How many times have you or someone on your team set a goal and failed? How often have you set a goal and quit because you couldn't tell if you were making progress? How many times have you not know for sure whether you reached your goal?
All of these cases are common. I hear them from clients every day, in every aspect of their personal and professional life. The good news is: you are not the problem. The problem is the way goals are commonly set. It's time to get SMART about goals.
Let's take a look at how to set well defined goals with clear progress markers.
Too keep from floundering, the language used when setting goals needs to be very intentional. Otherwise it is impossible to know a goal has been progressed or achieved.
In fitness, aesthetic goals like "lose weight" or "be more fit" are left completely up to interpretation and are defined in arbitrary, subjective terms.
Performance or health goals are often even more ill-defined. "Feel better", "sleep better", and "have more energy" are just as toothless when it comes to making noticeable progress.
Goals need context. The language used to build your goal with must include metrics to tell if you've met your goal in strict, precise terms.
That's where the need for S.M.A.R.T. goals comes from.
Goals need a clear definition to succeed. Follow the steps below to clearly define a plan to accomplishing them. Here we use an extremely common fitness example that is probably shared by most people in your company.
Specific: Be as specific as possible. “I want to lose weight” is not as helpful as “I want to lose 12 pounds of body fat”.
Measurable: How will you measure weight loss? You can use a scale, test your body fat percentage, use circumference measurements, or even go by how well your clothes fit. Just keep the method consistent.
Attainable: Be realistic with your goals. Losing 40 pounds in 2 weeks is not an attainable goal. Sometimes that means taking more time to reach your ultimate goal and that’s ok. In our example, an attainable goal would be to lose 12 pounds in 12 weeks. Goals like getting Brad Pitt abs are difficult to attain if you work 50 hours per week and have a family. Other commitments and priorities may not allow for that level of fitness. Consider your lifestyle and schedule. Fitness should be a part of your life, it doesn’t have to consume it.
Relevant: What is your underlying reason for pursuing this goal? Be brutally honest with yourself. I’ve heard reasons ranging from “I want to feel more energetic throughout the day” to “ I’m getting divorced and want to be a hot single person”. No one else has to know your real reason, but you need to be honest with yourself. When things get tough, that is the one thing that will keep you going.
Time-bound: The old saying from Napoleon Hill goes “A goal is just a dream with a deadline” and it’s absolutely true. Open-ended goal setting is ineffective. Light a fire in yourself by having a realistic due date. Also plan when you will do the work. Schedule your gym and food shopping/prep time in your calendar and stick to it.
Trade-offs: You have a finite number of hours in a day. When you add one thing into your life, you have to give up something else. Even after the SMART goal is set, you have to think about what you will sacrifice to make room for it.
Specific: I will lose 12 pounds
Measurable: I will measure my progress using a scale, measuring once per week
Attainable: This goal is reasonable and fits into my other obligations and priorities.
Relevant: I want to look lean and athletic in my swimsuit for my hawaiian vacation.
Time-bound: I will lose the weight in the next 12 weeks. I’ll go to the gym Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for an hour. I will grocery shop and prepare meals on Tuesday and Saturday.
Trade-offs: I will go to the gym instead of happy hour with my work friends. I will meal prep and grocery shop instead of watching TV.
You can save the image below as a blank worksheet for setting your own SMART goals.
THIS METHOD WORKS FOR ANY GOAL
This method of setting SMART goals has proven extremely effective outside of fitness as well. In thinking of the health of your team, SMART goals can be applied to sleep, stress management practices, healthier eating choices, and even professional projects.
The worksheet below will make it easy to set SMART goals to increase individual and team output. Give it a try and see if it could benefit your employees, teammates, and coworkers.
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