Friday, January 24, 2014

SMART Goals 3

There are three words that define the R in SMART: Relevant, Responsible, and Realistic.

All of the things involved in SMART Goals interconnect with each other, so there will often be duplications, but those duplications sometimes dig a little deeper with each step.  And sometimes we simply need it repeated ad nauseum, pounding it into our brains.  Setting goals takes practice.  Setting SMART Goals takes even more.

R is for Relevant
One key to clarifying what it is your goal will be is to check to see that you will be able to see results.  By breaking your big goal into smaller ones, you'll be able to see results and progress.  It's hard to stick with a goal if you don't see yourself moving forward.

For instance, your goal is to write a book in a year.  There are 52 weeks in a year.  Each week should include a smaller goal that pertains to the large, main goal.  Using number of words or pages to write is an excellent smaller goal, and if you keep track of that, you'll see results.  Words and/or pages to be written are relevant because you'll see long as you're working toward your goal.

Once again, ask yourself these questions as you're setting your goals.

  • How many days in each week can you use to write?  To work on reaching your goal?  
  • How much time in each of your days can you and are you willing to spend on your goal?
  • When will you not be able to work on your goal?  This one is important.  We get sick, our family members get sick.  There are vacations and other personal things that we need to work around and factor in when we won't be able to work on our goals.
When I start to write a book, I know how much I can reasonably write in one day.  Because my books are broken down into scenes in chapters, I set a goal of one scene per day.  I know it can be done.  I also know it sometimes won't get done.  During the week is usually the hardest, because it never fails that something will come up to drag me away from my goal.  I do my catching up on weekends and hope there isn't a lot of catching up to do!

So what's relevant to your goal?

  • Research.  I try to do research before starting the book, but it always seems to happen that I have to go look up something I missed.
  • Taking time to unwind.  All work and no play makes Johnny and Janey dull, tired, and mush-brained.  Be sure to build in some downtime, when you don't have to think about your story.
  • Working when you'd rather be playing.  Saying "next time" to an invitation from a friend that will drag you far away from your goal.  This includes phone calls.
  • Track your progress.  Don't guess.  Keep a spreadsheet or whatever works best.
  • Breaking down goals.  The idea of writing a book--or doing any other big goal--is exciting at first.  But as time goes on, it can become daunting.  That's why it takes thought and planning.  It's much easier to reach a small goal than a huge one.  We don't eat a Cattleman's Steak by cramming it in our mouth.  It's bite by bite.  Create bite-sized goals to reach the big one.

R is for Responsible
While burying yourself in your goal might seem admirable, it isn't.  There are more things in life than even major goals.  As much as I would like to sometimes, I can't lock myself in my office and shut out the world for extended periods of time.  Meals must be cooked or at least a run for hamburgers to the closest, cheapest and fastest fastfood spot.  Bills must be paid, laundry done, and dishes washed.  Getting out and breathing fresh air is a good idea, too.

How important is your goal?  Well, it's definitely important to you.  Mine is important to me.  Everyone's goal should be important to the person who makes the goal.  Otherwise, why bother?

What we don't think about when dreaming of reaching our goal is how it can affect others.  When setting your goal, ask yourself these questions.
  • Will it cost me friends?  We like to think that our friends are as excited about our goals as we are.  Many of them are!  And some of them may discover down that line your goal has usurped time you once spent together or talked, emailed, whatever.  Good friends will cheer you on and listen to you whine.  But there's a limit to that with most friends.  Be sure to make time for your friends, even if it's a quick email or limited phone call to say "I'm thinking of you."
  • Will I have my family's respect?  No matter what, there will always be times when family wants our full and undivided attention.  It may take talking it out and reaching a compromise, where they agree to leave me alone for X amount of time on X day(s), and I will take them to X or spend X amount of time with them.  (Small children especially will need more time than, say teens, although they, too, will notice that your full attention is not on them.)  Family members are like the person with the goals.  At first it's all bright and shiny, but when it starts to take time away from real life, somebody is going to be unhappy and think you care more about the goal than them.  Word of advice?  Deal with.  Don't ignore it.
  • Will this cost me my integrity?  Integrity, smigtegrity.  Who cares, right?  Think again.  Two instances come to mind.  I'm sure you'll get the gist.

  •    1.  You're employed and have a good work record on which your employer has commended you.  Now that you have this big goal, you want to focus on it.  You get behind on your goal and start taking time off from your job.  You've compromised your integrity.  Both your employment and your goal are important.
       2.  You're a parent who people admire.  Now you have a goal, and by golly by gee, you're going to meet that goal, no matter what.  Your child(ren) can manage one day of wearing dirty underwear and socks.  Now that day has turned into a week.  Or your child may need help with homework, but you have your own work (goal) to focus on, not Johnny or Janie who is beginning to fail a class in school or is getting into trouble in school or elsewhere.  Big ding on the integrity you'd worked so hard to build.  Put your goal aside, revamp if necessary, and rebuild that integrity.  The goal will still be reached, just maybe not as soon as you'd planned.
  • Is your goal easy enough to respond to and change, if needed?  Life happens.  I'll be honest.  If I won a trip just about anywhere, I'd take it in the blink of an eye.  My goal can wait.  Although I'd probably find myself at least jotting down random notes, because when a writer isn't able to work, the mind creates megatons of information. ;)  Sad things and happy thing abound.  As humans, we try (or at least should try) to roll with the punches.  Some things are more important than a goal.  Other things are not.  You get to decide on which.  
  • Change the above to...  Is your goal easy enough to changes IF REQUIRED?  When it comes down to things that have no choices--maybe a stint in the hospital for an ailing family member, the loss of a family member, or something dire you must attend to immediately and even long term such as taking a second job--we, as caring individuals, will put aside our goal.  It can be picked up later, when life allows.  And life will allow it, as long as we keep a hold on the dream.  When goals have to be set aside, the dream is still there.  Believe it.
The nice thing about setting goals is that we have the opportunity to change and tweak them as we go.  There's nothing wrong if we find ourselves floundering with a goal.  But instead of chucking it all when that happens, making changes can get us to where we need to be.

R is for Realistic
It never hurts to go over this one again.  Can your goal be met by you, or so it require someone/something else?  Back to the I-want-to-write-a-book-which-will-become-a-bestseller.  The first part is doable.  The part after "which?"  That depends on a lot of things that are simply out of our hands.  With a goal, we do the very best we can do.  For the above, the next step would be to get a publisher interested.  It's possible.  It isn't set in stone.  But it doesn't mean you dump the entire goal.  A "someday I will be published" is more realistic, although never a given.  It may take five complete books, it may take ten or more, but your chances of reaching that dream becomes better and better.

The same goes with the time that goes into your goal.  "I want to write a book in 2 weeks."  Yeah, good luck with that one!  A short book, a children's book, either would be possible.  But there's a lot more to it.  That's the way it is with big goals.  Throwing away everything else in life to work on a big goal would be sad, if not a huge mistake.  One thing does not make a life.  It's all the little things that make it well-rounded and exciting. We want to make it a good life.  Be realistic.

One last Friday for SMART Goals next week!  We'll look at the letter T.  Another two-parter.  Time-Bound and Touchable.

Have you been working on your goals?  Are you still setting your goals?  Either way, how is it going?
There are people who put their dreams in a little box and say, Yes, I've got dreams, of course I've got dreams. Then they put the box away and bring it out once in a while to look in it, and yep, they're still there. ~ Erna Bombeck

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