It has been estimated that only 3 percent of the general population sets specific and written goals. Specific goals must be written and separated into short, intermediate, and lifetime, long range (5-10 years), intermediate (1-2 years) and short range (3-6 months), goals. Without specific goals, you cannot measure how effectively you are using your time in the areas that really matter the most.
Research has revealed that goal setting provides a target to aim for and to reach as well as helping to define what you want from life, because tangible targets allow you to measure your achievement. Goal setting is the blueprint for how you plan to spend your time and ultimately how you spend your life. It is fair to say that “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” There are five elements that each goal should contain and are represented by the acronym SMART.
The SMART goals system is one method to begin your time management and goal setting activities. There are five steps in setting and achieving your goals. They are (1) use the SMART system in developing your goals, (2) write out your goals; (3) check for balance in your goals; (4) identify the necessary steps to achieve your goals; and (5) prioritize your goals.
SMART goals should not be confused with intelligent goals. SMART is an acronym for five attributes in setting and evaluating a goal. Those attributes are Specific; Measurable; Attainable; Realistic; and Time bound (or sensitive).
Let’s examine each.
First, a goal must be highly specific. It is not enough to state that one of your goals for the year is to get in shape. You must state explicitly that you want to lose 15 pounds or you want to walk six miles a day five times a week or you plan to swim a half hour per day five days a week. By stating a goal specifically, you avoid the possibility of forgetting or ignoring it. If you had simply said your goal was to get in shape, you could easily fool yourself into thinking that whatever you do will get you in shape.
Goals must be measurable. That is, you must be able to see how close you have come toward reaching your goal at a certain point. If you state that your goal is to lose 15 pounds by July I, you can weigh yourself and measure the results. If your goal was to earn $60,000 this year, and you’ve earned $50,000, you can also measure the results. We should understand that if we do not complete every goal, it is acceptable and expected that we will continue to pursue it. In this example, we may have only lost 10 pounds. That simply means that we only have 5 pounds more to lose.
A third requirement is that the goal must be attainable. It would be fruitless for a short person to have a goal of becoming a top NBA player at the center position. Similarly, you should not list professional goals you cannot achieve. For a new and inexperienced financial services employee to say that he or she wants to become a vice president of the company within one year is probably unattainable, as would be the goal of doubling his or her salary in one year. The exception to this is for someone in commission sales.
Next, a goal should be realistic for your lifestyle. Sometimes you can attain a goal, but it may not be realistic or healthy for your total life picture. For example, a very busy manager with a family would not be realistic in stating that his goal is to become a champion power lifter within the next six months, requiring fifteen to eighteen hours a week of training. Although it would be possible for him to achieve this goal if he actually devoted the time and energy to weight training, it would not be a healthy, realistic goal for his busy schedule and his family responsibilities. Similarly, it might be possible for a full-time employee to take two to four college courses at once, although most people wouldn’t regard that as a realistic goal. A goal should fit in with other responsibilities and not be out of proportion.
Finally, all goals should be time bound. If we set a goal, it should be followed by a date certain to be achieved. So, if we set a goal to complete four college courses this year, we should be specific as this example shows. Complete accounting 101 with a grade of “B” or better by March 2005; marketing 161 with a grade of “B” or better by June 2005; psychology 101 with a grade of “B” or better by September 2005 and English 260 with a grade of “B” or better by December 2005. This example assumes that the individual has planned the time to undertake this course of study.
Think of a goal you currently are working on and make sure that it is SMART. It must meet the five criteria of a really effective goal and is stated specifically. The goal must be measurable, realistic for your lifestyle and time bound. However, the most important consideration is your commitment to achieving the goal.
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