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How to set SMART goals for 2021 and beyond

Published on November 17, 2020

First things first, I hope you guys you had a wonderful Diwali and a lovely beginning to the new year. A weekend full of lights, joy & love. Okay, now that we have had a weekend of Parampara, Anushashan, Pratishtha, let’s look into the foresight and think a bit about the future. S.M.A.R.T, you must have definitely come across this acronym before. S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. This represents a layout of what your goals should fit into. Practically, your goals should be specific, to the point. They should be Measurable because you can’t evaluate if you can’t measure. You want your goals to be achievable in a practical and optimistic sense. Also, your goals should be relevant to what you want to do and time-bound to a specific time frame to evaluate. The only question now is How to set S.M.A.R.T goals for 2021? Ruko Zara, sabar Karo.

But, for starters, let’s begin with a classy quote on S.M.A.R.T. goals.

If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.”

- Albert Einstein

Hearing something of that sort from someone like Albert Einstein is very special. And there’s a large bit of profoundness and life truth to it. Our goals, our destinations are what makes us different as people, as species and as mortals. There’s no wrong in dreaming big. Only a few are to dream big and those are the only ones to achieve it too. How do S.M.A.R.T. goals specifically help? They give you a framework that your goals can put around that makes their evaluation much easier, their probability higher, because you’ve broken them down. Also, it helps you build, according to the framework, action steps for each level to reach the ultimate level.

Always keep the ultimate broad goal visible to you. But it’s almost always easy to break it down into parts so that it becomes a lot simpler to understand and execute strategically. Just for an example, in a sport like Cricket, if you require say 50 runs in 30 deliveries, if you, for the entire duration stick to 50 and 30, the pressure will be huge, especially if you wouldn’t have much wickets left. Instead, what I found easy was to break it down into parts as a bowler or as a batsman. As a bowler I think of an over at a time, with a total 5 overs in the hindsight. If needed, I further break it down to 3 balls of an over. So I aim to concede less than 4 runs in 3 balls, that is less than 8 in an over. That way, it instantly seems a lot more doable and just inspires a bit of confidence and gives you clarity. If you’re a batsman, you could aim for 10 runs in an over for every over. Again, 10 in 6 sounds a hell lot easier than 50 in 30. Instant relief of pressure to an extent.

So the SMART framework is basically that. It helps to practically break down your ultimate broad goal into small parts across 5 domains that influence your actions and execution. It gives an instant clarity, confidence and direction to proceed in terms of your journey. Mind you, the goal is still the ultimate one, it just broke down into a staircase because it’s easier to climb 10 stairs than jump 10 at once.

So, I tried, in brief, to simply explain the basics of the S.M.A.R.T. technique. Here are some numbers that back up my explanation.

  • More than 80% of managers say that their goals are limited in number, specific, and measurable.
  • More than 80% of small business owners don’t keep track of business goals.
  • Those who send weekly progress reports to friends achieve more.
How to set SMART goals for 2021 and beyond

So, now that we know what S.M.A.R.T. is, inside out, let’s get to the business, shall we? Cool. 

Here are 5 tips on how to set S.M.A.R.T. goals for 2021.

For reference, what I’ll do is hold a problem and then go through the 5 tips, we’ll subsequently update and modify the statement such that, by the end of 5 steps, it looks like a proper S.M.A.R.T. goal statement.

So, let’s consider a very common problem: Staying Healthy. Okay? Let’s build a S.M.A.R.T. goal for this problem. Also, mind you this is just an example and your analysis can vary. There’s no harm in that.

1) Bring in the Specificities : 

Now, in the context of our example, staying healthy is a very broad and generic goal. Introduce specificities. What exactly do you mean and want by being healthy? It can be Weight loss, muscle mass gain, aesthetic physique, improved immunity, better stamina, better mobility etc. Dig in deep and get really specific. Have a clear mind. What specifically would you need? A gym, a mat, a diet plan, a track/road to run, it could be anything. Pick out what you want specifically amongst all the permutations and combinations and finally, specify the location and time frame. As simple as that sounds, it requires some brain computing. So, that’s step 1 on how to set S.M.A.R.T. goals for 2021 and beyond.

By the end of step 1, let’s assume we want “to increase our stamina/endurance” because I've done that personally so I can share better, and “we pick a sort of track to run on daily morning.”

 

2) Measure it up : 

It’s best to measure up by numbers, that is by gauging the quantity. But, in certain scenarios, the quality is also a good indicator of progress. So, how exactly does it apply here? Well, it’s very easy to measure using numbers like how many kilometres you’re clocking and how fast you are doing those kilometres. Also, how often, or specifically at what intervals do you need to take a break? All these are number-based questions and it’s very easy to obtain answers for these today, simply install a tracking app. But, what I also want you to do is focus on quality as well. In our example, you can evaluate how you’re feeling at the start and end of the run, your rhythm, breathing pattern, any pain or unnecessary loads, your cadence etc. Don’t overlook these. They help improve a long way. That’s step 2 for how to set S.M.A.R.T. goals for 2021 and beyond.

By the end of step 2, We wish to “increase our stamina by going for a run every morning and tracking the quality and quantity of the same”.

 

3) It must be attainable, ain’t it? 

It’s sort of a no-brainer, this one. After all, your goal should be achievable, shouldn’t it? Well, again mind you, this doesn’t mean you don’t dare to dream big and impossible, it simply means you break down the big and impossible in small, possible and achievable segments. Take a look at yourself, know your strengths and weaknesses, how much can you push yourself beyond the threshold? How much are you willing to push yourself beyond the threshold? What’s the threshold, is it constant? Keep writing this stuff down and these small segments will look very much attainable once you have a clear plan. That’s step 3 for how to set S.M.A.R.T. goals for 2021 and beyond.

By the end of step 3, We wish to “increase stamina by going for a run every morning, tracking its qua(lity)tity. We realise our threshold is 1 km at the beginning and we can safely push 300 meters above it. Both the threshold and the limit would increase gradually.” 

 

4) It should be relevant to you : 

Again, a no-brainer, isn’t it? You should or would rather, think of proceeding for execution if your goals are relevant and important to you in the first place, wouldn’t you? Being healthy if, was not all that important and relevant to your sense of living, would you have put in efforts? No. It should be something you want, it should be something you desire, you think you deserve. Only then, you would be able to do what it takes to get the job done. Evaluate what you want to do, want to be in life, short term or long term. If your goal is what aligns you to your vision, well, that’s what you want, don’t you? That’s step 4 for how to set S.M.A.R.T. goals for 2021 and beyond.

By the end of step 4, We wish “to increase stamina by going for a run every morning, tracking its qua(lity)tity. We realise our threshold is 1 km at the beginning and we can safely push 300 meters above it. Both the threshold and the limit would increase gradually because being fit is something we truly desire and want ourselves to be. It’s very important.”

 

5) Bind it with time :

Unless you don’t bind your goals with time, how otherwise would you allow yourself to give yourself a benchmark and deadline to further assess and evaluate? It is therefore critical to operating in a window that you deem fit that makes the assessment easier. So, decide a short term window in which the long term goal would be divided. In our example, let’s suppose we decide to run 5 or 6 days a week, push for a minimum of 500 meters extra the subsequent day and plan to run 10 kilometres in week 1. Based on what we achieve in week 1, we can further plan. If 10 was easy, we would progressively overload. If 10 was tough, we set 10 as a target for the next week and then overload. You can even go further short term and plan for each day. Like 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3 kilometers and so on. 

I personally aim for around 125-140 kilometers a month and break it down to weeks, and have a fair idea of the daily count. But in the end, I evaluate based on a week, not a day. If I go short on a day, okay, I can compensate. As long as I clock the desired kms in a week, I’m happy. You need to consider other factors as well. If you have a leg day, if you have a match scheduled, if you’re driving long etc. And, that’s step 5 in how to set S.M.A.R.T. goals for 2021 and beyond.

By the end of step 4, “We wish to increase stamina by going for a run every morning, tracking its qua(lity)tity. We realise our threshold is 1 km at the beginning and we can safely push 300 meters above it. Both the threshold and the limit would increase gradually because being fit is something we truly desire and want ourselves to be. It’s very important and we plan for a week, and further plan assessing the week’s results.”

 

So, ladies and gentleman, that’s pretty much how you set S.M.A.R.T. goals for 2021 and beyond. And don’t ever be afraid of dreaming big because in the words of the recently crowned formula 1’s champion of the world for the 7th time, Lewis Hamilton, “That’s for all the kids out there who dream the impossible, you can do it too. I believe in you guys.” Words to live by, for the 7-time world champion.

I hope you’re all ready to set S.M.A.R.T. goals for 2021 and beyond.

Thank you! 

- Images by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

 

Psst.... Now that you have set your goals, you will have conflicts on the way. A wise man would resolve them rather than ignoring or fighting. You'd too, won't you?

Well, I thought as much. Click here to know to How to resolve conflicts in your life.

Post Author: Siddharth Shah

Siddharth is pursuing his Bachelor of Engineering in Computer Science. He loves writing and it's a knack he has rather recently developed. Exploring & working on his finesse in writing, he's also a Petrolhead and a Dieselhead, an avid motorsports fan, A cricket & tennis fan, a part time mechanic, a martial artist & a cricket player. He happens to have co-owned a business for 6 months. He's always seeking new challenges and interacting with new people and building good connections. He roots for simplicity in life.

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