What is the SMART goal strategy
The SMART goal strategy was created in 1981 by George T. Doran, a consultant and director of corporate planning for Washington Water Power Company. It was a novel way of setting Management Goals and Objectives. However this very well applies to personal goals as well.
You may have heard about S.M.A.R.T. before, but I haven’t until recently (from Chris Do). This is what it stands for:
- S – Specific
- M – Measurable
- A – Achievable
- R – Relevant
- T – Time-Bound
Let’s explore each of the acronyms with examples on how they can be applied for achieving personal and professional goals by individuals like us.
We will apply the S.M.A.R.T. principles on two examples.
I will define them vaguely and then SMART them up.
First one will be professional: get my first clients.
Second one will be personal: get in better shape.
To become specific we need to figure out the exact details of the goal. These are usually the answers to the W questions likes: What, Where, Who etc.
Goal 1: Get my first clients becomes Get 200 clients in 1 month.
Goal 2: Get in better shape becomes Lose 15 pounds in 15 weeks.
For the goals to become measurable means we need ways to track the progress on those goals.
Goal 1 – count the number of new clients
Goal 2 – weigh yourself on a scale and count the pounds lost
In these two cases it’s easy but let’s consider the more complicated goal of getting better at programming. To be more specific, getting better at concurrent programming. To measure this I would pick a concurrency project that I can’t do right now and I would make the completion of that project the actual goal. Then I would set a few milestones, every milestone consisting of a list of tasks, and measure the completion of those tasks.
Most books or blogs will tell you to be realistic about your goals. To make sure you don’t disappoint yourself. I assure you that you will be more disappointed if you set your goals too low and then achieve them.
On one hand you want to have big goals that will fuel you into action. But on the other you don’t want to get overwhelmed and not even start executing.
My strategy is to have giant, massive goals for the long term, multiple years. And then have smaller goals for every month that I consider to be steps towards the massive ones. I’ll explain this in detail at the end.
Goal 1: 200 clients in 1 month is achievable
Goal 2: Losing one pound per week is the norm so this is fine as well.
Extra tip: Let’s say for goal 1 two weeks pass and you only have 5 new clients. The tendency is to decrease the goal. Don’t do that. Instead increase the actions you are taking and the magic will happen, trust me.
This should be super obvious but very often we get sidetracked by the latest trends in society and go chasing after things that don’t benefit us at all. So before choosing your goals, ask yourself does this really bring value to my life.
Every goal must have a deadline. For me the sweet spot is between two and three months. Often the journey towards to goal is not that fun and it’s easier to push through if you know the end is near.
How to balance giant goals and smaller day to day goals
What I do is I set yearly, monthly and weekly goals.
Only 2-4 bigger goals during the year and then the monthly goals are steps or milestones towards the yearly goals. Then I go further down and make the weekly goals milestones for the monthly ones.
Estimating how long things will take or what could go wrong is hard. It is much easier to estimate weeks of work instead of months and years, at least in the beginning.
You can implement this in many ways, here are a few.
Keep separate notepads for yearly, monthly and weekly goals. You want the bigger goals that inspire you easy to find. They can’t get lost in the week to week tasks.
Similar to the hardcopy example, create three notebooks for the three levels.
The LifeHQ Journaling module is for this purpose. In there you have separate templates for Year, Month, Week and Day journals. They all have templates guiding you through the SMART process, except the daily journal that serves more as a guide for daily events. LifeHQ makes it very easy to review and draw conclusions from past journal entries while writing the latest one.
Use the SMART strategy of goal setting and regularly review your bigger and align your smaller goals towards them. It is ok to change them if needed. A lot can happen in a year and what was important in January maybe no longer is in August.
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