“Setting goals is the first step in making the invisible into the visible.”Tony Robbins is an American author, public speaker, life coach, and philanthropist.
Do you feel like you have a lot of great ideas, but never have the time or eagerness to act on them? Maybe you are trying to cultivate skills or passions, but it seems like you have not made any progress in the last few years. Or maybe you have big dreams for your life but have no clue on how to move forward on them. In this post, we will show you how to set SMART goals, so you finally start taking action.
Many people have “great ideas,” but most people never take action on their “great ideas.” Maybe, it seems like we got a lot of work done or working on many different projects, but it didn’t amount to any real progress in the grand scheme of things. We didn’t move the needle at all.
Instead, we can set SMART Goals to turn our ideas into actionable projects. SMART Goals help us clarify our intentions with purpose, plan our time and resources wisely, and take action on the goals we want to accomplish in life.
What are SMART Goals?
In the book, Attitude is Everything, Paul J. Meyer first defined the concept of SMART when setting goals. Meyer described each of the characteristics of SMART: Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. Since publication in 2003, the acronym has been widely used for many areas, including project management, employee performance, and self-development.
SMART is a great acronym to remember; however, I prefer an improved-upon version that most people are not used to. In his book, Start Finishing, Charlie Gilkey states that we have to take our idea and make it actionable. Thus, he revises the characteristics of setting SMART Goals: Simple, Meaningful, Actionable, Realistic, and Trackable. This goal-setting structure is better as it inspires the individual to set goals to take action.
Simple: Keep it Easy to Understand
A Simple Goal helps “you know exactly what you need to do to move forward with the idea.”
Simple goals set us of success. If we make our goals too complicated, we may hesitate or get stuck thinking about what we have to do. Over time, it will be tough for us to remember complex goals.
When setting SMART goals, you want to read them and understand what you have to do to move forward. Additionally, you should break down the complicated goals into simple smaller goals. This will make them much more manageable to take action on.
Example: You are preparing dinner for the family, which includes a lot of smaller steps. You should divide out the tasks within the project of making dinner within your notebook or todo application. This will make it is easy to remember and avoid getting way too detailed:
- Avoid: “Make dinner for the family, including find a recipe, buy the ingredients, prep the ingredients, cook the food, and serve it by dinner time.”
- “Make dinner for our family.”
- “Find a recipe online.”
- “Buy the following ingredients: …”
- “Prep the ingredients for the recipe.”
- “Start cooking to serve by dinner time.”
- Is the goal easy to understand?
- What do I want to accomplish?
- Who is involved?
- Where is it located?
Meaningful: Start with Why
A Meaningful Goal provides you with a quick understanding of “the importance of completing that goal.”
Meaningful goals give us purpose. In the book, Start With Why, Simon Sinek tells us that great leaders communicate why they are doing something before discussing how or what they actually do. Note that smaller goals by themselves may not be meaningful to us but should contribute to the bigger picture of our lives or businesses.
When setting SMART goals for yourself, you should start with why you are pursuing those goals. You should make your goals significant for yourself. This will allow you will read it, understand why it is important to you, and move forward.
- Is the goal important to you?
- Why is this goal important to you?
- Are you the right person to work on this goal?
- Does the goal fit within the larger context of your life?
Actionable: Begin with an Action Verb
An Actionable Goal tells you “what action needs to be taken to accomplish that goal.”
Actionable goals should inspire us to take action. Many people have great ideas; however, the key to moving forward in your life or business is to create goals that you can take action on. When you take consistent action, you will gain traction on your vision.
When setting your SMART Goals, you should start the goal phrasing with an action verb. Think through the actions that will culminate in you accomplishing that goal. Avoid being vague with the actions by just writing nouns to describe your goal.
Example: You are responsible for writing a weekly email newsletter for the employees in your company. You want to make this a reoccurring task in our notebook or todo list application. You should start with the verb “write” or “email” and avoid the common trap of just listing the noun:
- “Weekly Newsletter.”
- “Company Newsletter.”
- “Write the weekly newsletter.”
- “Email out the weekly newsletter.”
- Is it the right time to work on this goal?
- What actions do you need to take?
- What can I do can I take today? In a week? In a month?
Realistic: Ground Yourself in Reality
A Realistic Goal shows you that “the endpoint is achievable with the resources you have available.”
Realistic goals ground us in our reality. In the blog post, “Your Five Most Precious Resources,” the Minimalists state that a “simple life involves, perhaps above anything else, the deliberate use of resources.” Specifically, they refer to the five STEAM resources: Skills, Time, Energy, Attention, and Money. And we need to be intentional with how we use those resources.
When you set goals, you need to keep in mind that you have a limited amount to resources. A lot of us are guilty of making our goals unrealistic by underestimating how much time or money is required. You want to avoid overloading yourself with too much to do, which can cause you to feel overwhelmed, stressed, or become sleep-derived.
- Is the goal achievable?
- How can I accomplish this goal?
- What resources (Skills, Money, Energy, Attention, and Money) are required?
- What constraints are involved?
Trackable: Specify Your Progress and Timelines
A Trackable Goal tells you clearly “what progress means,” qualitatively or quantitatively. Also, the goal needs to have established start and end dates or it will not happen.
Trackable goals show us the amount of progress we are making toward our goals. Management expert Peter Drucker has said, “What gets measured gets managed.” Data helps you figure out where you are in relation to your goal, identify potential issues, and predict future progress.
When you set SMART goals, you need to measure progress toward your desired end state. You need to establish dates for starting and ending the work on the project, or it will not happen. You can also establish, metrics, milestones, or a timeline to mark your progress toward the goal.
Example: You run a marketing business and are trying to grow the business to replace your 9-5 job. In order to accomplish the goal, you need to increase the number of clients and the revenue coming into the business. You want to avoid being vague and stick to numbers to mark your progress:
- “Want to improve or be better.”
- “Want to get more clients.”
- “Grow the business to earn revenue of $10,000/month by the end of the year.”
- “Sell 2 additional clients for $2000/month each by the end of this month.”
- How much?
- How many?
- What does progress mean?
- How will I know when my goal will be accomplished?
- When does the goal need to be accomplished by?
How to Set SMART Goals?
Now, let’s take action on setting SMART goals. You should carve out some time on a regular basis to establish a plan and set goals. Depending on what works best for you, you can create goals for various periods of time: daily, weekly, monthly, quarter, or annually. For myself, I do the following:
- Daily Goals: Spend 10 minutes the previous night to write my SMART goals for the next day in my Todoist app.
- Weekly Goals: Spend 1 hour on Sunday night to plan out my goals and focuses for the upcoming week in my Google Calendar.
- Quarter Goals: Spend 1 workday prior to the start of the quarter planning out what to do for the next quarter in Google Docs.
Remember, that if you try to do everything then you will not making any progress toward any specific goal. Thus, I recommend establishing about three to seven goals per time period, with less being more.
I will expand on the following steps in a future post, but here are the basic steps to goal setting for each respective time period:
- Brainstorm everything that you want to do in that time period.
- Combine, delete, and prioritize to decide on three to seven goals.
- Frame the objectives as SMART goals with assigned due dates.
- Document and display your goals to help keep yourself accountable.
I hope you are able to crush it and take action by setting SMART goals. If you have any further questions or need additional help, feel free to comment below or send me an email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.