I have always been a New Years resolutions kind of girl. I love fresh starts, do-overs, and setting new, exciting goals for various areas in my life.
Get fit. Increase my income. Spend more time with friends and family.
These are a few of my most common, ongoing life goals that I am almost always working on. However, I there was a time when I would often fall short in reaching these goals.
I realized that it wasn’t due to lack of effort. Instead, the problem was that I failed to set them in a structured way that provided a clear path towards reaching them. I left out one of the most important elements of goal-setting: planning. Without a plan, my goals are more like empty hopes and dreams.
If you can relate to the endless cycle of setting goals that you don’t achieve, I’d like to share with you something I’ve discovered that has greatly improved my success in meeting my goals: the S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting method.
What Are S.M.A.R.T. Goals?
S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-sensitive. Let’s dive a bit deeper into each element of SMART goal-setting.
The first step to S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting is to make your goals as specific as possible.
Too often, people set goals that are vague and ambiguous, making it nearly impossible to focus on key activities needed in order to reach the goals. When your goals are vague, you have no idea what steps to take to make the goal a reality.
For example, let’s take one of my examples from above: I want to increase my income. Although this is a pretty straightforward statement, there is nothing in it that indicates exactly how I plan to increase my income.
Here are a few questions I should consider to make this goal more specific and actionable:
What will I do to earn more money?
When will I do it?
How much extra money do I want to earn?
Note: I strongly suggest adding the why into your goal-setting. Knowing your why will help keep you motivated when obstacles come your way or you feel like quitting.
Here’s a better version of the goal using these key questions: I want to increase my income by $1000 per month by working overtime 3 nights per week to pay off my student loan debt.
My new goal statement tells me exactly what I need to do to reach my goal. This is important, because identifying my action steps will ensure that I’ll be able to measure my success in reaching this goal.
When your goals are measurable, you should be able to easily track your progress to confirm that what you’re doing is working, or if there are changes you need to make.
Let’s stay with the goal example above: I want to increase my income by $1000 per month by working overtime 3 nights per week to pay off my student loan debt.
This goal is measurable because I can track my additional monthly earnings to determine if I am making progress. If I am earning at least $1000 extra per month, I am on the right path in reaching my goal, and I know that I can continue doing what I’ve been doing.
However, if I find that I earned an extra $700 the first month and only an additional $600 the following month, this indicates that I may need to increase my overtime to reach the $1000 extra money goal I initially set.
But, what if I absolutely cannot work more overtime due to time constraints? Could it be that this specific goal is not realistic for my current lifestyle? Is it attainable?
By ensuring that your goals are attainable, you will avoid setting yourself up for disappointment and, ultimately, failure to achieve your goals.
I believe that it is a common practice for people to set unattainable goals. It is almost as if we assume that the more difficult and unrealistic the goal, the more meaningful it is. This is not only counterproductive, but also damaging to your self-confidence. Instead of seeing that your goal-setting is flawed, you start to think that you are flawed or inadequate. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
When setting your goals, think about your current life obligations. For example, if you already work full-time and have young children at home, can you realistically work overtime 3 days per week outside the home to make an extra $1000? How will this affect your children? Marriage? Health? Taking your current life stage into consideration is crucial setting your goals.
An attainable alternative to this goal is : I will start a work from home customer service job with flexible hours that will bring in an extra $1000 per month to pay off my student loan debt.
A relevant goal is one that is in alignment with your overarching vision and purpose. Remember how we talked about the importance of including your why when setting goals? This is where knowing your reason for pursuing this goal comes into play.
If your ultimate goal is to get out of debt, adding a goal to learn a new hobby may not be the best use of your time in that season of your life. It could actually become a distraction, causing you to lose focus and ultimately moving you away from your debt-free vision of your life.
This isn’t to say that you have to be so laser-focused on the goal that you forsake any tasks or activities not related to it. However, it is important to ensure that you are devoting your most productive time on tasks that align with your goals.
Time-sensitive goals have an end-date attached to them. Keeping your goal’s deadline in mind will push you to continue working diligently to achieve it.
Without a planned time frame, you may fall into a habit of putting off the tasks you need to complete to reach your goal. When you think you have all the time in the world to do something, you’ll be tempted to procrastinate.
Let’s review our revised goal one last time: I will start a work from home customer service job with flexible hours that will bring in an extra $1000 per month to pay off my student loan.
You’ll notice that there is no mention of a deadline or end date to this goal. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to set a time frame for reaching your goal:
What is the balance of the loan?
How many months will I have to work extra hours to pay it off?
For example, let’s say my remaining student loan balance is $25,000. If I am currently making a minimum payment of $200 per month, an extra $1000 will have it paid off in about two years, with interest included. So, my deadline is two years, give or take.
Here is our final goal: I will start a work from home customer service job with flexible hours that will bring in an extra $1000 per month to pay off my student loan in two years.
Awesome! We have successfully created a S.M.A.R.T. goal!
What Are Your S.M.A.R.T. Goals?
I hope you’ve found this helpful as you consider your overall life vision and the goals that will help you make that vision a reality.
What are your SMART goals? Please share below!