Steps to Setting SMART Targets
Whether we realise it or not, we are continuously setting ourselves goals. Sometimes they are development goals that you are given or set at work, sometimes they are informal goals such as losing weight, saving money or learning to write. Although, it is perfectly possible that you can just jump right in to working towards your goal without fully understanding what it is, your success is much more likely when you do. That is where SMART goals come in.
For the purposes of the below, the goal being set is about becoming healthy.
Your goal must be specific; you must know what you need to do and how you are to achieve it. For example, a non-specific target would be ‘Become Healthy’, while a specific version of that target would be “lose weight by attending the gym and eating a low calorie diet”. This is a very important first step. If you don’t fully understand what it is that you need to do then you are going to find the rest of the steps difficult to incorporate.
The goal or target that you set must have an element that can be easily measured. If we look at the above example again it doesn’t specify any kind of measurement. A better version of the target would be “Lose two Stone in weight by attending the gym seven times a week for at least two hours and eating a low calorie (1000 calories a day) diet.” Without this step, the goal loses its bearing on reality. Taken literally even losing just a fraction of an ounce is still losing weight. (Weight Loss)
The assignable element of SMART is all about understanding who is involved and who is responsible for the various elements of the goal. In the example used above, there is likely only you involved though this might not be case if you are reliant on going with another person. If you are building a new bathroom, for example then the goal may include several family members, builders, plumbers’ electricians etc.
It is very important that your goals are realistic. If we look back at the goal above, going to the gym seven times a week for two hours and only eating 1000 calories a day is not realistic. You would probably find that you couldn’t go to the gym that many times, or stay that long especially while only eating 1000 calories. Then as you begin to slip from your goal you would start feeling negative about failing and you could eventually stop trying altogether. After re-evaluating your circumstances, a better goal might be “Lose two Stone in weight by attending the gym four times a week for at least an hour and eating a low calorie (1500 calories a day) diet.”
Timely. In short every goal must have a timeframe for the objective to be completed by. Once a date or time has been set, you have something to aim for and a reason to keep going forward. I’m sure many of us remember struggling to finish our homework on time, the day before it was due when we have had weeks to do it. Now, imagine if that deadline was removed. Would your homework even have been completed? So, adding one final change to our SMART target, to include a time element, we get “Lose two Stone in weight by December 31st by attending the gym four times a week for at least an hour and eating a low calorie (1500 calories a day) diet.”
There you have it a fully padded out goal using the SMART methodology. It is important to remember that you may need to go through the five stages, several times with a goal to ensure it is SMART. After all, if you set the above health goal on December 1st, losing two stone in a month is not realistic, so either the amount of weight to lose or the timescale would have to be changed.
In those simple five stages we have taken an almost conceptual initial goal about becoming healthy and built around it, until we finish with a specific, measured, assignable, realistic and timed goal, and a properly set goal can help fight against all those little reasons you feel you’ll fail.
It is also very important to remember that the goal you set is not set in stone. If your circumstances change and you need to amend your goal, you should re-evaluate to ensure that your goal is still realistic and achievable.
As a final note, the acronym SMART has several versions, but despite the different words within the acronym, the variations will all cover the same ideas.