SMART goals are well-defined goals that can be personal or business focused. These tips will help you create, write, and achieve your SMART goals.
From MIT’s HR department, here is an example of a goal that is not SMART,
Keep our department’s web page up-to-date.
Here is the same goal written as a SMART Goal so it is measurable and clear to all stakeholders,
The first Friday of every month, solicit updates and new material from our department’s managers for the web page; publish this new material no later than the following Friday. Each time new material is published, review our department’s web page for material that is out-of-date and delete or archive that material.
To write SMART Goals think about answering these questions,
Accelerate your career by targeting SMART Goals aligned with a visible, important Strategic Business Objective. You and your manager should agree on SMART Goals that are aligned with SBOs that you can impact. Communicating great results on these can accelerate your career and the career of your manager.
The Rule of Three is a common theme in literature, history, and human psychology. Our minds seem to group and remember sets of three more easily. We often group collections in threes; gold, silver, and bronze medals. Joke punchlines are usually the third in a set. Even memorable lines are tuned to the rhythm of threes,
“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics”
– Benjamin Disraeli
“This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning”
– Sir Winston Churchill
“There are three principal ways to lose money: wine, women, and engineers. While the first two are more pleasant, the third is by far the more certain.”
Quotes attributed to Presentation Magazine.
Cognitive science has shown us the deadly toll of multi-tasking. We are far more effective focusing on one task or goal at a time. Focusing doesn’t conflict with the Rule of Three. In practice it means to focus and work on one task or goal and to limit your focus to three critical goals per day.
Ask yourself each day, which three SMART Goals are topmost me today? Are these the top three my manager wants me to work on?
SMART Goals make workflow and performance reviews significantly easier. One of the biggest problems managers have in performance reviews is that they do not have concrete performance terms to discuss. Without concrete topics and metrics, a performance review feels like an off-the-cuff, subjective opinion.
Good managers review their people’s progress on SMART Goals every week. While this may seem like a lot of work it is easy if everyone uses Excel or a networked project tracking system. Using one of the Excel-based Gantt charts in Critical to Success and submitting it to your manager is an easy way to stay informed. And keeping your manager informed will help your performance review.
Using SMART Goals with a tracking chart makes performance reviews significantly easier:
If you have used SMART Goals and tracked your results, then you should have a great list of accomplishments you can use to update your resume.
Large SMART Goals are more achievable by approaching them as you would a project. Either by yourself for personal goals or with a team for group SMART Goals, brainstorm all the tasks, timeframes, and resources you need to complete the goal. The Critical to Success brainstorming method using Post-It ® notes is an excellent way to identify tasks, resources, and timeframes.
Once you have brainstormed tasks and time frames needed for each task, lay them out in a timeline starting with the end goal and working backward. That’s right. Work backward from the end goal.
Beginning with the end in mind and mapping tasks and dates backward to the start is more likely to produce the most direct path to success and to identify all tasks. Ask yourself these questions at each stage:
As you brainstorm tasks, time frames, and resources, write down whenever someone mentions a potential barrier. Save these notes of barriers.
Review the list of barriers yourself. If you find some that look difficult or high-risk, then look for a group of trusty comrades. If they are working on their SMART Goals, you can help each other. Order a “pizza”, grab stacks of Post-It ® notes, and convene a barrier-buster meeting where you can work together on how to break through or bypass barriers.
Not all SMART Goals are of the same type. Each type needs different job requirements, work style, and personal energy. You may want to group differently, but three clear types of SMART Goals are: Strategic Business Objectives, repetitive operational tasks, and personal development.
Identify your own work-style, time-frame, and resources for each. For example,
Use a tracking system to monitor your progress on your SMART Goals. A simple Gantt chart in Excel works well. Put deadlines and milestones as reminders in your calendar system.
An advanced Gantt Chart in Excel will work well for most personal SMART Goals.
A more advanced Gantt Chart in Excel might be needed for complex SMART Goals involving many people and tasks.
Rewards and consequences really work, even for those of us pretending to be adults.
You can apply positive and negative consequences before the actual end of a SMART Goal. Your mind can’t tell the difference.
One way to trick your mind into motivation is by creating a strong image for yourself of what the consequence will be if you achieve or do not achieve a specific SMART Goal. Some of us work better with positive consequences and some of us work better with negative. Use what works for you, but make the images vivid.
For many professionals in the high-tech world, meeting their personal SMART Goals is 50% of their quarterly bonus. That is a big incentive that has significant positive and negative consequences.
Incentives for near-term milestones don’t need to be grand. This consultant’s much enjoyed short-term incentive is a hard workout at the gym followed by a Royale cookie from Boudin Bakery or a slice of chocolate fudge cake. Get the goal; get the cake.