“Goals” is a word that gets thrown a lot, particularly next to a hashtag on social media. But while you may be all too familiar with the phrase “#squadgoals,” how much do you know about SMART goals, which tend to be more practical, relevant and achievable career- or business-related goals?
SMART goals can also be useful frameworks for teams and can help your employees accomplish specific goals and achieve results. Try using the process when kicking off a project or even working to streamline a system.
Following this “smart” framework when you’re setting goals is one way to ensure you’re fully cognizant of your timeframe for completion; it encourages you to create sub-goals that help break down the various projects you’ll need to accomplish (as well as why you need to take these steps) so that you can eventually reach your desired end result.
The SMART acronym stands for Specific (or simple, sensible, or significant), Measurable (or meaningful or motivating), Attainable (or achievable), Relevant (or reasonable, realistic and resourced, or results-based) and Time-Based (or time-bound, time-limited, or time-sensitive). You can use these five categories to measure whether your objectives are realistic and break down how you’re going to get exactly what you’re hoping for. In short, you can think of it as a to-do list to help you achieve the goal and objective you want.
If you’re having a hard time visualizing what this process actually looks like, don’t worry — we’re going to (kind of literally) spell it out for you with some examples.
Say you want to get a new job within the next six months. This is a goal most of us have had at some point in our lives, but it can be pretty vague and broad. Moreover, since it’s not a goal that’s 100% in your control, setting SMART goals will help you ensure you’re taking control of whatever you possibly can — and will give you some actionable guidance as you begin your search.
Writing an outline for yourself will also help you stay on track so that you’re setting yourself up for the specific results you have in mind (for instance, you want to get a new job in a field you desire rather than winding up in a position you’re not actually all that interested in). After all, everyone wants theirs to be a realistic goal, rather than a stretch goal.
Your plan and sample SMART goal might look something like this:
Overarching goal: I want to get a new job.
Specific goal: I want to get a new job where I’ll have a better work-life balance but not have to sacrifice my title or salary.
Measurable goal: My title will be HR manager, my pay will be the same (or higher) than it is now, and my work schedule will allow me to spend at least two hours with my kids before they go to bed in the evening.
Relevant goal: Finding a new job at an employer that’s more family-friendly will allow me to continue to do the work I enjoy doing (and the work for which I’m qualified) — and it will also allow me to spend more time with my kids.
Time-Based: I’ll update my resume this week and apply to jobs over the next couple of months. I’ll prepare for interviews and speak to any companies that show interest in me, and will land a new job within six months. This time frame makes this an attainable goal.
SMART goal: I will find a new job as an HR manager within the next six months. I’ll perfect my resume and cover letter, prepare for interviews, and research women- and family-friendly companies on sites like Fairygodboss. By landing a position at a new company, I’ll continue doing what I love without sacrificing pay — but I’ll also have the ability to take more control over my schedule so I can spend more time with my kids.
Of course, this is merely an example. This same process can be helpful for any goals you’re setting within your current position at work; for instance, maybe you want to get promoted to a particular position or you’d like a $10,000 raise. Perhaps you’re in sales and you want to bring in X amount of clients or revenue this year.
Alternatively, you may use the SMART goal system to direct you as you start your own business, lose weight, or set a personal development goal (like finally making time for your side hustle). For instance, if your goal is to lose weight, you might make a SMART goal out of burning a certain number of calories while exercising, making it specific (burning X calories), measurable (using a device to track what you've burned), attainable (you CAN add five minutes to your workout), relevant (exercise is important for losing weight) and time-bound (make it a goal for a certain period of time).
Whatever your specific goal or intention of achieving, it’s wise to plan ahead and make sure you have a clear idea of how you’ll track your progress and eventually achieve your objective. Planning out measurable steps, as well as a timeline, will help keep you motivated and grounded while you pursue your set goal.
So before you totally give up on your New Year’s resolutions (yes, we know we’re nearly halfway through the year), consider reorganizing your plans and be smart about your goals!