How to Set SMART Goals

In today’s article, we present a process for setting goals and show you just how simple planning for success can be.

In our last post, we talked about the importance of setting goals. They provide direction, give you control, and improve confidence. But you might be wondering how to begin.

Plan S.M.A.R.T.

If you’ve ever taken a business or project management class, you’ve likely heard the term “SMART.” SMART is an approach used to guide goal setting. According to this approach, quality goals should conform to the following criteria: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound.

Let’s review these one by one.

Specific  When setting your goals, be clear about what you intend to accomplish.There is a difference between, “I want to get stronger” and “I will add 20kg onto my back squat by the end of the year.”

When setting a goal, think about the 5 W’s:

  • Who: Who needs to be involved in order to achieve this goal?
  • What: What exactly am I trying to accomplish? What are the requirements to do so? What are the constraints?
  • When: What is the time-frame of my goal?
  • Where: May or may not be relevant, but if there is a specific location (PR in the gym vs PR at a competition), note it here.
  • Why: Why do I want/need to accomplish this goal? What does it mean to me?

Measurable  The more specific the goal (and the process needed to achieve it), the easier it is to measure both your progress and your outcome.

When setting a goal, ask yourself these two questions:

  • How will I measure my progress?
  • How will I know when I have achieved my goal?

To measure your progress, you must first define your process goals. Whereas outcome goals are what you intend to accomplish, process goals are the routine actions that will get you there. Let’s go back to the first (outcome goal) example, “add 20kgs to back squat by end of the year.” A few example process goals include: train 4x/week, back squat 2x/week, get 7-9 hours of sleep/night, eat 130g protein/day. These goals provide a process to subscribe to and are easily measured.

Knowing whether/when you’ve achieved your goal brings us back to our first criteria: be specific. When defining your outcome goal, you’ll want to think about what exactly you are trying to achieve. If you’ve defined your 5 W’s, there should be no question about whether or not you have achieved your end goal.

Achievable  Goals should inspire, not discourage. While the majority of us would like to add 50kgs to our back squat in 6 months, it is simply not realistic. SMART goals encourage us to dream big, but keep our roots planted in reality. Achievable is not synonymous with easy, the trick is to find the right balance of challenging and attainable.

To figure out if a goal strikes this balance, ask yourself:

  • What tools/skills/assets do I need to accomplish my goal? Do I have these?
  • If I don’t currently possess these, what would it take to attain them? Can I do so in my defined time frame?

If the answer is no to the last question, don’t write off your goal completely. Simply refine it to match your current time frame, while still aiming high. When setting a goal, it’s often better to overshoot than under, so that you may push yourself to do more rather than settling for less than what you’re capable of.

Relevant  It is also important to reflect on how your goal fits within your long-term objectives. For example, if your long-term objective is to make it onto the national swimming team, does allocating 10 hours/week towards improving your squat make sense?

When trying to answer this, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Is this a worthwhile goal? Why do I want to reach this goal?
  • How does this goal fit within the larger framework of my long-term objectives?
  • Can my time be better spent elsewhere?
  • If the goal stands up to these questions, is this the right time?

Time-Bound  Lastly, it is important to keep in mind a time-frame when goal setting. Setting realistic (but also flexible) target dates for deliverables and the end goal keeps morale and motivation high.

Some questions to ask yourself include:

  • How long will it take to accomplish this goal?
  • When do I want/need to complete this goal by?
  • What needs to happen to make this deadline?
  • When am I going to work towards this goal?

Once you’ve reflected on these questions, don’t procrastinate! Think positive, start planning, and get to work. The time is now.