We can all struggle sometimes to achieve our goals whether its career or individual goals. Often our struggle is not because of a lack of effort, but rather how our goals have been structured.
Whenever you set a goal and you find yourself struggling keep in mind the word SMART. SMART is an acronym that can be used to help evaluate and add structure to your goals. SMART stands for :-
SMART begins with asking yourself “how specific is a goal?”
Specific: This is probably the most important part of establishing or evaluating a goal. The less specific a goal is the more difficult it is to determine how long the goal should take to complete or how to measure success.
Consider the difference between a goal to get healthy versus the goal to lose weight versus the goal to lose 10 kg. The goal to get healthy is much less specific than a goal to lose 10 kg!
Measurable -The next question to ask is “How will I know if I am achieving my goal?” “How is the goal measured?” What determines success? Some goals may be best measured by a simple yes-or-no, like running a marathon, while other goals are better measured by using metrics such as the goal to specifically lose 10 kg.
The key to measurement is making sure that in whatever way the goal is measured, it accurately reflects success. For instance, if you do not have access to a scale then measuring weight loss will be difficult and less accurate, but an alternative measure may be to track how many inches you have lost around the waist. But, to what extent does this accurately reflect the goal?
Without access to a reliable way of measuring weight, we may want to consider buying a scale or restructuring our goal.
Actionable is not asking yes or no, but how will the goal be achieved? What is our action plan? Do we have the resources and capabilities required to achieve success? If not what are we lacking? Well-designed goals provide clarity of action. If the actions required to achieve a goal are unclear or there are a large number of actions that need to be taken, we should consider breaking down the main goal into manageable, actionable sub-goals. In isolation any single goal is relevant, but in life we most often are in the process of pursuing multiple goals and having too many goals at the same time.
RELEVANT: We need a tool to help us monitor our goals to make sure we are pursuing our most relevant goals at any given moment in time. One technique is to place goals in a matrix that looks at effort required versus perceived value of achieving the goal. Not always, but most of the time we will want to focus our energy on low effort high value goals.
Another technique is to use the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule. Ask, which are the 20% of goals that will provide me with 80% of my return?
Time: We need to include a specific date by which a goal should be accomplished, it helps provide incentive and allows us to monitor progress. Consider the difference between the goal to lose 10 kg and the goal to lose 10 kg in 10 weeks. Simply by including an element of time we can now calculate how much we should be losing each week, and if after 5 weeks we have only lost 1 kg, we can revisit our action plan and ramp it up.
Goal setting is an on-going process of action, evaluation, and revision. It is not about lowering goals or standards to ensure success it is about recognizing goals are dynamic, because life is dynamic. We do not live in a static world. Life happens. A goal that is relevant today may be irrelevant tomorrow.
When using SMART, stay flexible and motivated by setting aside time to re-evaluate your goals on a regular basis