Thursday, January 13, 2011

S.M.A.R.T. Goals

At this time of year I like to look forward to the New Year and think about all the things I’d like to accomplish. Last week, on Janet’s Journal, I spoke about looking back to the previous year to see if I’d met my goals. And when I realized I hadn’t done everything I’d hoped to do I talked about giving myself a break. There’s always the New Year!
So I’m at it again. I’m looking to set myself some S.M.A.R.T. goals. For those of you new to this game, S.M.A.R.T. goals stand for:
                        S pecific
                        M easurable
                        A ttainable
                        R ealistic
                        T imely

Specific – A specific goal has a much greater chance of accomplished than a general goal. To set a specific goal you must answer the six “W” questions:

Who?               Who is involved?
What?              What do I want to accomplish?
Where?           Identify a location.
When?             Establish a time frame.
Which?            Identify requirements and constraints.
Why?               Specific reason, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.

For example, a general goal would be “Write two novels in 2011.” A more specific goal would be, “Write a first draft of the novel “Always a Bridesmaid” between January 1 and April 1, 2011. Revise novel “There goes the Groom” by May 1, 2011. Have both critiqued, revised and submitted to editor/publisher by August 1, 2011. “

Measurable – Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal. Luckily for me, a writing goal is fairly simple to measure. I can measure word count, number of pages revised, or even new social media ventured into. I can say that when I reach a word count of 50,000 words on “Always a Bridesmaid”, I will have reached my goal of a completed first draft.

Attainable – When you identify goals that are most important, you begin to figure out ways to make them come true. You develop the attitude, abilities, skills, and in some cases, the financial capacity to reach them. These goals start to feel like something you really can reach instead of just pie in the sky.

For instance, you can adjust your schedule to work around your writing schedule. Maybe you'll need to keep weekends free for writing. If your goal is to attend a conference, you can start a savings plan so that you have enough money to go. But most important, as you move step by step towards your goal, your attitude changes. You begin to see that you can truly accomplish what you set out to do.

Realistic – To be realistic, a goal must represent something that you are willing and able to work towards. No one can tell you how high a goal to aim for; each of us decides that for ourselves. Sometimes a high goal is easier to reach than a low one because a low goal has a low motivational force. In other words, a low goal may not be as interesting or motivational to us and we don’t work as hard to reach it, whereas a high goal is seen as a labour of love.

A goal is probably realistic if you believe you can reach it. If you’ve done something similar in the past, you have a better idea of knowing if your goal is realistic.

However, even if you’ve accomplished something similar in the past, you’ve got to keep in mind things that are happening in your life right now that may affect the accomplishment of your goals. I may set a goal of completing and submitting two full-length novels by August 1, but if I’m working a full-time day job now, or I’m completing revisions on another story while trying to promote a new release, I may not have the time or energy I previously did. No matter how much I want to accomplish, I may have to take a realistic look at how much I really can get done and adjust my goals accordingly.

Timely – A goal needs a time frame. Without one, the goal has no sense of urgency. If you said you wanted to write a novel “someday”, it will likely never happen. Give it a time frame. For instance, the first two chapters in two weeks, the first draft by May 1. A deadline, even one you’ve set yourself, is a marvelous motivator.

T can also stand for Tangible. A goal is tangible when you can experience it with one of the senses. For instance, if I have two hundred pages of a first draft typed up on 20 bond paper, that is a tangible expression of my goal. When your goal is tangible you have a better chance of making it specific and measurable and eventually attainable.

Do you set goals? Have you set any for 2011? Would you like to share them?


  1. I love the idea of smart goals - now, if only I could find the 'smart' part of my brain. I set goals, bt I am m own worst enemy when it comes to following though. No consequences. Want? Yes! Motivated to follow through - guess not!

    I'm working on that this year with my focus word: CHANGE! Wish me luck :)

  2. I set a goal for BIAW. Does that count? I have set some other goals for 2011: more queries, finish revising my new wip, etc. But you're right I need to see if they're SMART. I already know they are not specific enough so I've definitely got some more work and thinking so I can be successful.

  3. Hi Janet,
    I don't always reach my goals even though I feel very motivated. Then I need to revise my goals.

    Hey, I think change is a great goal. Good luck changing whatever it is you feel needs a kick in the behind.


  4. Karyn, your BIAW goal definitely counts. In fact, sometimes short term goals like that work better than annual goals because you're so focused for that short period.

    Making your goals more specific and giving them a time period really does help to make more real. It also helps to organize your thoughts and helps you realize what you really want.


  5. Great post, Jana.
    I love the SMART goals. My biggest problem is the realistic part. I often say "I'll be done writing (an 80,000 word novel) in a month. Not possible. Why do I delude myself? Because I'm not using the SMART system!