Does any of this sound familiar?
I had big plans this year but I didn’t follow-through. I gave up.
There is so much that needs to get done. I’m overwhelmed.
I know this needs to change but I don’t know what I need to do.
I’m working hard but I’m not getting anywhere.
If your answer to that question is, YES, then allow me to introduce you to SMART Goals and some super helpful free SMART goal templates.
Cue the trumpets!
WHAT IS A SMART GOAL?
In short, a SMART goal is a well-established tool and process to plan out and reach your goals.
SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. It is a concept that was first introduced in the 1960’s by Dr. Edwin Locke to improve workplace performance.
While, historically, this has been popularized within the business-sector, this method for goal-setting can easily be applied to any situation. So, whether you are looking to start a new career, need to save money, or want to work on positive thinking, the SMART goal method is the way to go!
WHY ARE SMART GOALS IMPORTANT?
We all know that goals are important for creating meaningful changes in our lives. They help us learn, grow, become better human beings, and improve our circumstances.
But, most of the time, we get lost and lose sight of the journey ahead. Or, we just give up.
Have you ever wondered why that is?
Is it because it’s too hard?
Did something distract you?
Was there another task that took priority?
Goals are meant to challenge you because they require significant changes, hard work, and commitment. While a challenge is good, you have to first be honest with yourself and decide if your goals are actually attainable based on your personality, habits, and lifestyle. Then, you have to be clear on the steps to get there.
The SMART goal method addresses all of these issues. It is an extremely valuable tool that is widely respected because it forces you to be realistic with what you want to achieve.
WHY ARE SMART GOALS EFFECTIVE?
SMART goals are effective because they provide a specific framework for the planning and execution of goals. They are measurable so you will know exactly what you need to do and when.
It takes the guesswork out.
You have a clear action plan to realize your goal. It’s not just some hopeful dream floating around in your brain; it’s real. You are able to keep track of your progress and see each milestone that you cross.
SMART goals hold you accountable. When you hit a milestone, celebrate! It takes a ton of dedication and perseverance to push forward and you did it!
This process also allows you to identify any milestones that you may not meet or have already missed in order to reorganize or re-prioritize your plan. Because let’s be honest, things come up unexpectedly that will derail you…and THAT’S OKAY.
Come back to your SMART goal worksheet, update it as needed, and see if you need to bring in any tools or people to support you!
Most importantly, SMART goals are effective at defining when and how you will know when you have succeeded. It may sound a bit silly since you would think meeting your goal would mean succeeding. Yes, that is true. However, it can be surprisingly vague, especially when you’re not specific in what you want to achieve!
HOW DO YOU WRITE A SMART GOAL?
To lay a solid foundation for success, the SMART goal method will require you to look within yourself and do some soul-searching. Even if you think you’ve done the work already, you’ll find that this process will support and guide you to dive deeper.
(And, don’t worry, you will have free SMART goal templates available for download at the end of this post.)
The first part of goal-setting is to define what you want to achieve. The emphasis here is on the, what.
Think about answering these questions:
The answers to these questions provide a general framework for the following steps. They will also help you determine if your current goal is realistic for you and your current situation or not. For example, if you want to be a six-figure blogger but have no idea how to write a blog post, it is a better idea to start smaller and develop a goal around learning how to write an awesome blog post.
The purpose of this exercise is to set yourself up for success. If you don’t start off on the right foot, then it’s not worth your time or energy to move forward. Go back and reframe your initial goal.
A goal should be measurable and quantifiable. This is the section that defines how you track your progress, stay focused, and meet your deadlines.
Attributing a specific number to your goal also gives you the opportunity to divide your roadmap into smaller tasks or milestones to work towards every step of the way. It’s very easy to feel overwhelmed with everything and the time it takes to get something done. By mapping out milestones, the process becomes much more digestible. Seeing your progress and hitting milestones keeps you excited and motivated to stay in the game.
Sensing a theme here?
Yup, this step is another check to make sure that what you are about to embark on is feasible. You will be challenged. Your limits and abilities will be tested but it should never feel like you’re dredging through an impossible situation.
Again, be honest with yourself. If it’s not, turn back and rework your goal into a smaller project.
When defining your goal, it is also important to understand its relevance within a broader context. This is particularly impactful when you are using shorter-term SMART goals as a stepping stone to a larger one.
Make sure that this goal is meaningful to you.
You will also, yet again, confirm whether or not this is a realistic path for you.
Finally, the last step in the SMART process is to decide on a target date to complete your goal. This deadline ensures that you stay focused and motivated on the long road ahead. It provides you with a sense of urgency in case you get side-tracked. If you do, again, that’s okay! Come back and review your deadline to see how you can re-prioritize the other tasks around you.
Like everything else above, your target date should be realistic. Otherwise, your chances of succeeding are pretty slim and we don’t want that! Remember, you can always include a time-component with smaller milestones to keep you on track.
Here are the important questions to think about:
WHAT ARE GOOD SMART GOALS?
I’m sure your mind is already buzzing with excitement. Yay, it should be!
But, never forget that good SMART goals are goals that you can actually achieve! Your mantra should always be, “Is this realistic? Is this attainable?”
Define a goal that you have control over.
It may sound like a good idea to choose something like, “My goal is to be promoted at work.” But, if you think about it, who decides whether or not you get promoted? Is it you? Nope. To reframe that statement, it would be more realistic to say, “I am going to complete my tasks before my deadline so that I can position myself for a promotion.”
Examine closely what it is that you are hoping to accomplish and lay out your plan. A SMART goal is not attainable if you are overwhelmed to the point that it paralyzes you.
There is no need to do everything at once. Divide your main goal into smaller goals that you can complete within a shorter time-frame.
Focus on one goal at a time. Baby steps are awesome when it means that you are constantly moving forward!
And remember, always revisit your SMART goals regularly to check your progress and re-organize it as needed.
Examples of SMART GOALS
I need to save money.
I’m going to save $100 by the end of this month by cooking at home 3 nights a week instead of ordering take-out.
I want to improve my public speaking skills.
I’m going to improve my public speaking skills by taking an acting class every Saturday afternoon for the next 10 weeks.
I want to think more positively.
I’m going to write out 3 things that I feel positive about every day for the next month. If I feel down, I will look at what I wrote to re-center myself.
I need to lose weight.
To reduce my cholesterol, I am going to lose 10lbs by September. I will incorporate 30 minutes of cardio exercise 5 days a week and reduce my intake of red meat to 3 times a week.
I need a job.
I will complete my resume by Sunday. I will research and compile a list of 10 job opportunities in my field using LinkedIn, Monster, and Indeed by the end of the following week. Once that has been completed, I will apply to one of those jobs each day.
Free SMART Goal Templates
Now that you have all of the basic information, it’s time to start putting those ideas down on paper and begin setting up your goals!
Here are 3 free SMART goal templates to support you through this process. Many of the questions mentioned above are included in these worksheets to make sure that your vision is clear and your goal is attainable.
Have fun turning your dreams into reality!
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