How to Set SMART Goals for the New Year

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It is the time of year that many people are making New Year’s resolutions. They are reflecting on the past year and thinking about the ways they want the coming year to be better. How they want to be better. I don’t really like New Year’s resolutions because they tend to be things like: stay fit and healthy, lose weight, enjoy life to the fullest, spend more time with family and friends, etc. While these are all wonderful things...they are not really goals. They are nebulous statements. They are not SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic or Time-bound. 

Instead of making a New Year’s resolution that you will inevitably forget about in the day-to-day shuffle of your life, take the extra time to add some depth and set SMART goals. 

How does SMART goal setting work?

First of all, you need to decide what you want to set goals around. Some questions you can ask yourself as part of your goal setting are:

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  • What did I do last year that I want to do again this year?
  • What are the things that are most important to me to spend time on?
  • What did I want to do last year but didn’t achieve?
  • What were the things that I struggled with last year and why?
  • What can I do differently this year to try again?

The annual reflection exercise I include in my last post is a great way to find the answers to these questions. Once you have decided the general idea of the goal, you can make it a SMART goal. 

For example, a very common New Year’s resolution is to stay fit and healthy. Great. But what does that really mean?

Example: Stay fit and healthy

1. Specific:  When you are expanding on your goals, consider the five "W" questions:

  • What do I want to accomplish? 
  • Why is this goal important?
  • Who is involved?
  • Where is it located?
  • When will I achieve it
  • Which resources or limits are involved?

Example: I want to learn and implement some healthy eating and fitness habits that work in my lifestyle so that I have more energy every day and can run a half marathon in Kelowna in September.

2. Measurable: How will you know when it is accomplished?  You might measure your goal of staying fit and healthy being able to run 5km further each month until you can run the full 21km and then signing up for the half marathon you want to run in Kelowna.

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3. Achievable: What are the steps you need to take to achieve the goal and are they realistic given the other constraints in your life? Can you make time to meal plan healthier meals, workout a few times a week and train for your marathon? Where will these fit into your schedule?

4. Relevant: Does your goal truly matter to you? It might be nice to say that you want to stay fit and healthy, but it is really hard to do if you don’t really want it, or if it is a challenging time in your life to commit to a big change.

5. Time-bound: If you don’t set a deadline, it probably won’t happen. Deadlines are motivating.  How much training can you fit in, over what length of time, to be able to run a half marathon? If you really want to reach your goal, you need to be serious about it and set yourself up for success by making an achievable plan and following it.

As I illustrate from the Lewis Carroll passage I include in my 4 Strategies to Build a Strong Foundation for Your E-commerce Business post, if you don’t have a goal, it doesn’t matter what you do. You will end up somewhere. Why not make sure it is somewhere you want to go by making the effort to go through SMART goal setting?