A few months back I was looking for an effective way to create a one-year and a five-year plan for myself as a means to set attainable personal goals.
I was tired of coming up with the idea of doing something with no actionable plan to achieve it. I would say to myself, “I want to achieve x,y, z,” but had no plan of action. Many meaningful life goals require more thought and attention to details than simply naming them.
It was at this point I did some research and found a system that helped me better organize my thoughts, create a plan of action and feel like I could attain my personal goals.
Setting SMART Goals
Want to feel smart? Try setting S.M.A.R.T. goals.
S.M.A.R.T. is a mnemonic device for “Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.” Created back in the early-80’s by George Doran, Arthur Miller, and James Cunningham, S.M.A.R.T. goal creation started off as a business tool that worked its way into personal usage over the years.
Each word acts as a writing prompt, a means to get you thinking about each aspect of the overall goal. When it comes time to figure out these five elements to your overall goal, you answer the question each word presents. The question might look something like this:
- Specific: can you be clear & exact about your goal?
- Measurable: how can you quantifiably assess your progress within your goal?
- Achievable: how realistic is this goal and is it attainable?
- Relevant: do you have other goals and how does this goal relate to them? How well does this goal relate to your current needs/desires?
- Timely: what timeline do you see yourself achieving this goal?
For a really clear explanation for each word, Mind Tools has a fantastic page breaking each word down with clear examples to get you started.
Setting Attainable Personal Goals
Using the S.M.A.R.T. model as a way to flesh out your goal, first come up with your overall goal. I will use a personal goal I have for 2019 for the rest of this section.
I want to be more organized around the house this year. With MS, my high-energy time is limited so I want to make sure I spend my best hours with Jai with some time set aside for the “heavy-lifting” of personal work and chores. When my low-energy time hits, I still have enough to spend quality time with Jai but no longer feel guilty about the stuff left undone.
That’s rather a mouthful, right?
It’s how I previously would set personal goals around this time of year. Rarely did I write them out and even more rarely did they move beyond a mish-mash of “it would be nice if I did this.”
In order to achieve this personal goal, I sat down and worked backward, converting the heart of the goal into the S.M.A.R.T. model:
- I want to be more organized with my life and housework. A huge time-drain is planning and preparing family meals by the end of the day when I have my lowest energy.
- Specific: I want to be more organized with my meal planning so I spend less time making food during the week.
- Measurable: At the beginning of each month, have all the meals planned out for prep and freezing (though freezer space means making meals one week at a time).
- Achievable: I already have tools available to create a central family calendar with all the meals and shopping lists ready at the start of the month. Every Sunday I can shop, prep, and freeze meals during my high-energy period during the day.
- Relevant: This would be a form of time management where every evening I only have to defrost a meal, pop it in the slow cooker or oven and not have to fuss over dinner.
- Timely: I would like to have an easy system in place by April of this year. That gives me almost 4 months to research, create, and implement a system plus time to tweak it so it works for me.
The academic in me would break this down into a neat little paragraph, which works well if you are the type of person who likes to have a sticky note in a central location to remind you of your goal:
In 2019, I want to organize my meal planning so at the beginning of each month I have all dinners planned out with relevant shopping lists to cut down time wasted in planning. I will create a central family calendar to help take the guesswork out of the planning process. This goal will help me spend less time throughout the week making dinner and account for my low-energy periods of time. I want this goal to be up-and-running by the beginning of April.
Reading this second paragraph, it’s a definitive goal that I can begin the process of developing a plan of action. My first paragraph was vaguer in nature: “I want to manage my time better in some way;” whereas this one is “through meal planning, I will manage my time better.” From here I can figure out what my first step needs to be, such as researching ways to set up a monthly meal planning calendar.
I will need to check to see how well the goals will work and what possible adjustments I need to make to increase my chance of success.
Checking your Personal Goals
All goals, no matter how well-thought out or planned require adjustments. I am hands-on which means I thrive on trial-and-error, so if I create any goals I have to start working through them to figure out what I need to do to make appropriate adjustments. If I am struggling to stick with a goal I need to figure out why that might be. I try to ask myself the following questions:
- Is my goal reasonable or do I need to lower my expectations?
- Is my goal achievable with how it is currently set up?
- What do I need to do to adjust my goal so I can achieve it?
- What might be my sticking point or fear?
A drawback to using the S.M.A.R.T. model is that it requires the user to be hyper-focused on their goals in ways that might be foreign If you prefer a loose approach to goal making and keeping, then the S.M.A.R.T. model may be too restrictive. I fluctuate in between being too strict in my goals and too free-flow, so using the S.M.A.R.T. model as a guideline for my ideas is the most effective use of my time. I can be clear with my goals and how I plan to achieve them, but I have to be adaptable.
With a chronic illness, it is hard to be restrictive with personal goals. Flare-ups, unexpected doctor’s visits, hospital stays, bouts of fatigue or immobility makes it hard to stick with goals. While we’ll go into greater detail on how to manage these days, using the S.M.A.R.T. model as a guideline while being adaptable may be the best use of your time.
Review of How to Set Personal Goals
To recap, if you are looking into setting attainable personal goals, do the following steps:
- Come up with a general goal. It can be as broad as you want to start. Write it down.
- Using the S.M.A.R.T. system, answer all the questions the following words bring up relating to your goal: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. See above for an example question each word asks.
- Re-write your goal as it relates to the S.M.A.R.T. answers you provided in paragraph form.
- Try out your goal and see what works and what might need to change. Remember to go easy on yourself if it doesn’t work like you imagined. that’s the point of a trial period.
- If you need to, revisit your goal and adjust it so it is more manageable. Lowering expectations is not a failure but a move towards success.
- Don’t stress out about it too much! Be flexible with your goals and yourself.
Want to learn more about creating a plan of action for your goals? Want to hear more about my personal goals this year? If you haven’t done so – please sign up for my newsletter. On Friday I will be sharing all my personal goals this year in the S.M.A.R.T. model with my plan on how to achieve them.
Every Friday’s newsletter will also provide you with the tools to set up goals and a plan of action. It’s not too late to join and get started in the 2019 Wellness challenge.
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