Practical tips for SMART goals

Guest contribution by | 08.02.2021 | Project management |

Are you good at achieving goals? Or are you more likely to have big plans, be full of drive and then nothing happens?

You are not alone. Many people feel this way. For example, it is often because we have fears associated with the goal. But in most cases we are not aware of this. If we understand these fears, we know why our goal has remained unattained until now. It may also be that you have blocking beliefs that stand in your way and that you should first dissolve. But it doesn’t always have to be because of blockages. It can also be that you have simply formulated your goal inappropriately. In order for you to achieve your goals, you will receive tips from me below on how to formulate them appropriately.

SMART goal phrasing

SMART goal phrasing! You might be saying, “I’ve heard that before! But how often have you really applied the SMART formula to your own goals? These guidelines help you to have a well formulated goal that does not demotivate you and is achievable for you without outside help. Of course, you can also use it wonderfully when you are in appraisal interviews with your employees. It also makes sense if you want to work out goals together with the team.

So what do the individual letters stand for?

S for specific

Write down your goal very specifically. Someone clever once said, ” who writes, stays”, so definitely write it down. This will help you realise your goals.

  • “I would like to work better with the team.”
  • “I want to work more productively.”
  • “I want to be more able to deal with conflict.”

All this is not very concrete. It’s like when you type “Germany” into your navigation device. Then you arrive somewhere in Germany, but not exactly where you want to go. To do that, of course, you have to know exactly where you want to go. However, we often lack this clarity.

  • “I would like to have more team meetings.”
  • “I want to finish my daily tasks faster.”

That is already more concrete. Now you come out in a certain federal state, like Hamburg or Berlin. But can we get that more concrete? Yes, even if it is sometimes time-consuming.

  • “I introduce weekly one-hour team meetings.”
    or also
  • “I complete my daily tasks in four hours of my working time.”

Do you see the difference? Of course, now add the other letters to that and only then is it formulated SMART. Also, make sure that you do not insert any softeners here, such as “maybe”, “I think”, “I want” etc.

M for measurable

When you are ready, the next question is how can you measure that you have achieved your goal? Are there numbers that can prove it? If it is about an increase in productivity, that you generate more customers or the like, that is still easy. If it’s about a new job, you can measure success when you have the contract in hand (especially if the goal was to earn more and you set a specific amount). Let’s look at this in relation to the examples from above:

  • “I am introducing one-hour team meetings on Mondays”.
    or also
  • “I complete my daily tasks in four hours of my working time.”

It’s a good fit there. “Monday” instead of “weekly” makes it even more concrete; weekly can also be measured. The time specification of four hours is also measurable.

In some areas it is more difficult. For example, if your goal is to be more satisfied. How do you want to make that measurable?

We coaches have the habit of making things measurable through scaling questions. So for example: how satisfied are you with your working life at the moment on a scale from 0 to 10, where 0 means “not at all” and 10 means “it couldn’t be better”? This allows you to make things measurable that cannot be measured in terms of hours, euros or kilos.

Otherwise, you can consider for yourself what “satisfied” means to you. If you get this as an answer in an appraisal interview, for example, you can ask and specify it.

A for appropriate

A stands for appropriate or attractive. Here it makes sense to be honest with yourself. Do you feel that this goal is appropriate or is it a little too high?

You should motivate and challenge yourself appropriately without setting the goal too high. Because if you don’t achieve it, it demotivates you and that often leads to people not continuing. A blocking thought like “I can’t do this anyway” is not so conducive to achieving your goals.

Are weekly meetings appropriate?
Does the time frame of one hour fit?
Can you really complete your tasks in four hours?

R for realistic

How realistic is this goal for you / your staff / your team?
Is it really feasible or would you have to start a little smaller?
Is it realistic for you and your team to set aside one hour a week to discuss current issues together? Or is that more feasible only every 14 days?
Can you complete all tasks in four hours if it took you seven hours before? Or would it be more realistic for you to allow yourself more time?

I regularly receive the question whether “appropriate” and “realistic” are identical. My answer is that the two aspects are close to each other, but there are differences.

For example, something can be perceived as appropriate and yet it is not realistic. And something could be realistic, but for you it is not reasonable.

You might think a 50% salary increase is appropriate because you have new qualifications and more responsibility than you had a year ago. However, I would venture to say that this is not necessarily realistic for your boss to give you such a salary increase.

Maybe it would be realistic for you to do two qualifications in one month because you could sleep less and neglect your hobbies. But, would that be attractive or appropriate for you?

T as in timed

How realistic something is for you also depends on the amount of time you give yourself. Your goal should have a time limit. The time frame should not be too far in the distance (no more than three months away).

You should break up large goals into smaller packages. This will give you a quicker sense of achievement that will motivate you to keep going.

The example from above could read:

  • “By the end of the quarter, I will complete my daily tasks in four hours.”

 

Is SMART goal phrasing enough?

Formulating goals smartly is the first right step to ensure more clarity. Yes, we only have a limited influence on some things, so you should not disregard this when formulating your goals. In addition, your goal will have more power if you formulate it positively, i.e. without negation. Write rather

  • “I will complete my tasks in my regular working hours”.
    instead of
  • “I will no longer work overtime”.

This gives you more clarity and your subconscious can also do more with a positive formulation. 

Conclusion

There are various factors that play a role in goal achievement. In order to really achieve your goals, it makes a lot of sense from my point of view to look at your goal formulation in detail: Is it already concrete enough or does it offer too much leeway? Could too much resistance arise because the goal is not appropriate and unrealistic?

Of course, smart goal formulation also needs some practice. So perhaps you simply set yourself the following goal first:

“I will formulate 3 SMART goals within 3 days that are specific, measurable, appropriate, realistic and timed.”

 

Notes:

Are you looking for support in dealing with goals for yourself or for your team? Then please contact Susanne Lorenz. The easiest way is to arrange a non-binding appointment in which you can find out together which challenges you need to overcome in order to effectively achieve your goals in the future.
You can book a non-binding appointment here.

Susanne Lorenz has published two additional posts in the t2informatik Blog:

t2informatik Blog: Conflicts at work

Conflicts at work

t2informatik Blog: Be careful judging

Be careful judging

Susanne Lorenz
Susanne Lorenz

Susanne Lorenz is a communication trainer with a focus on non-violent communication according to Marshall B. Rosenberg. She also works as a goal-finding coach. With the background of her linguistics studies, several years of professional experience as an executive and coaching training, she gives seminars and coaching sessions to advance executives. Information on the seminars and coaching sessions can be found at www.wirksam-kommunizieren.de.