In careers guidance we often talk about goal setting and developing a plan to help you to reach your goal. Planning can be a great way to explore the different avenues for achieving your goal, choosing the best strategy, as well as helping you to keep an eye on your progress!
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once said that “a goal without a plan is just a wish.” Whilst wishes are pure intent, a plan sets out the action that you’re going to take to reach that goal.
Today we’re going to look at the idea of SMART action planning, which will help you to develop a plan that is both realistic and measurable, to ensure that you’re on track.
So what does SMART stand for?
- S = Specific
- M = Measurable
- A = Achievable
- R = Relevant
- T = Timebound
So why is it important to have a goal and accompanying plan that is SMART?
S = Specific
If your goal is vague it can be difficult to know when you’ve reached it. Setting a specific goal, which is clearly defined, will allow you to know exactly what you are hoping to achieve. It’s important to be quite detailed about the parameters of your goal and the specific steps that you’re going to take to get there.
M = Measurable
Having a measurable goal ensures that you or anyone else, will clearly be able to see when you have achieved your goal. Ask yourself “if someone was looking at my goal or the steps within my plan, would it be obvious when I have achieved them?”
A = Achievable
Whilst you’re developing a plan it’s prudent to assess whether it is truly achievable, with the resources that you have to hand. Asking questions such as “do I have the money to pay for the training that I will need? Or “am I able to commit the time to achieve my goal?” will help you to assess whether your goal is achievable. If you don’t ask these vital questions, it’s possible that you could be fighting a losing battle.
R = Relevant
The relevancy of your goal is no less important than any of the other criteria. It may seem odd, but in this fragmented world we often have lots of goals, which may or not be part of our larger goal. Exploring whether it is relevant, involves looking at the bigger picture and assessing whether it fits in with your ‘master plan.’ This can help you to find focus and to avoid spreading yourself too thinly.
T = Timebound
Within your plan you will need specific steps that will help you to achieve your goal. Set target completion dates for the steps along the way, as well as your end goal, to help you chart your progress.
Regularly assess whether you are going off track, and reassess if a particular step isn’t working. Setting times for completion of individual tasks makes it possible to give yourself a reward, once a particular step has been achieved. Rewards are great for keeping motivation levels up, on the invariably long road to reaching your goal.