Setting smart goals

by 10 Sep, 2015Career Planning0 comments

a goal without a plan is just a wish - motivational handwriting on a napkin with a cup of coffee

Setting smart goals helps wishes to become real

Setting smart goals for your career

Setting smart goals, and developing accompanying action plans is the final stage of our 4 Step career planning process.

If you have been following this series, the 4 steps are:

  1. Step 1 – self review and self analysis
  2. Step 2 – full research your career options
  3. Step 3 – decision making on the best option
  4. Step 4 – goal setting and action planning


How to set your career goals

In Step 3 you were asked to prepare a personal career mission statement.

If you carried out this step, you will have effectively set for yourself a five year career goal.

To make this larger goal a reality, what you will need to do is achieve a number of smaller goals along the way.

Possibly you will be familiar with the sayings which relate to climbing a mountain……one step at a time.

That is exactly the process that you need to follow to achieve your career/life mission.

Break this 5 year goal into smaller steps, and then work towards achieving it, one step at a time.

There are two steps to follow for doing this:

  1. Set smaller goals
  2. Have a daily ‘to do’ list

Following is a little more detail about these two steps.

Set Smaller Goals

This first step involves breaking down your main career goal into a series of more manageable goals.

Do this by creating a:

  • one-year plan
  • six-month plan
  • one-month plan
  • and…….perhaps even a weekly plan of progressively smaller goals

Each of these mini plans should be based on the previous plan – so:

  • start with your  5 year plan (your mission statement)
  • then a yearly plan for each of the 5 years
  • followed by a plan for your first year
  • then for each month in that first year,
  • for each week,
  • for each day


Have a daily ‘to do’ listClose-up Of Person Hands Planning List Of Work To Do

It is really important that you consistently take action…….read that again,……take action…….on a daily basis to progressively work towards achieving your goal

Soooo……. write out a daily ‘to do’ list of things that you will do to get you closer to your goals.

What sort of goals can you set?

Your first, smaller goals might be related to gathering and analysing specific information that is related to the achievement of your higher level goals.

For example, before deciding on a particular career direction, or job opportunity, you might need to:

  • find out more about employment conditions, or…….
  • identify who the key employers might be

This information, in turn, may help you to improve the quality and realism of your goal setting.

Your next goal, for example, might include doing some information interviews with a given number of your personal contacts to learn more about who the key contact people are in the organisations that interest you.

So, you can perhaps see that each of your goals will be linked to each other…… like a series of building blocks.

How to stay on track

When you have written down your first set of goals, keep your focus by reviewing and updating your ‘to do’ list on a daily basis.

Periodically review your longer term goals, and modify them to reflect your changing priorities and experiences.

A good way of doing this is to schedule regular, and repeating goal reviews using a computer-based diary e.g. every 3 or 6 months set aside a special time review your goals and your progress towards achieving them.

Setting SMART Goals – what are they?

The term ‘SMART GOALS’ refers to a specific, and commonly used formula, or check list for effective goal setting.

When setting SMART goals they need to be:

  • S – Specific (or Significant)
  • M – Measurable (or Meaningful)
  • A – Attainable (or Action-Oriented)
  • R – Relevant (Rewarding, or sometimes Realistic)
  • T – Time-bound (or Trackable)

For example, instead of having “run a marathon” as a goal, it’s more powerful to say “To have completed the New York marathon (fill in your own city)…. by …….(and enter a specific day and year), and in a finishing time under 5 hours.”

Let’s see how this example of setting smart goals stacks up:

  • S – Specific (or Significant) – to have completed the New York Marathon
  • M – Measurable (or Meaningful) – in a finishing time of under 4 hours
  • A – Attainable (or Action-Oriented) – with the appropriate training, yes this is certainly possible for many people
  • R – Relevant (or Rewarding) – for people who are interested in this type of activity, to complete this event would be relevant, and/or rewarding
  • T – Time-bound (or Trackable) – by the first Sunday in November in 2020

Obviously, this example goal would only be attainable if a lot of preparation has been completed beforehand.

Setting smart goals – example

This short video gives a great explanation and a simple to understand example. The video explains how to develop a common goal that many people have….. of becoming rich!!



Further Goal Setting Tips

Here are more tips for setting smart goals:

State each goal as a positive statement

Express your goals positively – “execute this technique well” is a much better goal than “don’t make this stupid mistake”.

Be precise

Set precise goals, putting in dates, times and amounts so that you can measure achievement. If you do this, you’ll know exactly when you have achieved the goal, and can take complete satisfaction from having achieved it.

Set priorities

When you have several goals, give each a priority. This helps you to avoid feeling overwhelmed by having too many goals.

This also helps to direct your attention to the most important ones.

Write your goals down

This crystallises them and gives them more force. And……if their written down, you can, and should refer to them regularly.

Keep your operational goals small

Keep the low-level goals that you’re working towards small and achievable. If a goal is too large, then it can seem that you are not making progress towards it.

Keeping goals small and incremental gives more opportunities for rewarding yourself.

Set performance goals, not outcome goals

Ensure you set goals over which you have as much control as possible. It can be quite dispiriting to fail to achieve a personal goal for reasons beyond your control.

In sport, for example, these reasons could include poor judgment, bad weather, injury or just plain bad luck.

If you base your goals on personal performance then you can keep control over the achievement of your goals and draw satisfaction from them.

Set realistic goals

It’s important to set goals that you can achieve. All sorts of people (for example, employers, parents, media or society) can set unrealistic goals for you. They will often do this in ignorance of your own desires and ambitions. It’s also possible to set goals that are too difficult because you might not appreciate either the obstacles in the way, or understand quite how much skill you need to develop to achieve a particular level of performance.

When you have achieved your goals – celebrate!!

When you’ve achieved a goal, take the time to enjoy the satisfaction of having done so.

Take the time to reflect on the implications of your goal achievement, and……. observe the progress that you’ve made towards other goals.

If the goal was a significant one, reward yourself appropriately. All of this helps you build the self-confidence you deserve.

With the experience of having achieved this goal, review the rest of your goal plans:

If you achieved the goal too easily, make your next goal harder.

If the goal took a dispiriting length of time to achieve, make the next goal a little easier.

If you learned something that would lead you to change other goals, do so.

If you noticed a deficit in your skills despite achieving the goal, decide whether to set goals to fix this.


take actionSetting smart goals, and action planning

A very important, complimentary activity for setting smart goals is…… action planning.

The goals that you’ll outline in your career plan won’t of course be realised unless you take action to achieve them.

Just as you will need to achieve a series of mini goals to achieve a bigger goal, a number of action steps will be required if you are to achieve each mini goal.

By planning ahead, and writing down the action required to achieve each goal, you will be more likely to carry out the required action.

I suggest you create a worksheet which will enable you to print copies as you need them.

Use these headings on your worksheet:

  • The goal I have set is
  • To achieve this I will need to…….(then list the steps you will take)
  • I will complete this step by……
  • My reward for doing this will be……

Setting smart goals – summary

Unless your goals are written down using the SMART formula I have outlined then your goals are really no more than wishes.

For example, can you recall how many New Year’s resolutions you have told yourself you will carry out, but haven’t bothered to follow through.

Write you goals down:

  • Be specific
  • How will you measure your results?
  • Are your goals achievable – is this really something you are prepared to commit to? Are there specific actions you can take to achieve this?
  • Realistic/relevant – can you actually do this? (Don’t underestimate your capabilities either)
  • Timebound – when will this happen?

What is your experience with setting smart goals? Please share

Many people will admit that they have never actually set a goal. If this is you, are you comfortable sharing why?

If you are a believer in goal setting, let us know why, and how this has worked for you

Wishing you every success in achieving your goals!


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