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Setting and Achieving SMART Goals

written by: Amber Neely • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 4/22/2012

Setting goals is something you've probably tried in the past. Whether or not you've found it easy, most people still could use a little help when it comes to achieving goals. This article will explain SMART goals, as well as provide ten tips for setting SMART goals and how to achieve them.

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    What Are SMART Goals?

    SMART goals In the term "SMART goals", SMART isn't quite used in the context that you might think it is. SMART is actually an acryonym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. It's a helpful little formula to help you set goals that you can stick with. SMART goals are great for both personal and professional life, and this guide will explain how to go about setting SMART goals.

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    Specific

    There are two types of goals out there: general and specific. General goals are basically a blanket statement that only covers the end goal and none of the steps involved along the way. A specific goal, however, will outline a process and possibly a few steps along the way. A specific goal does not have to be very long, mind you. Even a goal that outlines a simple process is better than none.

    Example of general and specific goals:

    General goal: Save enough money to buy a car.

    Specific goal: Save $500 a month for x months until I can buy a car by x date.

    Tip 1: Think about your goal from start to finish, and plan out how to do it. Try to sum it up in 1-3 sentences while plotting everything out. Simple to remember, simple to follow.

    Tip 2: SMART goals work best if you're willing to stay committed. Get yourself a day planner to help you stay on track. Write your goal on the inside page as well as the steps involved. Track your progress as you go along.

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    Measurable

    A goal should be easy to measure, so you can chart your progress along the way. If you're saving money, obviously you can check how much money you've saved by looking in a bank account. If you're trying to lose weight, you can watch the numbers on the scale go down. You should also set an "end," that way you know when your goal is fully accomplished. An end can be a target number (like weight), or a target amount of money anything that you can count down (or up) to.

    Tip 3: When measuring, set up checkpoints along the way. Your overall goal might be to lose 30 lbs, but try setting up check points every 5-10 lbs and give yourself a small reward. You've worked hard after all.

    Tip 4: Measure carefully. It's easier to keep a goal if you witness all the progress you have made, rather than just occasionally checking in when you remember.

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    Attainable

    Pick goals that you are willing to work for, and that you're going to stick with. Don't force yourself to become better at a hobby if you're not going in with a passion. Don't lose weight just to fit into clothes that your friend wants you to wear. Don't save up money you don't have to, to spend on items that everyone says are "must haves."

    Personal goals are just that: personal! Doing them for other people can make them feel like chores, and take time away from things you could be doing to better yourself. Working toward your goals requires inner motivation, not outer motivation. Remember that you should be doing this for you, your career, your company, or your family - ultimately to better your life and surroundings.

    Tip 5: Write out a mission statement to yourself (or your team, if you're a business) and hang it where you can see it. Reminding yourself of why you're doing it is a great way to stay motivated.

    Tip 6: Before setting a lofty goal, ask yourself why you're doing it. If the answer does not come back as "for me," you might want to reconsider.

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    Realistic

    When you create a goal, make sure that it is realistic. Goals should be challenging, not impossible! Don't expect to be able to save enough money in a year to buy a house if you're starting from ground zero. However, setting goals that are not challenging will often not accomplish much of anything. Try to find the ideal balance between challenging and impossible that works for you.

    Tip 7: Don't be afraid to ask for help. Friends and family are often more willing than you expect to help you stay on track.

    Tip 8: If you're having trouble reaching your goal, don't be afraid to extend your time frame a little. Just remember there's a difference between struggling and being lazy.

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    Timely

    Watch Set an end date that you would like to achieve your goal in. Never use the phrases "one day I want to..." or "I want to eventually..." These simply won't do. Instead, pick a timeframe. For small goals, days, weeks, and months work fine. For larger goals, months and years are perfectly fine. This will help give you the little push that you need to achieve them

    Tip 9: If you achieve your goal early, you might want to continue on until your finished date. Especially if this involves saving money. Just think how much nicer it will be to have a little more saved up when the last day comes.

    Tip 10: When setting times to achieve your goal, don't set the date too early just to impress people. Example? Don't try to lose 60 lbs for your 20 year class reunion that is coming up in three months. Another example? If you're starting out your own home business, don't expect to make profit hand over fist. Instead, you might want to worry more about not mixing business and personal expenses.

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    Image Credits:

    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lightbulb.jpg

    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MontreGousset001.jpg

SMART Goal Resources & Strategies

Learn how to develop more focused SMART goals with this series of articles that provides examples, a downloadable free worksheet, strategies, and general tips.
  1. Setting and Achieving SMART Goals
  2. A Worksheet for Preparing SMART Goals
  3. Explaining the Concept of SMART Goals
  4. Formulating SMART Objectives: How Do You Begin?
  5. SMART Objectives: Samples For Managers


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