SMART Goals for smart people


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According to Cassell’s dictionary; Smart = intelligent, ingenious, smart, clever, shrewd, keen

SMART goals are:

S = Specific,
M = Measurable,
A = Achievable/Agreed,
R = Relevant/Realistic, and
T = Time-bound

I’ll use the example of losing weight:

S = Specific:
Specific goals give us the ability to measure the end result. Instead of saying, "I want to lose weight", rather say "I want to lose 5kg and 2% body fat."

M = Measurable:
Measurable goals enable us to measure our success over time. We can measure the 5kg and 2% body fat that we are going to lose. Set predetermined points (milestones) at which you'll measure your progress. E.g. “I will weigh myself on Tuesdays before breakfast. “

A = Achievable/Attainable:
Break goals down into small enough, manageable bits so that you can achieve them. Not the next door neighbour, not the girl in the magazine ... but you. Unattainable goals lead to disappointment. Be smart, set SMART Goals.

R = Realistic:
Consider the fact that genes play a big role in the way we look. Most of us aren’t built like the supermodels on the cover of Cosmo. They spend their whole lives dedicated to staying slim, and the picture has been airbrushed. Losing 1-2 kg per week, depending on how much you have to lose, is safe and healthy.

T = Timebound:
Time is a very important factor in the goal setting equation. Apply a realistic, attainable timeline to reach your goals. It's realistic and safe to lose 1-2lbs per week and 2-4% body fat per month. Losing more is unhealthy and will result in losing muscle tissue.

NOTE: Use your Common Sense: If you lose 10kg in a week you will do yourself an injury and probably put it back on again very quickly because you have put your body into famine crisis mode and you will lose muscle, not fat.

Research on Goal Setting

Dr Edwin Locke's wrote an article in 1968 called "Toward a Theory of Task Motivation and Incentives". The research in the workplace found:
  • employees were motivated by clear goals and appropriate feedback
  • specific and difficult goals led to better task performance than vague or easy goals.

Goals that Motivate

Goals must take into consideration the degree to which each of the following exists:

  1. Clarity.
  2. Detail
  3. Challenge, level of task difficulty.
  4. Review.
  5. complexity.
  6. Commitment.
  7. Feedback.

Goals need to be:

  1. Clear: Be explicit about what you need to do, i.e. what action.

  2. Detailed: Give attention to detail with specific numbers, dates, and times.

  3. Challenging: Our need for success and achievement is strong. The tougher the goal, the more exciting it is.

  4. Reviewed: Targets and checkpoints give us the chance to see how we are doing. If Goals that are going to take a long time to complete, break them down into smaller, more manageable chunks, with more frequent check points. Review what you have achieved and adjust timeframes and goals where necessary.

  5. Complex: A good measure is that it must be 20% out of your comfort zone.

Achieving RESULTS is directly related to your level of commitment:

  • Commitment: Develop your own goals. If you set the goal you are more likely to stick to it. Goal commitment and difficulty usually work together. The harder the goal, the more commitment is required.

    Constructive feedback could put you on the fast track.

  • Feedback: Feedback helps put things in perspective if it is done with compassion, respect and insight

    NOTE: A goal that is too complicated, difficult and/or complex means you will probably fail and it may be more de-motivating than setting a goal that is too easy.

    Organisational Goal Setting

    In an organisation:
    • let employees develop their own goals
    • keep employees informed about what’s happening elsewhere in the organization
    • to ensure that their goals are consistent with the overall vision and purpose that your company seeks.
    • Goals must be understood and agreed upon if they are to be effective.
    • Employees are more likely to “buy into” a goal if they feel they were part of creating that goal.
    • The effort may not be impressive if an assignment is:
      • easy and not viewed as very important
      • the accomplishment is viewed as insignificant
      • there is no reward
    • Link feedback to the intermediate milestones.
    • Feedback provides opportunity to:
      • clarify expectations
      • adjust goals
      • give recognition for work completed
      • adjust timeframes where necessary.

    For complex tasks give the person enough time to:

    • meet the goal or improve performance
    • practice and/or learn what is expected and required for success.

    Facilitate success

    The whole point of goal setting is to facilitate success. Make sure the conditions surrounding the goals don’t frustrate or prevent people from reaching their objectives. This supports the “Attainable” part of SMART

    You are either moving towards your goals, or you're moving away from them. If you do nothing or act without clarity, you are almost certainly spending your time working on other people's goals without even knowing it.

    Achieving Goals

    Enjoy the satisfaction in having achieved your goal. Observe the progress you have made. Acknowledge and reward yourself.

    Review your Goals

    • If you achieved the goal too easily, make your next goals harder
    • If the goal took too long, make the next goals a little easier or break it up into smaller (mini)goals, or chunks.
    • If you learned something, change other goals accordingly
    • If you noticed you need a new skill, decide whether to set a goal to fix this.

    There is no such thing as failure

    Failure is just another way not to do things. Learn from it. Look back and feed lessons learned back into your goal-setting plan and your life.

    Smarter than the rest?
    To create compelling SMART Goals click here


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