benefit. This article looks to outline what SMART goals are, as well as tell you how you can implement them into your daily life, giving three examples of the SMART system in action.
What is a SMART Goal?
As well as not wanting a goal to be too vague, a goal does not need to be over-specific, there is a lot of middle ground between “become the president” and “lose 3 pounds of fat in a month”. What a goal should be is SMART, which stands for:
A goal should always be specific enough that it is achievable. A good way to approach your target is to use the 5 W’s.
- Who – is there anybody that can help you reach this goal faster or with greater ease? If you are working on a group project, then this is a particularly important point to consider.
- What – what is it that you are trying to accomplish? Never be afraid to get detailed about this point either because the more you know about what you want to achieve, then the easier it will be to set attainable targets for yourself.
- When – Having a time frame will give you a greater sense of urgency and will likely help you to complete the goal at a faster rate. Simply suggesting that you want to lose 3 pounds “soon” is not good enough. Setting a timeframe of 2 weeks to lose that weight then gives you something to work towards.
- Which – Are there any obstacles or requirements in the way of you reaching your goal? If so, then it is important that they are laid out. For example, if you want to open a cooking school, but are not a qualified chef, then that may raise a few alarm bells and you may be required to gain a qualification first. Similarly, you may want to open a cooking school, but not be able to find a premises or afford rent, those are a separate set of obstacles. The most important thing is that you are aware of whichever issues may get in the way early on.
- Why – for me, this is the most important of the 5 W’s because it gets to the core of why you want to achieve this goal anyway. If written down, it will help you understand and get clarity on why you are looking to achieve this goal in the first place. So by asking yourself “why do I want to open a cooking school?” in answering, you can find a greater purpose.
Once you have the specifics of your goals written out, writing down the steps that it will take to get there should be next on your list. The best thing to do in this scenario is to have your final goal at the end, and between the beginning and the end, write in some smaller goals that when achieved, will get you closer to that end goal. So in the case of opening your own cookery school, it can look like this:
- Apply to do culinary arts in college
- Buy and read 3 books on how to run a business
- Complete your degree in culinary
- Apply for diploma in teaching
- Come up with a name for your brand
- Create a design for your brand
- Draw up a plan of action, what will make your cookery school unique?
- Look for a location for your school
- Hire decorators, plumbers, electricians to work on your school
- Open school
Now that is obviously quite a rough model, because as you can tell, I have never opened a cookery school, but the concept remains concrete, set smaller and more achievable mini goals on the way to achieving your main one. Even reward yourself or challenge yourself to achieve your goals in a certain timeframe, you may be surprised at how well you can work to a deadline.
Now I’m not saying that you may never open up a cookery school, but if you hate cooking and don’t understand how to start or run a business, then that goal will not be attainable for you. Making a goal seem more achievable may require a change in circumstances, attitude, or even location. Understanding what you must do in order to make your goal more achievable is crucial in using the SMART goal setting technique.
Setting a relevant goal is crucial because if your goal does not match up with your lifestyle or abilities, then it will be more difficult to achieve it.
If you were part of a telephone company and set the goal of branching into the fitness market, then it is probably not going to be relevant in terms of attracting your customer base, whereas if you were to join forces with a headphone or audio company and set the goal of having your phones contain this brand of audio speaker from the start of next year, then that is a more realistic and relevant target.
From a personal point of view, if your goal for the gym is to do 100 push-ups without needing a break, reading 200 pages of your newest book is not a relevant mini goal on your way to getting there.
This plays very much on what was discussed earlier. It is easy to set any type of goal but adding a time frame to this goal will make it easier to achieve. Knowing what your deadline is and how you can plan to meet it combines all of the above elements perfectly.
As mentioned earlier, “I want to lose 5 pounds of fat” vs “I want to lose 5 pounds of fat in two weeks” are identical goals, but because one of them has a time limit, there is more of an urgency to complete the goal and therefore you will have a greater chance of losing those 5 pounds.
One of the best ways to ensure success when it comes to SMART goals is to write down each of the above headings and tackle them one at a time or utilise one of the many SMART goal templates online, that will help you narrow down the ways in which you can achieve your goals.
3 Examples of the SMART Method in action
Goal: I want to write a book
S – Write an original crime and mystery book
M – The publishers that I want to send the book to will not take any book less than 50,000 words, so once that target is met then I am safe.
A – Writing 1,000 words per day will allow me to have the book written within 2 months.
R – Crime and mystery books have been my favourite genre for years and I feel that my idea is unique and will be popular.
T – I am giving myself a target of 60 days to have the book written and proofread
Goal: Reach 10,000 Instagram Followers
S – The goal here is to reach 10,000 followers on your Instagram account, perhaps it is your main account or a secondary business account.
M – A goal like this is easy to measure, all it takes is a look at your follower count, or some deeper statistics, like follower count the last 7 days, to measure your progress.
A – Depending on what you do on Instagram or what your business provides, this may be easy to achieve, or prove to be difficult to achieve. If your Instagram is your brand and you are selling things, then through promotion and good reviews and buy rates, then it may be easy to reach 10,000 a little faster, whereas if your content is niche or is minimal, then hitting 10,000 followers may prove to be a lot more of a challenge.
R– If you have a brand or business, then growing your follower count will always be relevant in terms of increasing exposure, getting more purchases, or increasing brand awareness.
T– This will again depend on the content that you post and your current traffic, but if your aim is to get 10,000 followers within 3 months, then you know that you may need to post daily, run competitions, and get friends to share your page.
Goal: Write more blog posts for your page
S – If you have a small or a medium sized blog following and write only one a week, writing a second blog for a few weeks will automatically double your output.
M – Ensure that for these few weeks, you are delivering two blogs and begin to see if there is a difference in following because of the increased output of work.
A – If you work full time or are busy throughout the week, the goal of writing a second blog may not be achievable. If this is the case, then you may need to outsource your work by hiring someone, or by re-evaluating your goal.
R – Ultimately, as a blogger, you will want your blog to be a success, by doubling up the amount of content that you produce, you will be increasing your output and will likely gain more traffic as a result, so the goal is relevant when looked at against the backdrop of the bigger picture.
T – Setting a target of one month is a good idea here because you give yourself enough time to compare your traffic versus other weeks but are not committing yourself to something in the long-term.