SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. To help you set your own SMART goal, we'll look this week at a sample goal and will explore how to make it SMART.
Here's our sample goal: "I want to make my living room uncluttered and inviting so I can have people over for a 4th of July party." Now let's get SMART.
Any goal, no matter what it relates to, is bound to be much more powerful if it's specific. As you set your goal, answer the question, "What, exactly, do I want to accomplish?"
For our sample goal, let's say the answer is this: "I will clear the clutter from the coffee table, side chairs, and the floor around the sofa so that guests have a place to sit and to put their plates and glasses." With that level of detail, you'll be better able not only to gauge your progress, but also to determine when you've achieved your goal.
Setting standards of measurement for your goal will also help you know when you've truly accomplished it. Another benefit of these standards is that they can serve as sub-goals or milestones to reach on the way to your full goal.
Measurements for our sample goal might look something like these:
- There will be nothing on the coffee table other than a few books.
- There will be nothing on the side chairs other than throw pillows.
- The floor around the sofa will be totally clear.
We'll know that we haven't fully accomplished our goals if these standards aren't met.
One of the most common reasons goals can be so hard to reach is that they're not realistic. To be effective, your goal needs to be one that's realistic to achieve based on the amount of time, effort, energy, and resources you're able to commit to it. If, for example, your goal requires six hours of time each week and you know you can't give it more than four, chances are slim that you'll accomplish it. To determine whether a goal is achievable, ask yourself, "Is reaching this goal realistic right now? What resources do I need to reach this goal? Do I have those resources?"
For our sample goal, the answer might be, "Yes, it's realistic. The resources I need are two hours a week to sort through and weed out the stuff that's currently in the living room, space to store the things I want to keep, and a way to get rid of the stuff I'm letting go of. I have all of those resources."
A relevant goal is one that's significant to your life and meaningful to you. Relevance can be a great motivator as you work to achieve your goal; on the flip side, you'd be very unlikely to want to devote time, effort, and other resources to a goal that didn't have any bearing on your life or wasn't important to you. As you set a goal, ask yourself, "Why does this matter to me?"
For our sample goal, the answer to that question might be, "It matters because I haven't had people over for several years due to the shame I feel about my cluttered apartment, and I really want to change that." Knowing that something of real importance is driving us toward this change will help keep us on track.
Finally, it's important to set some sort of time frame for your goal; without this general schedule, there's a chance you'll put off working toward achieving whatever it is you're setting out to achieve. Depending on the nature of your goal, you might set a specific date, a general end time ("before the end of the year"), or a rough deadline based on another event or activity ("by the time Kate comes to visit in May").
Because our sample goal already has a deadline built in, we need only to add a bit more detail: "I want to achieve this by the third week in June so I can send party invitations in time for July 4." Now we're clear on when things need to be done, and can work backwards from our deadline to create a more detailed timeline.
Setting SMART goals, whether for organizing projects or in other areas of your life, can position you for much greater success, and for much more clarity as you work to accomplish your goals. The next time you create a goal, take the time to ask yourself the questions above to ensure that the end result is SMART.