Setting your goals to S.M.A.R.T.
Whether you’re at the entry level or well down your career path, setting the right goals can be one of the most important investments you can make in life.
To grow a career, you must start with setting the right kind of goals. That is where S.M.A.R.T. goals come in. Since George T. Dorian wrote about the subject for Management Review in 1981, S.M.A.R.T. goals have evolved and spread across organizations.
So, what makes your goals S.M.A.R.T.? The acronym varies from source to source. Dorian’s article includes “assignable” as one of the goals, whereas many current S.M.A.R.T. models use “achievable”. We will be using the latter interpretation, but feel free to explore all the variants.
S for “Specific”
Consider the following goals:
- I want to improve my customer service performance, and
- I want to increase the amount of positive reviews from customers.
The first example is vague. While improving your customer service performance is something you’d want to work towards, the goal doesn’t give you much of a starting point.
The second example gives much more insight. The goal is anchored to customer feedback. From here, you can plan out how you will achieve the goal.
Let’s see if we can improve on this even more with the next principle.
M for “Measurable”
With your destination clearly identified, make sure you can effectively track your progress. If you can, put the goal you have into numbers (time spent on tasks, number of tickets serviced, percentage of positive feedback, etc.)
Let’s compare our previous example with a new revision that takes this principle into account.
Old: I want to increase the amount of positive reviews from customers.
New: I want to double my weekly average of positive reviews from customers.
Now you have a quantifiable starting point and ending point. But can you meet it? Let’s look at the next principle.
A for “Achievable”
While it may be tempting to “aim high” with your goals, keep them realistic. By meeting realistic goals, you can build momentum for future goals. Constantly failing to meet unreasonable goals can be unsatisfying, even if you are making progress overall.
Let’s look at our example again. If you’re a high performer, you may already be near your peak performance. Ask yourself if doubling your positive reviews is possible, and adjust your target as needed.
For this example, let’s assume you’re already doing very well, and doubling your positive feedback isn’t feasible. You may try the following modification:
Old: I want to double my weekly average of positive reviews from customers.
New: I want to add two more positive customer reviews to my weekly average.
This may seem like a modest goal, but you can always bump up your target once it’s met. Small, incremental improvements can add up over time.
R for “Relevant”
You’re already going through the trouble of setting a goal. Make sure this goal is valuable to your work. While learning conversational Spanish can be a fulfilling hobby, it likely won’t help you advance in your career if your organization only deals in English and French.
So far, we’ve been following the example of a customer service goal. Assuming customer service is your primary role within the company, this goal is relevant. If you only assist in customer service during peek weeks, however, this goal may end up being a distraction.
Always make sure your goals are aligned with the overall vision you have for yourself.
T for “Time-related”
Don’t lose your goals to your day-by-day priorities. Set a timeline for achieving your goals and stick to it. This will keep you accountable and help with measuring your rate of progress.
Let’s now apply a timeframe to our evolving goal:
Old: I want to add two more positive customer reviews to my weekly average.
New: I want to add two more positive customer reviews to my weekly average within three months.
You’ll need to consider a lot when setting up a timeframe. If your organization has peaks and valleys in customer service volume, you may not be able to compare your averages month-to-month. Remember the “R” and keep your timeframe realistic.
S.M.A.R.T. goals can be implemented at any level. While it was originally conceived from a management perspective, individuals set S.M.A.R.T. goals all the time.
If you are setting your own S.M.A.R.T. goals, keep a record of your progress. Having a record of quantifiable goals that you’ve reached can be invaluable when looking to advance your career.