Man sets goals for quarter.
To help set goals that are both meaningful and achievable, you can use the SMART goals framework. — katleho Seisa / Getty Images

Goal setting is one of the most important skills anyone can learn in both their personal and professional life. Without them, it is difficult to measure your progress, efficiently use your resources and, ultimately, achieve your dreams.

However, not all goals are created equal. If you set goals that are either too difficult or too easy, you may lose focus and stray away from your target. To help you set goals that are both meaningful and achievable, you can use the SMART goals framework. Here is what you need to know about SMART goals and how you can use them to succeed.

[Read: How to Create Long-Term vs. Short-Term Goals]

What is a SMART goal?

A SMART goal is one that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. Each of these elements help you create a clear and meaningful goal, rather than a poorly created goal that is either unachievable or not worth putting into action.

The following SMART framework will help you with goal setting:

Specific

When you start setting goals, consider where you want to be in six months, one year and five years down the road. With this vision in mind, write a very clear and very specific sentence outlining what you want to achieve. The more specific you are about any given goal, the better you’ll be able to create a roadmap to that point.

Measurable

To achieve your vision, you need to indicate how you will measure and track your progress. For long-term goals, you can set smaller milestone goals to keep you motivated and moving forward. It’s best practice to tie your measurable progress by a specific action you can take on a regular basis, such as applying for three jobs a day to increase the number of interviews you have.

Achievable

When setting any goal, it’s important that they are practical and achievable. You don’t want to set the bar too high and get disappointed or frustrated at the lack of progress you are making. Additionally, you don’t want to make your goal too easy, otherwise you won’t put the effort into making it happen.

For instance, if you give yourself one week to lose 20 pounds, you will be disappointed if you only lost five. Alternatively, if you give yourself two years, you will never hit the gym because you have plenty of time to lose the weight. Instead, you must set a reasonable, yet challenging timeframe to meet your weight loss goals.

[Read: 6 Tips for Setting Employee Goals]

The best thing about the SMART framework is that it can be used for both personal and professional goals.

Relevant

SMART goals must also be relevant to you in some way. They should align with your core values and long-term goals to ensure you will be just as passionate about your goals tomorrow as you are today. Rethink any goal that doesn’t help you get closer to your larger dreams.

Timely

Finally, an effective goal has an end date to both motivate you and prioritize the smaller steps you need to take to achieve them. If you don’t achieve your goal on your deadline, take time to evaluate your goals and consider why the mark was missed. Did you run into any roadblocks on your path to success, or did you inadvertently create an unachievable goal? If you encountered roadblocks, consider setting a new deadline that accounts for any similar problems in the future. If your goal was ultimately unachievable, reframe the goal and set new milestones toward success.

Examples of SMART goals

The best thing about the SMART framework is that it can be utilized for any given scenario for both personal and professional issues. You can use the framework to advance your career, get in shape, or even increase your team’s efficiency and productivity. Here are some examples of effective goals to inspire you to create your own SMART goals:

  • “In six months, I want to increase sales by 10% by taking three additional sales calls each week.”
  • “I want to lose five pounds over the next month by walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week.”
  • “This quarter, I will improve my listening skills by paraphrasing questions asked by my direct reports and asking follow-up questions.”
  • “I will build my network this year by attending three networking events each quarter and collecting 10 contacts at each one.”
  • “To achieve my goal of obtaining a leadership position by the end of the year, I will apply to three open positions each week.”

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published September 15, 2020