Whether you’re trying to finish an important project at work or complete your first 5K race, goal setting is essential to accomplishing your objectives. We might still be staring up at the summit of Mt. Everest if it weren’t for Edmund Hillary’s goal to be the first to reach the top.
How do we stay focused enough to accomplish our goals with all of life’s distractions and commitments? We get SMART.
SMART is an acronym used in goal setting. Each letter stands for something. They most commonly mean:
Now let's dive deep into what being SMART is all about.
The broader a goal is, the less likely you’ll achieve it. Specificity increases the chances of success. Start by asking yourself a few questions: Who is going to accomplish the goal? When does it need to be done by? Why is it important, and where will it happen, and what is going to be accomplished? There you have the “Five Ws.” You’re a junior reporter ready to break the story. Clark Kent would be proud.
How do we know if we’ve accomplished an objective? We need to measure it. Baseball is the ultimate game of measurement. Statistics like batting average, home runs, and ERA have separated the greats from the also-rans for over a century. Sabermetricians have taken quantification to a new level of statistical geekery. Stats like WAR (Wins Above Replacement), OPS (On-Base Plus Slugging) and my new, personal favorite FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) have become part of the National Pastime’s vernacular.
Goal setting is not a time to dare to do the impossible. You may want to lose 30 pounds by next week (how many times have I said that the week before a vacation), but that’s probably not going to happen. Now 30 pounds over the next year by adjusting my diet, being more active, etc. - that’s possible.
Has your boss ever asked you to do the impossible? “Now, are you going to go ahead and have those TPS reports for us this afternoon?” Impossible, right? Sure, it would be awesome to jump 14 garbage cans on a motorcycle Fonzie–style, but that’s probably not realistic unless you’re the long-lost offspring of Evel Knievel. (Side Note: Evel Knievel’s Wikipedia entry lists his occupation as “Daredevil”. Respect.)
This is where the rubber meets the road. Many a goal has died on the vine because it lacked timeliness. Ask yourself, “When does the result need to be achieved?” Nobody likes to fail. Set yourself up for success. For example, we’re going to increase sales by 20% by 3Q this year. That’s timely.
Why does this matter? Because if we didn’t accomplish our goals, you’d be reading this blog post on a cave wall 10,000 years from now.
SMART can be applied on a smaller scale to everyday tasks. For example:
Finish this blog post by Friday, January 22.
Mission accomplished. Now that felt good.
By Jason Piasecki, Partner + SMART Guy