I think it’s fair to say we all know how important goal setting is to direct focus, intention and productivity. But are we actually setting goals in a focused manner, or are we being, well, a bit… willy nilly?!
Here, I am going to take you through my SMARTEST method for setting goals, that will ensure the goal is important to you, that it can be achieved, and that you have an action plan in place to make it happen!
Assess your situation
First thing’s first: assess your situation. When it comes to achieving past goals, what has worked before? What hasn’t? Why so? Did you choose a goal you didn’t really want to achieve all that bad? Was it unrealistic or unachievable? Or did you just not have a solid plan in place?
Once you’ve realized what has gone wrong in the past, have a good hard think about what it is you want to be focusing your attention on this time round.
Whether it’s for your health, your business, your hobbies or your family, try and follow the SMARTEST method when setting goals, and let’s see how it goes!
Specific – ensure you get detailed about what it is you want to achieve. Saying ‘I want to be healthy’, although being valid and important, isn’t quantifiable and lacks specificity. Instead, say I want to take part in exercise 3 times a week in order to improve my strength, which in turn will prevent me from injury, build more muscle mass and aid a healthy metabolism and help me to destress (I sure do love being specific!).
Measurable – How will you know when you’ve reached your goal? How will you measure if you are heading in the right direction? Numbers and figures help with this. I will exercise 3 times per week. If your goal is based more around wanting to feel better, perhaps create a scale from 1-10 of how you currently feel, say for example energy levels on waking up and throughout the day. Rate yourself now and say in 6 weeks’ time you want to feel closer to an 8 than a 1!
Attainable – Is it actually possible for you to do? If you want to attend 3 fitness classes, but you don’t live near a gym and can’t afford a class, then it’s probably not going to happen! Make it suit your situation, and make it possible and probable.
Relevant – does it fit in to your bigger picture? If you state that your goal is to attend 3 cross fit workouts a week, but in 2 month’s time you are running a marathon, perhaps it is better that your goal fits with the bigger picture, and you change it to join a running club 3 times per week. This is where you really need to think about your situation, what you want to achieve this year, and how you can break it down into smaller, achievable chunks.
Time based – Set yourself a deadline, or a series of decision points based in time that will keep you on track. If your goal is to run a marathon, state when you want to run it by. Book it in and keep track of where you need to be in 3, 6 and 12 weeks time.
Evaluative – Make your goal results orientated and have systems in place where you can evaluate your progress. This can tie in with your time-based decision points above. Constantly assess your progress as this will aid your motivation and help you see if you’re heading in the right direction, or if something needs to change.
Scheduled – In order to achieve our goals, we need to take action. Action can’t happen if we haven’t made time for it. So once you’ve decided on your goal, you need to put activities in your schedule so you can make it happen. Going back to the exercise class example, if this one is for you, then find the classes you will attend, book your slot and put it in your diary. This way, we are more likely to stick to it and make the time required to achieve it.
Test and adjust – your plan of action, and your goals, can be revisable. If you are following the steps above, and upon evaluation after a few weeks you realise it is just not relevant or attainable, then adjust as necessary to make sure you are still on track to achieving that bigger picture. This isn’t about giving up or quitting – it’s about staying in a productive flow that gets you closer to your desires, without doing something for no real benefit.
Write it down
Once you have come up with your SMARTEST goal, write it out so that it makes sense, and has a clear format. When we write things down, we are more likely to stick to them!
So your goal might be:
…to attend 3 exercise classes a week for the next 12 weeks, in order to prioritise my health and maintain a string body. I will attend 2 Pilates classes at my local gym, and one HIIT class at the community centre. These take place on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday mornings, which I will do before work. After 3 weeks I will check in to ensure that I am enjoying the classes and that they are manageable around my work schedule. If not, they I will reassess and make changes where necessary. I am booked in to the first 2 weeks of classes, and they are in my diary!
In order to stick to our goals, we need accountability. Some incredibly determined people are able to hold themselves accountable, but for the mere mortals among us, it helps to have external accountability. This could come in the shape of booking in the activity, so we are accountable to the activity provider. It could be by inviting a friend, who we don’t want to let down, or by letting a friend or loved one know our plans, and asking them to keep a check on us and our progress.
Develop systems and habits
Make these goals, and the actions they require, a part of your daily life. When you are scheduling the activity, make it as seamless as possible. How will you get form your class to work? Do you have to go home first? Can the class be on your way to work and you can shower there? The easier you can make it, the more likely you are to stick with it.
Sometimes, progress is enough of a motivation to keep going. But when times are tough, motivation is dwindling and results are apparently nowhere to be seen, sometimes you need to reward yourself for sticking with the action plan and continuing to work on your goal. Think of mini-reward points where you can celebrate small wins, be it consistency, progress or just still believing you can do it.
When we get specific about what we want to achieve, great things start to happen. By being methodical about how we go about achieving our goal, there is less chance of failure, and more chance of achieving everything which you strongly desire.
I’d love to hear how you have implemented the SMARTER goal setting method, and what you have found works for you, so be sure to leave a comment and share your wisdom with us : )
Want to learn more about mind-set, purpose and motivation?
Then come along to my 3 day women’s wellness retreat in the Peak District, where we will be showing some love to our body and our mind through exercise, workshops, and delicious home-made food, as well as great company amongst other like-minded women. Interested? Find out more here.