Creating S.M.A.R.T. Goals
By: Sara Smith, BSW
Sometimes we set goals for ourselves that are unattainable. They don’t seem hard at first, but then we struggle to figure out where to start, or become discouraged when we come across obstacles. Time constraints, financial difficulties, caregiving responsibilities, insufficient resources, difficulty getting organized and reduced motivation can lead to unmet goals. Ultimately, this can make us feel bad about ourselves, which makes moving forward or trying again more challenging. If you are struggling with problems that are hard to fix, or goals that feel overwhelming or difficult to map out, try using the acronym S.M.A.R.T – keep your goals Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Bound.
Let’s look at an example of S.M.A.R.T goal setting. Say you’d like to exercise more often. Increasing exercise is a very common goal that can be a struggle to achieve. How can we break down this large goal using the S.M.A.R.T method?
Specific- What do you want to do?
Example- I want to exercise three times a week.
Measurable- How can you track your progress?
Example- I will use an app on my phone to track my exercise activities and progress.
Achievable- How are you going to do this? What steps will be taken?
Example- I will schedule time for exercising a week in advance to be sure it fits in my schedule.
Relevant- Why does this matter to you?
Example- This goal is relevant to me because exercising helps me feel better.
Time Bound- When will I meet my goal?
Example- I would like to be exercising three times a week by the end of 6 months.
Using S.M.A.R.T. goal setting can also help you track your progress. Maybe something unexpected comes up and you need to extend your timeframe. Maybe you completed your goal earlier than planned and want to add to it or start working on something new. Either way, S.M.A.R.T. goal setting gives you the tools and framework to monitor your progress and alter your plan as needed to keep you feeling successful and in control.
If goal setting is a struggle for you, there are resources available at the University of Rochester that can help you get focused, such as lifestyle and condition management programs, support for personal and work related challenges through the Employee Assistance Program, and services for stress, anxiety and depression at Behavioral Health Partners.
The SMART acronym first appeared in a paper written by George T. Doran for the November 1981 issue of Management Review titled "There's a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives."