You have a goal, a dream. Or maybe you are looking for a way to be more productive in your professional life.
Where to start? How do you plan?
There definitely needs to be some planning. More specifically, some smart planning.
What we mean is there needs to be some S.M.A.R.T planning:
- S: Specific
- M: Measurable
- A: Achievable
- R: Relevant
- T: Time-bound
The term’s first used can be traced to 1981 by George T. Doran in an issue of Management Review.
Using the S.M.A.R.T criteria to set goals and plan execution of projects and assignments is a good idea to ensure you take the steps towards success and not away from it. We can consider it the literal s.m.a.r.t way of working, ensuring the decisions you make are actually doable.
Moreover, the method can also be used in day to day life!
Let us get into the details!
The first step is that of being specific with what you want. You have to target a specific area for improvement.
It is easy to say “I want to excel in my field”. Who doesn’t?
It is almost obvious that everyone “wants to be successful”. One needs to be specific. You must know the direction you want to go in order to take the steps towards it.
The “Specific” criteria of goal setting/task management is all about:
- What: This you would have no problem figuring out if there’s an assignment at hand, and that is what you want to finish successfully. You need to consider this if you are thinking in terms of life goals.
- Which: Which area do you want to improve/work on?
- Whom: Does the plan/goal/assignment need a team, or a delegation of tasks? Or you and only you are capable of executing it?
One might also think of where, and when. We will get to the latter soon.
Setting a goal, taking a step that’s measurable is important. A quantifiable goal will ensure you know where you stand.
For example, instead of saying “I want to make a lot of sales”, you can set a goal like “I want to make x number of sales by so and so date”. This is even helpful in completing other tasks. For example, you can say “I must talk to x number of clients by today afternoon” instead of saying something inherently generic like “I need to quit procrastinating.”
It is important to be realistic. Use your self-awareness here: know your strengths and weaknesses. Set out about a task which you know is achievable.
Don’t set an unrealistic benchmark of measurability. Saying “I will get 20 clients by today evening” when you know even managing to get 2 is a big thing works the same way as “I want to be super successful” does.
Setting a relevant goal is a big step towards achieving it; an irrelevant goal/objective will literally get you nowhere.
Let us use an example here. Imagine you have been recruited in a different country. Without researching, you decide to learn French, but the language is not spoken in that country. Sure, learning a language is a great thing but at this point, it will be irrelevant, and almost useless.
Instead, if you make it your goal to learn one of the major languages of that country, it will be a big step into getting acquainted with the new culture and customs, and by extension, the work culture too.
Research, looking into the demands of the industry you are working in, talking to peers/colleagues etc., are some ways to check relevancy.
We will continue with the example we used in the point about the goal being measurable.
The statement “I must talk to x number of clients by today afternoon” not only gives you a measurable target but also a fixed time.
Fixing a realistic deadline for reaching a target/goal/objective ensures you are up and running, and not procrastinating.
You can also divide the time aspect into various “checkpoints” if it’s a long process. For example, if you aim to establish a start-up , you may set up time-checkpoints like: finalising the idea by the end of the month, getting investors by the next two-three months, launching the website within the next four months, etc.
But make sure you bind your goal by time only so that you can work towards it effectively; the deadline shouldn’t be something that hangs on your head like a sword, not letting you think.
Come to think of it, the final remark applies to the entire of S.M.A.R.T criteria: the planning should be advanced enough to help your process give structure, and flexible enough to make changes according to the demands of the situation.
So go ahead, and get things done in a S.M.A.R.T manner!