Updated: Feb 20, 2022
It's been said that a goal you don't write down is just a dream, and that's true. But even writing down your goals doesn't set you up for success if you don't optimize their conception, or even their phrasing. The better or more clearly defined the goals, the better your results will be, so let's look at five key ways to supercharge the quality of your goals, so you can maximize your output.
The SMART acronym is a simple system of how to think about and form your goals. The acronym stands for five characteristics possessed by every top-level goal statement. The more you make your goals SMART, in a systematic and focused manner, the better your goals will be.
If you write down your "goal" as a general statement of intent, it's not much less of a dream than if you hadn't written it down at all. Instead, you want to make your goals as specific as possible. Start by asking yourself what exactly you want to achieve, and add details as appropriate. Eg:
Bad: I want to be rich. Good: I want to earn $15,000 a month Better: I want to earn $15,000 a month in passive income.
Note, too many details can make your goal hard to remember and too cluttered to remain meaningful. Stick with the top-level, essential information about exactly what you have committed to achieve.
If your goal isn't measurable, it's impossible to tell when you're done. Without it being evaluated, it's very difficult to set a workable pathway to success. As you saw in the examples for Specific goals, a numerical value is a great place to start.
I want to be rich becomes I want to earn $15,000 a month I want to lose weight becomes I want to lose 5kg I want to grow my business becomes I want to hire three new sales staff and an admin assistant.
Besides establishing a black-and-white "finish line" for the goal, measurable goals allow you to create benchmarks/milestones towards success, so you can gauge your progress as you go.
If your goal is something that doesn't lend itself to numbers (eg I want a closer relationship with my children), shift the goal to behaviors that can lead to numerical quantification (eg, I will spend one-on-one moments with each of my children for an hour each week).
Of all the items in SMART, this is the simplest to explain but the hardest to make yourself stick to. Your goal must be realistic within all the realities of the time frame in which it is set. If you don't believe your goal can be achieved, you won't work in good faith toward achieving it. To that end, be certain your goal is attainable given:
a) The resources you have. Buy a Rolls-Royce is not an attainable goal if you make $5,000 a year.
b) You or your team's skillsets. Learn C-PLUS coding is not an attainable goal if you're still struggling with Excel.
c) The time frame. Lose 5Kg is not an attainable goal for most people if you try during the holidays.
d) Your context. Be the leading soft drink company is attainable for Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. It's not reasonable for the beverage company you just started in your garage. At least not yet.
This means it must be relevant to your overall values and life plan. Get a Ph.D. is a laudable goal, if high-end education is important to your life plan and related with what you find important. If it's not, it will be hard to engage with your goal enough to put in the work required to achieve it.
If you don't set a time limit for your goals, the temptation to "start tomorrow" every day looms large because so many other things will feel more urgent and pressing. Instead, give every goal statement you write a defined time limit.
Bad: I want to lose 5kg Good: I want to lose 5kg by this date in 3 months.
To really make SMART goals Time-Bound, split up your final goal into achievable benchmarks/milestones.
Take those 5kg in 3 months, and make it 2kg per month.
This way you can fine-tune your methods as you go.
The best practice when it comes to setting and attaining your goals is to review them regularly. Post your top-level goals someplace you can see them every day: This is why weekly goals translated into daily to-do list is very important.
Place your goals, in written form, so that you interact with them all the time. Then, on at least a monthly basis, review them in detail. Confirm they are still SMART, and the methods you are using to attain them are actually bringing you closer to meeting your goals.
a) Become emotionally attached to your goals that you won't be destructed by challenges and obstacles along your way.
b) Set your short term goals low so that the enthusiasm derived from achieving them will be your driving force when the excitement and motivation in setting them is long gone.
c) Keep the long term goals high so you'll remain aspiring for greater impact on yourself and society.
Using the SMART system hacks and pairing them with frequent review, doesn't 100% guarantee that you will reach them...but it will make getting where you want to be much more likely >95% than any other method.