Your SMART Goal Setting and Action Planning GUIDE offers goal setting tips for you and your business. And it also gives you a deeper understanding of goal setting to help you.
Starting with an overview of the SMART Acronym and a helpful SMART graphic, this guide goes deeply into each element of SMART goal setting.
So, What is a SMART Goal?
A SMART Goal is a goal where the SMART criteria have been met.
SMART Goals Stand For:
• Specific (being clear and specific makes goals and actions easier to achieve – and start!)
• Measurable (helps you know when a goal or action is complete and measure progress)
• Actionable (ensures you have direct control over the actions needed to achieve the goal)
• Realistic (avoid overwhelm and unnecessary stress and frustration by making the goal realistic)
• Timebound (helps us stay focused and motivated, inspiring us with a date to work towards)
TIP: A SMART goal is easier to achieve (and track progress for), because it’s clearly defined.
A Little SMART History
The SMART Goals acronym began as a set of criteria for managers to set better goals within organizations. But the SMART acronym is so powerful (and catchy) that it began to be used in personal goal setting too.
When were SMART Goals created?
The first reference to SMART Goals (according to Wikipedia) is in 1981 in a magazine called Management Review.
Who created SMART Goals?
George T. Doran is the creator or SMART Goals. He wrote a paper: There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives. In this paper he discussed the challenges of documenting goals and objectives for management within organizations.
George believed it was the goal combined with the action plan that was most important. In this paper George T. Doran’s SMART Acronym was:
• Assignable – identify who will do it
Interestingly, the A (Assignable in George’s acronym above) is the only letter that has substantially changed in the switchover to personal goal setting. In personal goal setting “Assignable” doesn’t make sense as the goal is already assigned. And because taking action is so important, I have chosen A – Actionable as the replacement A in the SMART criteria.
SMART Goal Setting
SMART goal setting is an art! We start with a vision or an idea and gradually refine it, making it more specific and measurable so that it becomes a goal we can take action on.
SMART Goals are Specific
Have you ever struggled to get started on a task because you don’t really understand what it is, or the task seems too big and fuzzy?
Well, you’re not alone! Many people struggle with getting started on their goals – simply because they haven’t made their goals specific enough.
But it’s well worth the effort: The more specific goals are, the easier they are to achieve! When we’re clear on what we want, it makes it easy to make decisions and take action because we know exactly what we’re trying to do.
SMART Goals are Measurable
How will you KNOW you’ve achieved your goal unless you can measure it?
If you can’t prove you’ve completed the goal then it’s not measurable – which means it’s not a SMART goal. Measurability is a very important part of making your goals specific.
3 TIPS to Make Goals SMART – and Measurable
1. One way to find your measure is to ask “Why am I doing this? Why bother?”. This will help you identify why you’re doing it – and to identify the measures you need to be sure your goals are successfully completed.
2. Your measure could be a financial amount, a percentage increase or some kind of count. Note that for some goals and actions, the only measure is a “yes” or “no” to completion of the task. Ie. your new website is live, or you have registered your business name.
3. If you don’t know how to prove to someone that the goal is complete, then your goal measure is not specific enough. The “acid test” for measurability is to ask “How do I prove I’ve completed this goal?” So rather than “Create a new product” your measurable goal could be “The new product is available to buy on your website”. And rather than “Finish my book”, your measurable goal is “The final manuscript has been sent to the editor.” Clear – and provable!
Measurability is important for Actions too (actions are really just small goals!)
SMART Goals are Actionable
We can’t control fate – or other people. For a goal to be SMART it must be actionable by us, and within our control. Otherwise it’s not a goal, it’s a wish!
Actionable goals are those you can DO something about ie. where there are a number of actions – within your control – that lead to achievement of that goal.
Also Make Your Goals Action-oriented…
Making a goal action-oriented also encourages you to write ACTIVE and not passive goals.
SMART Goals are Realistic
It’s important to feel GOOD about your goals. When we set ourselves a goal that’s out of our reach we often end up feeling overwhelmed, we self-judge, and sometimes we give up altogether. Truly SMART goals feel great!
This means it’s important to factor in existing commitments and lifestyle when setting goals. SMART goals and actions need to be challenging enough to inspire you. AND they need to be realistic enough that you believe you can achieve it. It’s all about setting yourself up for success.
4 TIPS to Make Goals SMART – and Realistic
1. POSSIBILITY: Is it physically possible to complete the Goal or Action in question? While stretch goals can be inspiring even if they’re unlikely – this is rarely true if they’re impossible!
2. CHUNKING DOWN: Struggling with a big action or goal? Break it down.
For Goals ask: “What would be a great stepping stone?”, “What goal could I set that would prepare me or give me knowledge or experience that will help me achieve this bigger goal?” and “What could I achieve in a month, 3 months or year that would get me closer to my dream?”
For Actions ask: “What could I start or spend a chunk of time on?” and “What would be an easy first step, preparation action, request for help or action to remove an obstacle?”. You can break out the first step into an action or set yourself a target of working on something for a chunk of time like 1 day or 3 hours.
3. COMMITMENT: Make your action doable, ie. the right size so that you can commit to it 100%.
NOTE: Commitment is important – although it doesn’t necessarily mean the goal or action will get done. Sometimes life gets in the way and opportunities or problems arise which prevent us from achieving what we set out to do. However, people CAN commit to achieving it.
4. SCORING: One way to check-in as to how Realistic your goal is, is to score how likely you feel you will achieve your goals (out of 10). If your score is LESS THAN 8:
o Your goal or action may be TOO challenging or large.
o You may not feel connected enough to WHY you’re doing it.
o You may lack self-belief (which is an obstacle in itself)
o There may be some other obstacles you haven’t fully acknowledged or addressed yet.
Create a RANGE of Goal Achievement Levels
One way to make a goal realistic, is to create a RANGE of goal achievement levels. Having a goal completion RANGE is a great way to take the pressure off, while still inspiring yourself with a stretch goal.
• Minimum – This should be relatively EASY to achieve. Set a level that is EASILY achievable this year. After all, life sometimes does throw unexpected things our way – positive opportunities, charming distractions and painful experiences!
• Target – This is your IDEAL level. What would be a good level to aim for? What would be enough of a stretch to be interesting, but not so much of a stretch that you find yourself switching off or avoiding it?
• Extraordinary – This is your STRETCH level! What would be amazing, brilliant, wonderful? Put in a measure here where you would say, “Wow, that is fabulous!” NOTE: Be sure that your measure here is POSSIBLE, even if it is not PROBABLE.
SMART Goals are Timebound
WHY? SMART goals and actions are always Timebound ie. they have a date by when you plan to complete them. Without a date there’s less incentive to work toward our goals – what are we aiming at? We’re all so busy! How are we going to fit more activity into our lives? How do we know how to prioritise our activities unless we have a deadline to know this goal/action is important to us?
Also, an action plan to achieve a goal will be very different in terms of effort, solutions and help required if the deadline is a month from now, as compared to a deadline of one year from now. Setting a date allows people to work backwards and figure out an appropriate action plan.
A date also gives us the opportunity to visualise completion. It allows you to imagine that time in the future when you have completed it- and that helps you commit to the goal!
With annual goals we often have an automatic “deadline” of December 31. And sometimes a date is fixed or imposed on us, for example if we’re booked to deliver a workshop on a specific date. And sometimes we must choose a date, so we have something to aim at.
3 TIPS to Make Goals Timebound
1. Pick a date that inspires you, but that’s not so challenging that you feel overwhelmed.
2. Different dates may also represent the relative priority or urgency of different actions. Fore example, a goal or action with a completion date of March 31 is likely to be higher priority than a goal with a completion date of September 30.
3. For each goal, you can give yourself a RANGE of completion dates (Minimum, Target and Extraordinary) as detailed under the “Make it Realistic” above.
5 Final Tips to Be Smart about HOW We Set Our Goals
It’s not just about setting goals using the SMART criteria. We need to BE smart about our goals. Here are 5 final tips to help you and your clients both set – and achieve – your goals.
1. Work hard, but know when to rest. Forgive yourself – for what you don’t yet know, for your mistakes and what might get in the way.
2. Be kind to yourself! Know that we tend to over-estimate what’s achievable in a shorter time-frame, and under-estimate what we can achieve over a longer period.
3. Anytime the goal isn’t working for you, change the goal! The best goals flex when they need to.
4. Remember that SMART is for Actions too!
5. More important than hard work – determination and perseverance are essential qualities for achieving bigger goals! Keeping going when the going gets tough is what sets you apart from the crowd. These qualities also build self-confidence, resilience and make you proud of yourself!
Goals can be fun and inspiring. What the SMART criteria do is help us clearly define our goals so they’re easier to get started. SMART also makes it easier to take action, stay motivated – and ultimately succeed!
I have always loved goal-setting – and SMART goal-setting in particular! So I hope this SMART Goal-Setting and Action Planning Guide helps you set smarter and more inspiring goals – and have more fun working towards them!
Finally, remember this: