Thursday, January 2, 2014

Setting SMART Goals for the New Year

Yesterday I read a blog post about how New Year's resolutions just don't work. The blogger states that 40% of Americans make New Year's resolutions, but only 8% actually keep them. Therefore, don't waste your time (her conclusion, not mine).

I have to say, I don't think there's a problem with making resolutions. Setting goals is a good way to keep moving toward the life you want to live. I think only a small percentage of people meet their goals because of the way they set their goals. You can't just say, "I want this," and then hope your goal happens without actually doing anything!

So, although this is going to draw a collective "Blehhhh!!" from all elementary school teachers in my former school district, today I would like to talk about S.M.A.R.T. Goals and how to set yourself up for success with your 2014 resolutions.

When I was teaching elementary school, we teachers were encouraged (not really, it was required) to make S.M.A.R.T. goals. I strongly disliked making these goals because they were never really my goals; the outcomes were decided by the school district - we just had to figure out how to meet their goals - so they didn't carry much meaning or inherent motivation for me.

However, I think there is merit to this type of goal setting when applied to personal goals. The acronym S.M.A.R.T. stands for:

Although I blogged about my New Year's resolutions in a general sense, I need to make them more specific if I'm going to say at the end of 2014, "Yes, I met that goal."

For example, one of my New Year's Resolutions is to "Be financially responsible." When I think of this resolution, I need to ask myself these questions:

Is it specific? No
Is it measurable? No
Is it attainable? Yes
Is it realistic? Yes
Is it timely? Yes

First, I need to make sure my goal is Specific.*

"Be financially responsible" is a general goal. A more specific way to state this goal is, "I will have at least X amount of dollars in my bank account at the end of each month, and I will put X amount of dollars into my savings account each month." (I'm keeping my amounts to myself so you don't have to feel sorry for me and the piddly amount of money I make). :)

You can see that making my goal more specific also makes it Measurable. Whereas the wording of my general resolution didn't allow me to say definitively that I have or have not been financially responsible, my new goal is very clear. If I don't have X amount of dollars in my bank account at the end of each month, then I need to make adjustments because I'm clearly not meeting my goal! And I don't mean 'adjust my goal.' ;) I mean, adjust my spending habits to meet my goal.

Making your goal measurable also helps you to plan steps toward meeting your goal. It breaks 'big idea' goals into manageable chunks (for example, checking my bank account on a monthly basis rather than setting one big goal to measure at the end of the year).

Now Attainable and Realistic are closely tied in my mind and must be considered together. These words remind me to set goals that I want to reach and that I am capable of reaching. I don't want to spend more money than I make, so my goal to be financially responsible is important to me, which means I'll be willing to do some work to meet that goal. On the other hand, if I set a goal to get my weight down to 110 pounds, it's not attainable or realistic because I am neither willing nor able to reach that goal (sorry, Body, you will never look like Twiggy).

Last, consider whether your goal is Timely. When do you want to meet your goal? By the end of the year? By the end of each month? By making my goal specific, I give myself a timeframe by which to measure my progress.

So here is my new New Year's Resolution:  I will have at least X amount of dollars in my bank account at the end of each month, and I will put X amount of dollars into my savings account each month. 

Is it specific? Yes!
Is it measurable? Yes!
Is it attainable? Yes!
Is it realistic? Yes!
Is it timely? Yes!

So there you go! Try using a SMART goal to put your New Year's resolutions within reach and be a part of that 8% of Americans who actually achieve their goals. :)

*While turning this resolution into a SMART goal, I looked to this website for additional direction. 

1 comment:

  1. A suggestion--pay yourself first--put the amount you want to save away when you first get paid. Don't wait until the end of the month. This method works for me. :)