Setting SMART Goals

By Canadian Management Centre

Ever spend a day at work and by the end of it, feel like you didn’t accomplish anything?  You probably left work feeling tired.  Demotivated.  Or maybe even frustrated.  Feeling unproductive can be draining – emotionally, mentally and even physically.  And with the demands of our work and personal lives increasing and a pace that only seems to get faster and more frenzied – it’s essential you find some time to quiet the noise and get clear on what you want to achieve. 

To do that, you need goals.  Now, this extends beyond setting goals just to get through your “To Do” list (but don’t worry, that will be an unexpected and brilliant benefit!). Getting clear about what you want to achieve is about articulating your ambitions and aspirations.  These can be short-term or long-term goals, quick wins or complex objectives.  Maybe you want to take back control of your time.  Learn how to build a budget.  Conquer your fear of presenting.  Get a promotion.  Finish meetings on-time.  Build your network.  Improve your work relationship with your boss.  Whatever your motivation when setting goals; start by reflecting on what you want to accomplish and why.  That gives you a good launching point, but the vision alone isn’t enough.  You need a little more definition around your goal to increase your chance of achieving it.  To do that, your goals need to be SMART

The SMART framework was first introduced in the 80s, made popular by management gurus through the 90s and adapted by many in the 00’s.  Today, this framework still has staying power.  Why?  Because it works.  You see, our brains are wired for routine. In fact, they crave routine because it helps us conserve energy.  When we introduce something new, there may be a ‘short-circuit’ at the beginning as we try on our new habits.  But it is possible to dupe your brain and begin to transform actions towards your goals into habits.  The SMART framework helps establish goals your brain can translate into actions by focusing on what matters most to you.  And with focus, we get consistency.   Which means that even on days you may not feel like working towards your goal; your brain will kick-in to give you a boost and energize you towards achieving the results you envisioned.   

Take some time to reflect on your goals.  Are they SMART?  Consider the tips below to shine up your goals to ensure you’ll Outperform in 2018.

Specific:  Make sure your goals are focused and identify a tangible outcome.  Without the specifics, your goal runs the risk of being too vague.  Being more detailed helps you identify what you want to achieve.  You should also outline what resources you are going to leverage to achieve success.  Consider the opportunities and limitations connected to your goal – so you can also reflect on some of the strategies for how you will accomplish it.

Measurable: You should have some clear definition of success.  Ensuring your goal is measurable means answering ‘how much’ or ‘how many’ and highlights how you’ll know you achieved your goal. Think about what you will see, hear, feel or be able to do once you have accomplished your goal.  When the outcome is clear, your chances of achieving results greatly increases.  Defining how you will measure the goal will help you to evaluate achievement and progress. 

Attainable:  Your goal should be challenging and inspirational, but still reasonable to achieve.  Reflecting on this component can reveal any potential barriers that you may need to overcome to realize success.  Taking the time to consider what might get in the way of your ability to achieve your goal can help you not only mitigate the risks – but also to be realistic about whether or not you might be get to the finish line.  Be sure to outline the steps you’re planning to take to achieve your goal.

Relevant:  This helps you answer the why.  Why do you want to achieve this goal.  It’s also about getting real with yourself and ensuring that what you’re trying to achieve is worthwhile to you. If you don’t have a personal connection to the desired results, you are less likely to commit to the new habits or behaviours that may be required for you to achieve your goal and/or to sustain any change you’re trying to make.  Determine if this is aligned to your values. If it is, you will make the actions required to achieve it a priority. 

Time-Bound:  Every goal needs a target date, something that motivates you to really apply the focus and discipline necessary to achieve it.  This answers when.  It’s important to set a realistic time-frame to achieve your goal to ensure you don’t get discouraged.  Having a target end date – with milestones along the way, creates opportunities for you to celebrate progress and your overall success.  This is essential to continuing to build your level of motivation and willingness to accomplish your goal.

Still need some help setting SMART goals?  See examples of SMART Goals.

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