Are you struggling to achieve your personal and professional goals? Do you want to set new goals, but don't know how useful they are to your business? Relying on a method that has been proven to be effective could be the right solution to achieve better results.
This is why, in this article, I will talk about SMART goals. In particular, I will explain what they are and how to best use them for personal and professional success.
What are SMART goals ?
The S.M.A.R.T. method was developed by Peter Drucker in 1954. It was seen as an integral part of the MBO (Management by Objectives) corporate management philosophy.
Thanks to this too, Peter Drucker became "the man who invented management". His philosophy emphasized the importance of defining objectives to achieve high level organizational performance.
However, we only heard about it in 1981, when George T. Doran, a consultant and former director of corporate planning for the Washington Water Power Company, published a paper entitled "There's a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management's goals and objectives".
In this document, Doran introduces the acronym SMART as a criterion to encourage the likelihood of success in achieving a goal. According to him, companies often set goals that were too vague, preventing them from having a significant impact.
But what exactly is the SMART method ?
It is a system for setting objectives, which are placed at the forefront of the activities needed to achieve them. Effective management of business objectives is only possible if their validity is known. In addition, the more precise your description of objectives, the more likely you are to achieve exactly the results you want.
To determine if the objectives are valid, five criteria have been defined, corresponding to the Anglo-Saxon terms that make up the SMART acronym:
Application of the SMART method
Well, we understand what SMART goals are. But now, how can we put them into practice? Here is a simple way to understand how to apply these objectives to our new project.
Setting an objective means defining a goal to be achieved. Taking action by defining goals for your business is crucial to your success. But how do we know if we are going in the right direction and, more importantly, if the objectives to be pursued are really useful? To plan a "smart" work process with this methodology, you need to ask yourself five questions. If your objective does not meet any of the requirements, you will have to revise or resize it.
Is my goal specific ? A goal must be defined and tangible, and clearly express what, how and why you want to achieve it.
Is my goal measurable ? It should be numerically expressed: "increase production by 15%" or "reduce expenses by 10%" can be examples.
Is my goal attainable ? Your project must be realistic and commensurate with the resources and capacities available to you.
Is it relevant ? Before spending time, resources and money, assess whether it is worthwhile. Carefully analyze the cost/benefit ratio of the project you are going to undertake.
Can it be delayed ? Each objective is linked to a timeline, with a series of verification steps. This implies precise relationships between the different activities needed to achieve it. It is no coincidence that some people prefer to replace "Time-Based" by "Time-Boxed", applying to this criterion the time management technique known as Timeboxing.
Simplifying the concept as much as possible, the implementation of SMART goals is precisely the transition from "I want to become a millionaire" to "I want to earn €10,000 per month for the next ten years by creating innovative software for online order management". Let's now take a detailed look at what SMART goal management means by describing each step of this acronym.
SMART Acronym: Meaning and practical examples
If you want to understand how to plan the operation, here is how to integrate SMART objectives into a company or daily life. I will start by detailing the first thing to do and then continue step by step.
1. Define a specific goal (S)
When setting a goal, it is essential to be precise and very clear about what you want to achieve. Improving the company's results, strengthening the strength of the team, slimming down or improving athletic performance are goals that are too vague. They do not explain when, how and why conducting these activities is useful for you.
To help you understand how to define a specific objective, I advise you to follow the "5W" journalistic model. Your objective is specific if it answers these 6 questions:
Who : you absolutely must consider the people who will be involved in achieving an objective, especially if you are talking about teamwork.
What : try to define exactly what you want to achieve and don't be afraid to go into detail.
When : in the T of the SMART acronym, we'll come back to talking about it, but you should at least think about a period of time to devote to achieving the goal.
Where : indicate the relevant locations for managing your goal, if any.
Which : at this point, you need to identify any barriers or requirements related to your goal. For example, if you are considering opening a pizza place but don't know how to make the dough, this could be a possible barrier to overcome.
Why : what motivates your action? The motivation will probably be business, career or personal development, depending on the type of goal.
2. The goal must be measurable (M)
What measures do you have to know if you have achieved the goal? With baseline measures, it will be easier for you to measure progress on the ground. If the project is long and involves several months, you can set intermediate objectives.
This way, you will be able to quantify how much work has actually been done. This will make it easier to sustain motivation.
3. The goal must be achievable (A)
Your goal must be attainable and achievable within the resources you have available. At this stage, you need to think carefully about how to achieve the goal and whether you have the necessary tools and skills. If you think you don't, think about what you might need to acquire them.
In other words, it should develop your skills but still be possible. For the goal to be achieved, it must answer questions such as :
● How do you get there ?
● How realistic is the goal, based on other constraints such as financial factors ?
4. The goal must be relevant (R)
This means that it should be useful in terms of cost/opportunity for you or your company. When I talk about the relevant objective, I am referring to something worth pursuing. This step is about making sure that your goal is important to you.
When I talk about examples of relevant SMART objectives, I am referring to the case where you would like to launch a new product on the market for the end consumer. Your employees have all the necessary resources. But your company follows a B2B model, where the end consumer is not involved. In this case, your goal would be irrelevant for the development of the company.
5. It is necessary to set achievement deadlines (T)
This criterion helps you prevent day-to-day activities from taking precedence over long-term goals. Usually a "time-related" goal answers these questions:
● What can I do in six months ?
● What can I do in six weeks ?
● What can I do today ?
Always remember to set deadlines for achieving your SMART goals. If the objective takes several months to achieve, set intermediate goals. Let's look at some examples together to make it clearer for everyone.
Saying "I want to achieve large sales volumes" does not mean setting a SMART goal. What volumes are you referring to and how long do you expect to reach your goal? You could rather say: "I want to have an increase of 25% of my turnover over the period from January 1st to 31st, going from 10,000 euros to 12,500 euros".
At the same time, it is not SMART to say "I will be in great shape by next summer". You can set yourself more precise objectives by saying: "By the end of June I will lose 5 kg per month by following a diet and doing sports 3 days a week".
Seven mistakes to avoid when setting SMART goals
You set yourself a goal and at the beginning everything was going well. You were making progress, you felt good about what you were doing and you were excited about future possibilities. But at some point, things got complicated.
It took longer than expected to achieve the goal. You became discouraged and, as you kept looking at what you had accomplished, you lost momentum and focus. Without even knowing it, the goal and the opportunities that came with it vanished. Well, this is what can happen when we make evaluation errors in choosing SMART goals.
But what are the reasons for such a serious failure? Here are the 7 most common errors in setting SMART objectives. Find out how to recognize these errors to avoid making or repeating them.
1. Focusing on too few areas
You have just written your list of goals for next year. You have made a commitment to:
● Increase your sales by 15%
● Apply for a promotion
● Read a business book on your sector every month
There is no doubt that this is a list of SMART, ambitious and achievable goals. But there is a potential problem: these goals focus solely on your career.
You have completely forgotten about your goals elsewhere in your life. Many people focus only on their work when setting goals. However, you can't neglect the activities that bring you joy.
Goals such as writing a book, competing in a sports competition, or taking care of your garden can also be incredibly important to your happiness and well-being. So, when setting your goals, make sure you find the right balance between the different areas of your life.
And remember that "balance" is different for everyone.
2. Underestimating the completion time
How often has an activity or project taken longer than expected? Probably more times than you can remember! The same is true for goals you have set in the past.
If you don't accurately estimate times, it can be intimidating when things take longer than expected. It could make you give up on your goals.
3. Not appreciating failure
No matter how hard you work, from time to time you may not be able to achieve your goals. We've all been there and it's certainly no fun! However, your failures are what ultimately determines who you are. They also contain lessons that can change your life for the better, if you have the courage to learn them.
So don't be too angry if you can't reach your goals. Write down what you did wrong and use that knowledge to achieve your goals next time.
4. Let people influence your goals
Some people - your family, friends, or even your leader - may want to influence the goals you want to set for yourself. Maybe they want you to take a certain path or do certain things.
Clearly, it's important to have good relationships with these people and you need to do what your leader tells you to do, within reasonable limits. However, your goals must be your own, not anyone else's. So be politely assertive and do what you want to do !
5. Not checking on progress
Goals take time to achieve. And sometimes it may seem that you are not making much progress. That's why it's important to take stock of everything you've accomplished on a regular basis. Set small, secondary goals, celebrate your successes, and analyze what you need to do to move forward. No matter how slow things seem, you are probably making progress!
You can also take the opportunity to update your goals based on what you've learned. Have your priorities changed? Or do you need to spend some extra time on a targeted activity? Goals are never set in stone, so don't be afraid to change them if necessary.
6. Setting negative goals
Many people have "weight loss" as a goal. However, this goal has a negative connotation because it focuses on what you don't want: your weight.
A smart and positive way to rephrase this goal is to say, "I want to exercise 3 times a week and always avoid fatty and unhealthy foods".
Another example of a negative goal is "no longer being late for work". A positive and SMART way of rephrasing it is: "I want to spend at least 6 extra hours a week with my family".
7. Setting too many goals
When you start setting goals, you can see a lot of things you want to achieve. So you start setting goals in all areas.
But there is a problem: you have a fixed time and energy. If you try to focus on several different goals at the same time, you can't give the different goals the attention they deserve.
Instead, use the "quality, not quantity" rule when setting goals. Find out the relative importance of everything you want to achieve over the next six to twelve months. Then, choose no more than three goals to focus on.
Remember : your work toward a target will be successful if you focus on few things at once. If you reduce the number of targets you have to achieve, you will have the time and energy to do things really well.