I have sympathy for the unsuccessful goal-setter. I am that person. I have countless notebooks and blog posts full of goals. I actually find great joy in making them and daydreaming about all the amazing things I will soon, finally, achieve. But then, no matter how much I think “This time it will be different,” the notebooks are left with goals uncrossed. Pages metaphorically tattered and torn. Pen ink flowered like watercolors, illegible from contact with my disappointed tears.
Okay it’s not like, that dramatic.
But it does seriously bother me when I am unable to follow through with a goal of mine that is really important to me, and I don’t think I’m alone. The University of Scranton reported that only 8% of people actually end up following through with their New Years Resolutions. That’s a really sad number!
So how do we become the 8%? Or better yet, increase the 8% statistic to 99%? (I’m a dreamer.)
In graduate school, things shifted for me when my peers and I learned about helping clients make SMART goals (and yeah, okay, definitely making them for ourselves too). Following the SMART goal formula allows you to sidestep common goal-setting errors (like making a goal that’s too vague or unrealistic) and create a super sleek, no-questions-asked goal. Using this method has really increased my productivity and helped me formulate clearer plans for achieving my goals.
SMART goals are:
Let’s walk through an example. Say you have been feeling super fatigued every day, and it’s really affecting your work and social life. You decide it’s time to get more sleep.
Your goal here shouldn’t be “get more sleep” or “be well-rested.” These phrases are super broad and hard to stick to. “Get more sleep” could mean getting 3 more hours of sleep than usual or 15 more minutes. Your goal should look something like, “Get 9 hours of sleep every night.”
Your goal should have some way of being measured so that you can see your progress. Going off of feelings, like, “Oh, I feel less fatigued today!” is not a great way to measure your progress, because feelings can change throughout the day, or be the result of other outliers. To measure this goal, you might keep a sleep log to measure the amount of sleep you’re getting. Every night, you could record the time that you went to sleep and in the morning you can record the time that you woke up. Find what works for you – keep a notebook or sticky note by your bed, or record it into your phone. Just make sure that you keep up with this part, so you can see how you’re doing with your goal achievement.
As much as I want to tell you that you can achieve anything you want to achieve in life…sometimes that’s just not totally true. As someone who can barely run a mile without getting a cramp, I probably should not make a goal to run 7 miles every morning starting this week. Unattainable goals will leave you feeling super discouraged and less likely to keep trying to meet your goal. So this is that part where you assess how realistic this goal is. Consider the time that you get home from work, all of your post-work responsibilities, and then the time that you have to wake up again the next day. Is getting 9 hours of sleep every night realistic? If it isn’t, don’t worry – just adjust it! Maybe it’s more attainable to get 8 hours of sleep every night, and that is a-okay.
Look at how your goal plays into the bigger picture of where you are in your life. For example, if you are a new mom and you have a 1-month-old baby, getting 9 hours of sleep every night may not, unfortunately, be in the cards for you right now. Make sure that your goal fits into your life and would benefit you in a way that is currently important to you.
Papers, applications, and work-projects have deadlines for a reason: they keep you on top of your work and ensure that you will get your task done! When goal-setting, remember that progress doesn’t happen over night. It’s important, however, to give yourself a deadline so that you stay committed to and focus on your goal. Though results can vary, studies show that it takes about 66 days to form a new habit. You might then make a goal to get an average of 9 hours of sleep every night within the next 66 days
You’ve now created a goal that goes way beyond “Get more sleep.” Now, you know that your goal is to get an average of 9 hours of sleep over the next 66 days. You know that you will record the time that you go to sleep and wake up every night to help you measure the progress of your goal. And you know that this goal is relevant and attainable in your life!
Have you tried making a SMART goal? How did it work for you? Share your tips below!