[Note: Every year, I republish this article around this time as I remind myself what's really important in setting goals for the next year. It's the last of the New Year re-run articles, I swear.]
It's a few days into the new year... how are your New Year's Resolutions coming along? Maybe I'm just Lazy (wait, I am), but I typically start having trouble with mine in the next few days... just as work starts getting really busy again. Right now, I'm enjoying my freshly born son (surprise!), trying to write articles in advance, get a new website off the ground, and hundred other things. That's the problem with New Year's resolutions, you get busy, put it off, and then it gets forgotten. The best way to stop that from happening this year is by being SMART with your goals.
Many of you have heard about SMART goals in the past. It's common in the realm of project management. SMART is simply an mnemonic device to help you remember the steps necessary to achieve your goals. Though some of the specific terms are debated (more on that later), one interpretation is that stands for:
- Specific - What is the goal that I want to accomplish? Do I want to get my TPS reports submitted with cover sheets? Do I want to get that
T.G.I. Friday'sChotchkie's waitress to go out with me? Or do you want to just want to get your red stapler back? (Note: Those goals won't make sense unless you've seen Office Space)
- Measurable - How do I measure the goal? Am I successful if I submit my TPS reports with cover sheets 80% of the time? Sounds like a good start. Having I gotten to know what the Chotchkie's waitress likes? Am I successful if I find that she likes kung-fu? Yep.
- Attainable - Is my goal reasonable? If my goal is learn to fly by flapping my arms, I need to go back to the drawing board. In this case it is possible to achieve the TPS report/coversheet goal... and contrary to what any logic in my head says, I guess it's finding Jennifer Anistons working at Chotchkie's and get them to go out with you is "attainable" (maybe this is where my Office Space analogy breaks down).
- Relevant - Does the goal matter to you and your life? Do you really care about achieving the 80% TPS report/coversheet goal? No you don't. Does going out with Chotchkie's waitress matter? I'm going to go on a limb and say that in example it's something worth caring about.
- Time-bound - When do expect to reach this goal? Maybe you want to start out with getting your TPS Reports up to par for just a month... then raise it to a fiscal quarter... then go for the full year... Maybe you want to find out three things that the Chotchkie's waitress likes in the next week.
I mentioned earlier that there are some variations to SMART goals. Some use Appropriate and Realistic instead of Attainable and Relevant. If you think about it, Appropriate is similar enough to Relevant, and Realistic is similar enough to Attainable that it doesn't really matter. As long as you cover the main five concepts you are ready to tackle any goal... or are you?
I've noticed some people are getting a little clever with SMART Goals and trying to make them even SMARTER Goals. They do this by adding a couple more steps such as
- Exciting - Your goals should exciting you. I think this is captured in Relevant step mentioned above. This could be debated, but in the example above, I think it's safe to say that Peter should be excited about the idea of taking Jennifer Aniston's character on a date.
- Recorded - You should record your progress at set intervals. I like this one. It's a little like Measurable, but reminds you to go back and look at how you are doing
Another variation is:
- Evaluate - Same concept as the recorded above - evaluate your goal progress on an on-going basis
- Re-do - After evaluating your goal's progress, go back and adjust your goal accordingly. Now that you know some things that the waitress likes, ask her to come over and watch the Kung-Fu marathon on channel 39.
I'm not going to revise the acronym again. Instead I'd like to add a couple of important tips for achieving your goals that I believe get lost in the steps above:
- Assess Where You Start - Before you create a goal, you should assess where you stand currently. It will help you with various steps in the process.
- Break them Down - You may need to break big goals into smaller ones. Some goals may seem break the "Attainable" guideline, but in smaller chunks it becomes easier. Paying off $100,000 of debt in a year may not be attainable to some people, but paying off $25,000 may be possible.
- Get Some Motivating Help - How do I keep up with my goals? Here are some things that I've found helpful:
- StickK to Your Goals - This website can help make you accountable for not achieving your goals.
- Buddy System - If your goal is to go to the gym, get a buddy to hold yourself accountable. On days when you don't feel like going, you will be less likely to give up because you don't want to let your buddy down.
- Reminders - It can be easy to forget your goals. I would recommend setting up regular reminders on a regular basis on Google Calendar. If you are low-tech type, you could put a picture that reminds you of your goal on your bathroom mirror.
If you take just one thing away from this article, I hope it's this: "Lazy Man has seen Office Space far too many times."
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