How to make SMART goals work for you: A step-by-step guide

23rd January 2021

By Estelle Curiel

(Image courtesy of Unsplash)

It is that time of year again where social media is full to the brim with talks of New Year’s Resolutions. The tradition to start off this ‘blank page’ with a grand declaration to change for the better seems to be a positive that should be encouraged and celebrated; but the truth is that resolutions are often abandoned halfway through February. The problem with New Year’s resolution is that they are often unrealistic, vague ideas to better ourselves by ‘losing weight’, ‘getting fit’, or ‘being productive’ without any concrete plan to achieve them. The newest workout trend or diet product plastered all over the internet at this time of year is all but helpful, as it is validation that we are making the right decision by trying to make a sale.

There has been a valid growth of scepticism about New Year’s Resolutions, but people should not be discouraged from wanting to grow and better themselves. That is where SMART goals come in.

SMART goal setting is an effective and popular way to achieve your goals This method provides a sense of direction, motivation, and a clear focus for your goals. The acronym stands for Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

In order to create a SMART goal, these are some useful questions to ask:

Specific: What exactly am I trying to achieve?

Measurable: How will I know I am making progress?

Attainable: Is it realistic?

Relevant: Does it contribute to what I want to achieve?

Time-bound: When do I want to achieve this by?

I have found that my favourite way to create goals that work for me and follow the SMART method, is to start with a journaling session, but you can also do the next steps in your head.

I start by identifying my overarching goal, what I want most of all. This is what I will refer to when asking if my goal is relevant. For example, mine this year is ‘I want to be happier.’

I then break it down by asking myself what would help me achieve this. For me, being calmer and more confident within myself, being in less physical pain, and averaging a First would all make me happier. Those are the categories for my goals.

I then create my SMART goals.

I write down my specific goals, making sure they are measurable, attainable, and relevant. For the example above, that might be:

1. To be calmer and more confident within myself: perform a daily act of self-care, 1-hour with no phone three times a week, meditate five times a week.

2. To be in less physical pain: do my physiotherapy exercises five times a week, follow along to an at-home yoga video twice a week.

3. To average a first: schedule my weekly lectures, watch my lectures when scheduled, create a realistic plan for completing my coursework and stick to it.

For the time-bound element, I find that anything from a month to a trimester works best for me for these life goals, but maybe you have a specific deadline you want to achieve yours by.

After my set time, I like to review and adjust my goals to keep bettering myself – maybe I can do my physiotherapy exercises three times a week, but can only realistically meditate four times a week. Or maybe the goals I set for myself are not the most relevant to my increased happiness. This is why reflection is so important.

What is important is that the goals work for you and enrich your life. My example is meant to make me happier, not more stressed, which is why the ‘relevant’ and ‘attainable’ criteria are key.

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