We often set goals with the hope to achieve them by a certain point in time. But, how can we set up ourselves for success and stick to our goals?
Goals tend to give us a sense of direction in both our personal and professional lives. And, we often get a satisfying feeling of accomplishment once we reach what we aim for.
When it comes to setting goals, though, there are a few things to take into account.
Goals could be either individual or collective, personal or professional, major or small. Regardless of their nature, we usually set goals because we wish to achieve an end result.
To define our goals well and stick to them, however, may be the trickiest part.
As a starting point, it would be useful to identify a clear "purpose" as to why we wish to accomplish a particular goal.
We would also need to come up with a "feasible" plan of action, and "commit" to it.
But, most of all, the goals we set should be "relevant" and "realistic" so we can stick to them.
How you define your goals also matters. And, it may be the key to setting up yourself for success.
Whether you are setting goals for your own personal development, your project or business, it is important to describe what you aim to accomplish clearly.
If you ever worked in a corporate environment, for example, you may be familiarised with the SMART mnemonic acronym used when setting goals.
SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound, though other words may sometimes be used depending on the author or the organization.
The SMART acronym will help you remember the criteria that can be used to define goals that are realistic and achievable. Company managers, for example, often set SMART goals for their teams.
Goals that are “specific'' are usually described in a clear and concise manner, they are not vague, and they target a specific area. They tend to be specific to a particular action or improvement you wish to work on.
“Measurable” goals can be tracked on progress and may sometimes have success metrics defined.
Success metrics could be either quantitative or qualitative.
Quantitative metrics allow you to quantify success numerically. For example, if you work in sales, you may set goals to reach a certain % improvement in sales, or an increase in the number of clients.
Qualitative measures generally refer to anecdotal evidence that can be collected from customer surveys, feedback forms, interviews, to name a few.
Defining success metrics for your goals would help you set targets you wish to reach and benefits you hope to realise.
Goals that are “achievable” and “relevant” are realistic and feasible, they can be done. And, they are relevant to the context in which your goals are being set up. For example, they could be relevant to your personal or professional aspirations.
And last but not least, “time-bound” goals have a timeframe for implementation, a target date to accomplish the desired end state.
Setting SMART goals upfront may be a critical first step to succeed in what you are trying to achieve. Let us see some examples below.
Here is an example of a SMART goal of an individual who works in sales: “To improve my sales skills by attending the 3 week sales coaching programme offered by my company next month. This would help me expand my knowledge and increase my client base.” This goal is specific to sales coaching, progress can be measured, there is a plan of action and timeframe to achieve this, an expectation as to what success would look like, and it is relevant to the individual's professional career.
In project management, for example, projects usually have an overarching goal, or project goal, documented in a Project Definition Document (PDD), or similar document. Project goals that are well defined set clear expectations and help those working on these initiatives stay focused on achieving the desired outcome.
Let us see an example of a SMART project goal. In this scenario, the project has been set up to train staff at a bank branch: “To train all 50 front line staff on the requirements to onboard clients under the new local tax regulation by the end of the year. The training program will be delivered by the bank’s subject matter experts on sessions planned to run every week in-house for the next two months”.
In the above example, the goal is specific to new training requirements, progress on the delivery of the training program can be tracked, it can be achieved by using the bank’s internal resources, it is relevant to the bank’s operations, and it will be implemented within a specified timeframe.
Once your goals are well defined, you are generally set to a very good start.
The next step would be to put a plan of action in place that is realistic so that it is possible to stick to it.
Think about the steps you would need to take and write down the tasks you would need to work on. Plan target completion dates for your tasks, and remember that your plan of action should be feasible and realistic. It would also be helpful to prioritise your tasks and monitor your progress.
A clear purpose and strong intention to achieve your goals will help you keep going, as long as your goals remain valid.
If things do not go according to plan, you may need to re-evaluate your goals. When this happens, revisit your goals, assess your progress and re-plan, if necessary. Adjust as needed, set clear intentions, and stick to them.
Defining SMART goals with a clear purpose would help you set up yourself for success. And most of all, remember to celebrate your little victories along the way to keep you and your team motivated to cross the finishing line.