It is January again and for many people that means a new set of resolutions and goals for the year ahead. Too often we set goals at the beginning of the year, and by December we realize that we have not made any progress in meeting their goals. It doesn't matter what your goal is - trying to lose weight, learn a language or bring your company to some new height, understanding how to create an effective goal and a goal plan will help you to reach your goal.
Why is it Important to Plan Your Goal?
The statistics tell us that people who set and write down our goals are much more likely to meet their goals. Goals give you a purpose, provide motivation and encourage you to track progress and success. Planning and writing your goals down gives you a physical and visual reminder to look back at on a regular basis. Deeper than the reminder, writing down your goal helps your brain to translate your goal into your long-term memory.
How do I set a goal?
Every self-help guru and motivational website has their take on how to set a goal that you will be able to meet — most center on a concept introduced in 1981, the SMART goal method. The SMART method helps you to define and refine your goals into an achievable result.
Let’s help our friend George set a goal for himself for the next year using the SMART method.
You want to make sure that you are setting a very specific goal for yourself. Your objective is not simply something that you want to achieve. Your goal is something you will be achieving, and it is important that you use action words when describing your goal.
George wants to give back to his community this year. He wants to spend more time volunteering and supporting causes that he feels passionate about. He has decided that he would like to help his local animal shelter. George’s goal for the upcoming year would be, “I will volunteer at my local animal shelter to give back to the community.”
Your goal needs to have some way that you can confirm that the goal has been successful. Adding a quantitative measure to the goal makes it easier to track progress.
George needs to include some quantitative way to confirm that he has reached his goal at the end of the year. Let's update his goal, “I will spend 100 hours volunteering at my local animal shelter to give back to the community.”
Your goal has to be something that you can meet. A single parent of two, who works a full-time job, will not be able to dedicate 40 hours a week to learn a new language.
George’s goal breaks down easily, 100 hours split over 52 weeks in the upcoming year is a little less than 2 hours a week. George can find 100 hours in the next year to dedicate to his goal, so his goal is achievable.
The goal you set must be realistic, reasonable and relevant to your life path. You want to set a goal that will help you to be a better person, as well as a goal that matches your values and life.
George really likes animals. Supporting homeless animals is a cause that matters to him. George knows that giving back to his community will help to make him a more empathetic and caring person. George's goal matches his values and life goals.
When you set a goal it needs to have a deadline. Goals without deadlines are impossible to track and easy to lose sight of.
George wants to complete this volunteer work in the next year. George will need to update his goal to read “I will spend 100 hours before December 31st volunteering at my local animal shelter to give back to the community.”
You have set Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely goals for yourself. Congratulations, your hard work is just beginning. In 2010 Gwen Clayton expanded the SMART goals to SMARTER goals adding two extra steps to your goal setting.
Too many people write down their goals, put them in a drawer, walk away and never look at them again. Then they wonder, in December, they were unable to reach that goal. A weekly check-in will help to keep the goal front and center in your mind as you go through your tasks.
George needs to check in with the progress on his goal. Check-ins should be weekly. George’s goal now reads “I will spend 100 hours before December 31st volunteering at my local animal shelter to give back to the community, I will track and check my progress on a weekly basis.”
It is a proven fact that people are more productive when they get a reward of something that they want. Provide yourself with a carrot that will give you a reason to celebrate the progress you have made.
George decides that his goal reward will be to adopt one of the animals from the shelter. So his whole goal statement will read something like this, “I will spend 100 hours before December 31st volunteering at my local animal shelter to give back to the community, I will track and check my progress on a weekly basis and when I achieve my goal I will reward myself by adopting a new pet from the shelter.”
This goal sets our friend George up for success by setting him a goal that meets the SMARTER goal planning strategy.
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