As a new year begins, leaders everywhere make resolutions and plan for the months to come. The challenges of the last two years have made it more important than ever to be clear about your goals to make sure they are achievable. Setting SMART goals will bring clarity and focus to your ideas and help you use time and resources more effectively.
What is a SMART Goal?
SMART is an acronym you can use to guide goal-setting in any situation. To make your goals both clear and attainable, make sure they are:
• Specific – Your goals should be clear as possible. Ask yourself what you want to accomplish, what resources are needed and how you will get started. Most importantly, ask yourself why you want to reach this goal. Knowing the purpose and meaning behind reaching a goal will motivate you when things get difficult.
• Measurable – Tracking progress and determining how you will know if you’ve achieved a goal is also vital to the process. A measurable goal will include answers to questions like How many? How much? How long? How do you know the goal is accomplished?
• Achievable – SMART goals are achievable goals. There is nothing less motivating than an impossible goal. Think carefully about time and budget constraints. Also, be realistic when setting goals that someone else has power over. For example, you may set a goal to be promoted and get a raise and work towards that goal diligently all year—but the promotion is ultimately in the hands of your boss. A SMART goal would be to “get the training and put in the work needed to be considered for a promotion.” That is certainly achievable and in your control.
• Relevant – The relevance of your goal is determined by whether it aligns with your other goals, or undermines them. Ask yourself if this is the right time and help support other efforts or conflict with them. This is when it is vital to look at the big picture and make sure that the goal is a worthwhile use of resources like time and budget.
• Time-bound – Every SMART goal needs a timeline. Setting deadlines along the way will help you make steady progress. A target date for completion creates focus. Ask yourself what should be completed a week from now, a month from now, and six months from now. This time allocation allows for adjustments and check-ins along the way. Goals without deadlines often get forgotten when schedules get busy and everyday life gets in the way.
As the concept of SMART goals has become more popular, some people have expanded the idea to SMARTER goals, adding Evaluated and Reviewed to emphasize the need to evaluate and gather feedback. Looking back at what you have accomplished, what went well, and what could be improved will inform what goals you set in the future. There is no better time than now to create your SMART goals and achieve more success in the year to come.