We've all set plenty of goals for ourselves that we haven't achieved or even come close to achieving (or maybe never even started). While this happens for any number of reasons, one common cause is that we fail to create goals that we can successfully achieve. Enter SMART goals. I'm sure many of you are at least familiar with this acronym (it stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound). Following the SMART guidelines is the first step in achieving your goals consistently.
Why are SMART goals important?
Let’s break down the different criteria.
SPECIFIC AND MEASURABLE: If your goals aren’t specific and measurable you have no way to track them and therefore, no easy way to measure your progress. This means you often forget about your goals or lose motivation. Bottom line: your goals never actualize.
ATTAINABLE: Attainable goals are ones that challenge you but aren’t unreasonable. For instance, if you’ve never run before make your goal something like “be able to run two miles straight in two months.” Don’t make your goal “run a marathon in two months”. The first is a challenge, the second is unrealistic. The first gives you a chance for success, the second sets you up for failure.
RELEVANT: Making goals that are relevant simply means making goals that are meaningful to you. Don’t create the goals you think you should have. Or go online and list goals that other people have (unless they truly inspire you). Instead, create goals that are right for you - ones that align with your values and priorities.
TIME-BOUND: This step simply means putting a timeframe on your goals. For example, don’t just write you “I want to organize all my pictures.” Instead write, “I want to organize all my pictures by March of this year.” Another example, change “I want to exercise more” into “I want to exercise three times a week.” A timeframe creates motivation and makes your goals trackable.
SMART GOALS WITH UNBOUND
I know this process can seem overwhelming if you’ve never done it before, but I promise it’s not. Investing the extra time to make good goals can be the difference between you achieving them versus not.
The best part is, with our Unbound Planner, we make it easy by integrating the SMART goal criteria right into our process. All you have to do is follow the easy steps we outline in the beginning of the planner.
STEP ONE: Complete your self reflection and create your goals based on what you find. If you do this, you’ll know you're creating goals that are relevant to you. And as long as you’re making sure to choose goals that are challenging yet reasonable, you’ll know they are attainable.
STEP TWO: On your goal brainstorming pages, we walk you through a couple easy step to make sure your goals are specific, measurable and time-bound. I believe this step is best demonstrated with examples, so I’ll walk you through some here.
Example #1: Let's say one of your goals for the year is "to read more." This doesn't give any specifics on what reading more means to you. Does "reading more" mean two books a year or one hour a day or twenty books a month? What do you want to read more of? When?
It's tough enough to simultaneously work towards your many goals while also keeping up with everyday life. If your goals are not crafted to set you up for success, you're likely to lose track of them before too long. And you'll probably re-write that same goal next year. You can prevent this by making it SMART to begin with. And once you do that, what’s so awesome about the Unbound Planner is it easily tracks all you goals in one place, keeping you organized and accountable.
When brainstorming my goals, I like to use mind-mapping. When creating yours, use any method that works best for you. Here I start with my original goal.
Next, I turn this goal into several goals that are specific and measurable.
Finally, for any goals that don’t repeat, I make sure to add a due date or timeframe.
Here’s another example. My goal is to “focus on simplicity.” While this is both relevant and attainable, it’s not specific, measurable or time-bound.
Step one, I make specific and measurable goals that I can therefore track and achieve.
Step two, since none of these are repeating goals, I need to assign a due date or timeframe to complete each goal.
In this final example, I want to walk you through a much bigger goal. One that has a lot more components to it. As a matter of fact, this goal is more like a “theme” for the year. This is something we talk about in the goal brainstorming pages of our planner. It’s the idea that sometimes, when creating your goals, it’s easier to start out with the general themes or areas you want to focus on for the year and build goals from there.
Here’s a theme:
"Taking better care of myself" is a very general statement so I start by making goals for the different components of it I want to work on.
You’ll notice these goals are still not specific or measurable, so my next step is to do that.
Since all these goals are repeating in nature, I don’t need to add any time frames or due dates.
And there you have it! Hopefully, this encourages you to make SMART goals and shows you it’s actually pretty easy to do once you get the hang of it.