Everybody has goals, but few bother to devise a concrete plan of action to achieve them. For those who do, management consultant Peter F. Drucker refined the process of goal-setting by formulating and defining the criteria of a good goal in his book "The Practice of Management." Drucker is credited with first using the SMART goals. He recommended that goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. We call a goal with these features a SMART goal, where SMART is an acronym for the initials of the five features. In addition, goal-setters recommend elaborating SMART goals by using action words specifying what you need to do to accomplish the goal.
Select a specific goal, and define it using action words. Break down the goal into the actions required to achieve it. The definition of the goal should specifically answer the question “what do I want to achieve?” For example, “I hope to increase income and become happier” is a broad goal; however, “I want to increase my income 100 percent by next January, and I will do so by working 20 hours more per week at Hamsun’s restaurant” is much more specific.
Make your goal measurable by quantifying it, using numbers to ensure that you know exactly when you have reached the goal. Quantifying the goal also enables you to measure progress toward achieving the goal. In the example, it is possible to monitor monthly, even weekly, income so that you know you are on track.
Choose an attainable goal and determine if you have sufficient resources. Ask yourself, “Is this possible?” and write out the specific limit of resources you may encounter and how to overcome it. For example, if you already work 60 hours a week at Hamsun’s restaurant, working 20 more hours may not be feasible. Find out if other people in similar situations have done it successfully.
Set a realistic goal. Do not set your goals too high or too low. A lofty goal may result in failure and dashed expectations. A low and easily attainable goal does not give you the full satisfaction of having achieved something noteworthy. If increasing income by 100 percent in a few months appears too ambitious, lower the goal to 50 percent.
Set a time-bound goal. A time-bound goal allows you to measure the progress you are making toward achieving it. In the example, “by next January” gives a specific time frame in which to work. Using action words, write what needs to be accomplished every week or month. The frequency of monitoring progress, of course, depends on the goal. If the goal is set for a single day, conduct hourly monitoring.
- Truman University: Setting SMART Goals
- Goal Setting Guide: SMART Goal Setting - A Surefire Way to Achieve Your Goals
- Brock University: How to Write Smart Goals
- "The Practice of Management"; Peter F. Drucker; 1954
Kiran Gaunle is a freelancer based in New York. He started writing professionally in 2006. He has written research reports for the UN Development Programme and the "Kathmandu Post." Gaunle is working on a book of short stories and a novel. He holds a Master of Arts in international political economy and development from Fordham University.