A popular mnemonic device for goal-setting is to be SMART. That is, create goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time based. But, meeting these demands can often make individuals feel like they’re swimming in treacle. This quick overview of SMART goals will explain each requirement and offer a simple solution for creating effective goals.
Specific – First, your goal must have a precise purpose. If a goal is too vague or complex, it may do more harm than good. A goal like “to be a better climber” is vague and general, making execution difficult. A specific goal would be “to increase my climbing grade by two levels.” If a goal isn’t precise, it will make the goal-setting process cumbersome and confusing.
• Simple solution: Create goals that are clear and well defined.
Measurable – Good goals are quantifiable and quantified. But, this means more than just attaching a number to your goal. It must also be something that can be measured in the real world. Attitudes, beliefs and values aren’t measurable but achievements, performance feedback and quality of output are. Sometimes, making a goal measurable is simply a matter of how you word it. So, instead of creating a goal that is written to be immeasurable, such a, “to improve performance when navigating” set a goal that you can guage, and then set an expectation of what to look for. For example, a measurable goal would be “to achieve accuracy in navigating to within 1 metre of objective.” Remember, if goals aren’t measurable, how will you know if they've been reached or not.
• Simple solution: Design goals you can count.
Achievable – Make sure a goal makes sense in terms of past performance and future projections. Most individuals want to improve their performance over time but goals must be reachable to be effective. Otherwise, they are just words on paper. This element of goal setting is difficult, at best. Balancing the extremes between setting aggressive goals that aren’t realistic or creating meaningless, easy-to-reach goals is a challenge that can impact on motivation and personal productivity. In other words, a goal that is too high may de-motivate people, while a goal that is too low could be an insult to their efforts.
• Simple solution: Produce goals you can reach through diligence.
Relevant – A goal should be developmentally relevant for people and promote a meaningful contribution to their lives. A relevant goal has the individual’s best interests in mind and goes beyond simply maintaining the status quo. This aspect of goal setting ensures that they are a mechanism of improvement. Goals that aren’t relevant don’t help participants so end up wasting time and effort.
• Simple solution: Make sure your goals matter.
Time based – Goals aren’t worth much if there is never an end-game in mind, even if they meet the other SMART requirements. Goals that don’t have a deadline will rarely make it to the top of anyone’s priority list. However, this is often the part of goal setting most people leave behind. Think of it this way: creating a goal that doesn’t have a deadline is like running a race without a finish line. Not only is there no end in sight, but there is no way to set the pace and motivate a strong finish.
• Simple Solution: Give your goals deadlines.