Everyone is familiar with setting goals. We set goals for our education, goals for our job, and goals for our future. We celebrate starting a new year by setting goals under the phrase “New Year’s Resolutions”. But how many of us have made resolutions and failed to follow through? Safe to say we have all experienced this at least once. So, how do we move away from that and settle into the pattern of accomplishing goals and making new ones? Easy: SMART goals and goal reviews.
A goal review is just what it sounds like. It’s taking the time to review the goals that have been set and figure out a realistic plan to finish that goal. Reviews can be daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly, and so on based on the size of the goal. So, what makes for a good goal? Make it SMART. You want your goals to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Using these criteria will help you set goals that you can reach and feel good about.
A specific goal is one that describes exactly what you want to accomplish. Let’s use running as an example. When setting a goal to improve your running, try taking “I want to run a mile” and be more specific with “I want to run a mile without stopping in under 12 minutes”. This sets you up for multiple accomplishments. One, running a mile, two, running it without stopping, and three, running it in under 12 minutes. In these specifications, it will be easy to then measure the progress. You want to make sure that the goal has measurable components, so that you know how close you are to completing it.
Next, make sure the goal is achievable. While 12 minutes is very doable, saying you want to run a mile in under 5 minutes when you’ve never run a day in your life is quite ambitious. This is essentially setting up for failure. Choose a goal that is in the realm of possibility for where you are now and adjust it as you make progress.
Making sure your goal is relevant is the next step. You want to make sure that your goals are in line with the bigger picture. If your big goal is to run a marathon, you would want to make sure that your smaller, monthly goals are in line with running that distance. Spending time improving endurance and adding distance and speed will lead to feeling comfortable and confident enough to sign up for the marathon.
Once you set your goal, set a time to complete it. If a goal is open ended, you are less likely to finish it. If you are working towards a large goal that will span months or years, set up smaller goals that feed into the large one. That way, during your reviews, you can see the progress you have made towards your overarching goal. Say the marathon is 8 months away, you now have a time-bound goal of 8 months to improve your running enough to be comfortable in the race. And just like that, the SMART goal for running a marathon is complete.
Part of the process of achieving your goals should be checking in to see where you are in relation to completing, or being on track to complete, said goals. Reviews are a great way to keep your goal in the front and center and prevent it from falling onto the back burner. If you know you have a goal to achieve “X” at the end of the month, you are far more likely to do it than if you kinda, sorta want to finish “X” at some point. It’s also a great way to find out if you need to alter your goal or change your timeframe based on the progress you’ve made up to that point.
If you’ve never taken the time to write out your goals, give it a try using the SMART system. Set up weekly, monthly, or yearly check-ins to see the progress. You might be surprised at how much more you can (or already do) accomplish when you put the time and effort into keeping track of your goals and projects.
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