Setting goals

May 7, 2008

in Productivity

Last week in Keeping track of goals I listed some goals that I have been inspired to set since I started blogging. Making a list of goals is an important first step, but how do we go about achieving them? Before going any further, there are a number of characteristics that a goal should have in order to make success more likely. Goals written in this manner are often referred to as SMART goals.

Specific
Measurable
Attainable
Realistic
Timeframe

I’ll use one of my goals from last week as an example of how to make a goal SMART.

Initial goal: Eliminate credit card debt

Specific

Unless a goal is specific, it will be very difficult to know exactly what you are aiming for. The outcome needs to be stated precisely. For each goal ask yourself who, what, where, why.

Refined goal: In order to have more disposable income, we will eliminate our credit card debt.

Measurable

Unless there is some sort of measure attached to a goal, how do we know when it’s been achieved? How do we know what we’re aiming for? Ensure that you are able to measure your progress towards your goal.

Refined goal: In order to have more disposable income, we will eliminate our credit card debt by paying off $500 per month.

Attainable


This is where you find the ways and means to attain your goal. Ask what you are going to do to achieve your goal.

Refined goal: In order to have more disposable income, we will eliminate our credit card debt by paying off $500 per month. We will do this by preparing a budget and sticking to it.

Realistic


There is nothing more disheartening than trying to achieve an unrealistic goal. On the other hand, a goal that can be achieved too easily does not give the same sense of satisfaction at it’s completion. Ensure that your goal is challenging, but realistic.
Using the credit card goal as an example, we would be setting ourselves up for failure if we tried to pay off $1000 per month, as we just wouldn’t have that much room in our budget no matter how “creative” we were.

Timeframe

Setting a deadline to reach your goal gives you a target to work towards. With no timeframe, it is easy to let things slide.

Final goal:


In order to have more disposable income, we will eliminate our credit card debt by November 7, 2008 by paying off $500 per month. We will do this by preparing a budget and sticking to it.

As you can see the final goal is somewhat more detailed than the original. It is clear what we want to achieve, how we want to do it and when we want to have it done by.

There is one last step that isn’t part of the SMART system, but I think it’s absolutely essential.
Write your goals down (or print them out if you like) and put them somewhere you will see them every day.
This will provide you with some daily motivation and ensure your goals don’t slip into obscurity.
I’d love to hear how your goal setting and progress is going.
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