Executive coach Randi Raskin Nash says that if you want to get things accomplished before the end of the year (or anytime!), you need to be smart about it. SMART is an acronym to keep in mind when setting goals, personal or professional. There are actually many effective variations for what it stands for, but here’s one that tried and true: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. A quick Google search will yield other variations (e.g., Significant, Motivating, Agreed Upon, Realistic, and Trackable) since SMART goal setting has been around for quite a while. However you spell it, it’s a great place to begin in working towards setting and achieving what matters most to you.
So how does SMART work? Here’s a look at the five parts of the goal-setting mnemonic:
Step One – Specific: Raskin Nash says the goals you set should be concrete and as specific as possible. For example, if you want to increase your sales, you should figure out a specific goal you want to achieve, like “signing on four new clients” (specific) who “meet a certain criteria” (spell out to be even more specific), not “increase my client base” (not specific).
Step Two – Measurable: When setting your goal ask yourself, “how will I know I’m on track, how will I know I’ve succeeded?” That’s the Measurable part of your goal. For example, if you want to increase your networking contacts, promise to go to one new event a week for 2 months, and introduce yourself to at least five new people. That’s more measurable (and more specific!) than just saying that you want to meet more people. Even better, consider measurable ways in which you will follow up with those new people to create win-win relationships.
Step Three – Attainable: Be realistic. You’re setting yourself up for failure if you come up with a goal that is impossible to achieve, like losing 50 pounds in six weeks. Instead, come up with a goal like losing, say, 10 pounds over that time frame. The executive coach says, “Don’t make it so attainable that you already have it, it’s a goal … so stretch, but know it’s possible so you can build momentum by achieving it.”
Step Four – Relevant: Is this a goal that really matters to you? Is it relevant to your dreams, your vision, your values, your priorities? Raskin Nash says, “If you’re going to take the time to set SMART goals for yourself, personally or professionally, make sure they’re really on point, really focused on what’s important to you.”
Step Five – Time-Bound: Come up with a specific time frame to complete the goal. For example, Raskin Nash suggests using the time between now and the end of the year as a “good time to position yourself” and get specific goals off your to-do list and/or set yourself up for success in the New Year.
Here’s another variation of SMART … SMARTER: E for “Evaluate” and R for “Redo if really needed.” Periodically evaluate your goals to ensure they’re in line with your priorities, and, if not, redo them, but keep them SMART!