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Stepping Up SMART Goals

Strategies for making sure your goals deliver results

~ By Jessika M. Ferm

Question - what are your goals - in vintage wooden letterpress printing blocks

The SMART acronym is an excellent tool for making sure our goals and instructions are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timed. It helps us clarify what we want to accomplish and set deadlines to make sure it produces the results we want in the timeframe we need. The six steps below will help you formulate your goals in the most efficient way possible.

Step 1: Consider Your Intentions

Before you start to fine-tune your goals, remember to check in with your intentions for wanting to accomplish this goal in the first place. Ask yourself:

  • What is the result I wish to achieve?
  • Why is this important to the organisation and me?
  • If I don't accomplish this goal or do so poorly, how would it affect my career/life plans, self-esteem, or job satisfaction?

Step 2: Make it Specific

If your goal description is not unequivocally clear to those who read it, you are inviting unnecessary confusion and possible excuse making. After you have written out your goal, ask yourself:

  • If someone else read this goal, would they be able to execute it without me having to explain it?
  • Does it provide answers to who, what, when and where?
  • Is it short and concise?

Step 3: Make it Measurable

You probably know the saying "What gets measured gets done." When we design goal statements that are measurable, we are far more likely to get them done and know when we have accomplished them because it produces clear deliverables. To make sure your goals deliver results, ask yourself:

  • How will I know that this goal or milestone has been accomplished and to what standard?
  • How will I measure it and how frequently will I do so?
  • Is it crystal clear to those who are part of fulfilling this goal what the measurable results are?

Step 4: Make it Attainable

You may want to get a promotion next week or leave next Monday to travel around the world for a year. While these goals are exciting and possible, they may not be attainable right now. When you design your goals, keep in mind how likely it is that you can accomplish them in the timeframe you have allocated. Ask yourself:

  • Can this goal (with some stretching) be achieved in the timeframe I have indicated? If not, break down the goal into smaller pieces and write a goal statement for the first step.
  • If I couldn't make this goal happen in the timeframe I have indicated, what changes do I need to make to accomplish it?

Step 5: Make it Relevant

If goals aren't or don't feel relevant, we tend to put them on the back-burner. There are simply too many other things to focus on and get done. To ensure these goals are relevant, ask yourself:

  • How does this goal align with the bigger picture (personally and professionally)?
  • What "pains" would I experience if I didn't get this goal accomplished?
  • Is this the year or month to accomplish this goal?

Step 6: Make it Timed

Most goals fail because we haven't indicated the timeframe in which we want to have them accomplished. For those of us who are procrastinators, not providing measurable timelines can be detrimental and we may find that the same goals appear over and over again on our planning sheets. To prevent this from happening, ask yourself:

  • Have I established an overall deadline for when I will accomplish this goal?
  • Have I indicated milestones or smaller deadlines for contributing activities?
  • By when do I want to accomplish this goal?

By following these six simple steps and asking yourself the clarifying questions, your goals will be concise, clear, and produce the results for which you are looking.


Jessika M. Ferm is a writer, coach, speaker, and consultant on leadership, management, and business topics and is known for her "no frills no fluff" approach to sharing information. She is the President of J.Ferm, LLC, an international leadership consulting firm and is the trusted advisor to leaders and managers ranging from Fortune 100 companies to start-ups.

© 2010 Jessika M. Ferm & J.Ferm, LLC


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