Creating goals can be a pivotal first step towards leading the life we want. As important as it is to create goals for ourselves, we sometimes strive to reach goals that aren’t always realistic. We also tend to be our own harshest critics, so failing to reach goals can be detrimental to not only our professional lives but to our personal lives as well.
Creating SMART goals can increase your likelihood of actually achieving these goals by helping you stay on track and develop a game plan that works for you now and in the future.
What are SMART goals?
Before we can create SMART goals, it can be helpful to understand what they are first, right? SMART goals are a method or approach one can take to achieve a specific result that is going to be more substantial and impactful. This framework can be broken down into the following:
Each of these steps or pieces, when combined, will help you accomplish your goals in a way that is both strategic and comprehensive.
Consider the goal you want to achieve, but narrow it down as much as you possibly can. If you can be specific with your goal, you will be more likely to accomplish it. This step will help you immensely when planning because you aren’t simply narrowing down your goal; every aspect of this process needs to be specific and precise.
Incorrect: “I want to earn a manager position and lead a team.”
Correct: “I want to earn a position as a Technical Manager and lead a team for a tech-based startup.”
By making your goal specific, it will help you when discovering who you need to be connecting with, what you need to accomplish first, and how you will achieve your ultimate goal.
How will you know when you’ve actually accomplished your goal? You have to make your end-goal measurable. In doing so, you’ll be able to realize when your goal has been reached and you can measure your progress along the way. As you track your progress, you will be able to adjust your actions accordingly.
Incorrect: “I increased sales.”
Correct: “I increased sales by 15% this week and by 23% last week.”
Whether you’re using data or surveys to track this information, keeping a close eye on your progress is critical. Take notes on how you’re doing!
Personally, I know I have a tendency to create goals that are not realistic. When I don’t accomplish them in the time I thought I would, I get really discouraged. That is the opposite of helpful. You need to be realistic and honest with yourself on what you will actually be able to accomplish in a certain amount of time.
Incorrect: “I want to be promoted to Director in my first year of working.”
Correct: “I want to be promoted to Assistant Director within my first two years of working.”
Time is a big contributor when it comes to developing achievable goals, but we’ll get to that in a minute. Ask yourself, what needs to happen first? Do you need to have more experience? Do you need to have certain certifications? Once you’ve understood the preliminary steps, you can help yourself create attainable goals.
SMART goals are the stepping stones into much larger goals. They need to align with your values and what you want to happen next; otherwise, they may derail you from what really needs to be done.
Incorrect: “Before I pursue a career in digital marketing, I’m going to earn my SHRM certification.”
Correct: “Before I pursue a career in digital marketing, I’m going to earn my SEO certification.”
I understand wanting to be a jack of all trades, but you need to really consider if whether or not certain pursuits are worth your time and effort. If it isn’t going to contribute to your ultimate goal, it can wait.
You already know your goals need to be attainable and measurable, but what really helps too is figuring out how long it will take to accomplish this goal. First, think of a potential end date. Then, contemplate if you will actually be able to achieve your goal by this date. If not, reconsider.
Incorrect: “I want to save $20,000 over the next 2 months.
Correct: “I want to set $100 aside every week for the next year.”
If you come to your end date and haven’t accomplished your goal, reflect on why. Was your timeline unrealistic? Did unexpected events occur? Don’t only plan for a complete end date. Develop an entire timeline and include when certain milestones need to be accomplished. Incorporating this into your gameplan will help you check in on your progress and adjust as needed.
The benefits of using SMART goals
Unlike regular goals, SMART goals force you to be strategic and to evaluate yourself and what you’re doing. This framework is easy to use and is more effective because it helps you to catch yourself if you’re falling behind. While it is possible that SMART goals can cause certain people to become overly ambitious or discouraged, the chances that it helps you is higher than that of it hindering you.
When should SMART goals be used?
Depending on what area of your life you’re trying to improve, the reasons may differ. If you’re focused on your career and professional life, these are great situations for using SMART goals:
- You want to switch careers
- You’re trying to transition into a higher-level role
- You know what you want to do, but you don’t’ know where to begin
Each of these situations is common, and each of these situations can be helped by developing SMART goals.
Now, you have all the steps you need to create your SMART goals. What you choose to use this framework for is up to you. It can be for your career or for your personal development. It’s also important to keep in mind that it’s okay if you didn’t achieve your goal on the first try. What matters even more is that you’re willing to reevaluate and try again. Good luck!