SMART Goal Setting, Action Planning and Effective Decision Making

Arise! Awake! and stop not until the goal is reached. ~ Swami Vivekananda


Training on Time Management would most likely also include a module on goal setting because goals determine where and how you must invest your time. And we firmly believe Goal Setting is the first step to effective time management.

In many organizations setting goals is a standard process at the beginning of the appraisal year. People still usually end up copy-pasting goals from their colleagues or seniors, whether they are SMART or not. And by the end of the year, nobody really knows how they fared on those goals, but they do expect great appraisals and high ratings.

Learning how to set SMART goals is easy, given the amount of knowledge and instruction you can look up on the internet. However, even though people know how to set SMART goals they haven’t been able to follow through, just like it happens with New Year Resolutions, with motivation to start something, that fiddles out a few days or weeks later.

In this article, we will add something after we explain how to set SMART goals, and that is, how to trickle those goals down to Daily Action Plans.

The great thing about SMART Goals is that they are also a decision-making tool. Yes! SETTING SMART GOALS CAN ACTUALLY HELP YOU MAKE BETTER DECISIONS, and be clearer about what to choose on a day-to-day basis.

Part 1: Setting SMART Goals

Have you ever set a goal to become Fit? Well, it is 1 of the most common goals set across the world, after the goal of getting rich. Let’s take these 2 only as our practice set.

Goal 1: I want to be fit
Goal 2: I want to be rich

Clearly, both of these goals are not SMART, and they technically aren’t goals. They are dreams, desires, or wishes that we are most likely hoping God would fulfill.

This is where SMART comes in:

S, Specific: make your goal specific by definition. Setting a vague goal that doesn’t clearly define the expected outcome is most likely not achieved.

Goal 1: If you want to be fit, then is it about losing weight or increasing your stamina, or even gaining muscles? To make this goal specific you need to define what fitness needs are there for your body
Goal 2: to be rich may mean many things again. We are assuming it will be about money. But is it a monthly income of a certain amount that you need to define rich, a specific bank balance, or your net worth including movable and immovable assets?

Define this clearly and it will help you make day to day decisions as well.

M, Measurable: to be able to track our goal we need to make it measurable, and add numbers to it, because, in all things in life, numbers are crucial. It will also help cascade it into daily action plans as we will discuss later.

Goal 1: make the fitness goal measurable, e.g. lose 5 Kgs, gain 2 inches biceps, or run 10 Kms.
Goal 2: make the richness goal measurable, e.g. 10 Lakh bank balance, 1 self-owned house, etc.

Before we cover Attainable and Realistic, we will cover T as Time will feed into those two.

T, Time Based: make your goal time-based. By when would you want to achieve that goal? When we put a clear timeline for a goal we are able to see the end result clearly.

Goal 1: To lose 5 Kgs in 1 month, to gain 2 inches biceps in 2 months, to run 10 Km in 1 month
Goal 2: 10 Lacs bank balance in 1 year, 1 self-owned house in 3 years and so on

Now, this is very important, THE MAIN REASON FOR PEOPLE TO QUIT THEIR GOALS IS BECAUSE THEY SET UN-ATTAINABLE AND UN-REALISTIC GOALS.

A, Attainable: once the goal is Specific, Measurable, and Time-Based we can check if it is Attainable.

Attainable has to do with one’s own ability to achieve that goal, based on past attempts and current level of skills and knowledge. Let’s see it through our examples:

Goal 1: the last time I attempted to lose weight, I lost only 2 Kgs in a month’s time, it was due to my body structure, my stamina and the lack of proper knowledge on dieting and correct exercise.
So, if this time I set a goal for 5 Kgs in a month, I am aiming too high, and maybe readjust it to 3 Kgs making it attainable, accompanied by gaining knowledge around weight loss and learning the correct exercises. In the 2nd month of weight loss, I can notch it up to 4 or 5 kg.
Goal 2: not everybody can win a lottery and get 10 Lacs bank balance in a day.

R, Realistic: another important factor that determines whether people will stick to their goal is whether they are realistic. Realistic has to do with one’s surroundings and the reality of the world around it.

Goal 1: sometimes people set weight loss goals because their peers or friends did, however, if asked by a doctor, not everyone must lose weight. Fitness goals must then be kept in consultation with a physician who knows your body structure and what it needs.
Goal 2: during recession aiming for a 30% salary hike or an easy job change may be unrealistic (read: not happy with appraisals?). Interest rates on the investments may also not be what one planned for.

If you believe in setting unrealistic goals and going all-out for them, here is an article on Medium that talks about just that.

Part 2: Creating Daily Action Plans

Did you know 80% of the people who join a gym in January drop out by April? It is a fallout of those new year resolutions that don’t get carried.

Once you have set your SMART goals, the next important thing is to convert it into daily action plans and continuously monitor them.

“It is a bad plan that admits of no modification” ~ Publilius Syrus

Also, keep reviewing your goals at a certain frequency depending on its duration. During a review, you could adjust the goal depending on your progress, and newly acquired skills and knowledge.

Part 3: Decision Making with SMART Goals

By now we are guessing you would have figured some part of this. Being clear about our goals and how we are progressing on them makes decision making very, very smooth.

Imagine you are visiting a friend in the evening for dinner, and your friend offers you some sweets. Now if you are clear on your SMART goal for fitness, it will be very clear to you whether you should have that sweet or not. Maybe since morning you were keeping this evening out in mind and adjust your diet accordingly, thus, you would not feel guilty about picking this sweet. But if you weren’t, you will first tell your friend you can’t have, then tell them the reason, and finally, on their insistence, you would take it. Later we all know that guilt trip you would go on.

The whole idea is to make SMART Goals a daily part of our life, actually, the focus of our lives and things get sorted from there.

At different stages in life, we set our focus on different goals, and most of us have 1 or 2 focus areas. However, it helps to set goals in most of the below areas of our life.

Add-on Part 4: Major Life Areas to set goals in 

1. Career
2. Health
3. Finance
4. Family/Relationships
5. Learning
6. Recreation

Please do share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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