I thought this would be an excellent time to share an acronym that has served me well in my IT career. When setting goals or making resolutions, make them S.M.A.R.T.
SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and have a time constraint. In project management, ensuring goals are smart avoids the common problem of having poorly defined goals hanging around forever. Poorly defined goals aren’t just difficult to accomplish, they are difficult to objectively quantify. I may think something is complete but another team member may have a completely different understanding of what “complete” means.
To put it in terms of resolutions, be specific. For example, you may have a resolution to get in shape. Fair enough. Does that mean you’ll be competing in the next olympics? Or perhaps professional lumberjack competitions are more your thing. You see the issue. A more specific resolution around getting in shape would be to say I will go to the gym for one hour, three days a week for the next six months.
Measure your results
Measurement is such a key thing that its amazing its sometimes overlooked in goal creation. Set your goals so that the results can be measured. You should be able to say definitively when you are done. In the above example, it’s easy enough. If I stick to my gym schedule, goal accomplished. In most cases, you should ask yourself, how will I know when this goal is complete? Say I set a goal to have the ability to do 50 chin-ups by the end of the year. Or to lose a specific amount of weight or maybe inches off the old waistline.
I find attainable and realistic to be similar. An attainable, realistic goal is something you are both able and willing to complete. That is, don’t make one of your goals to reach Mars or solve the national debt problem. At least, not in a single year. There is the concept of a stretch goal, a goal you realize will require extra effort to achieve. But it should still be realistic. Making unattainable goals is discouraging and can derail the best of intentions.
T is for timely, or a time constraint. Set a time limit for your goal. In New Year resolutions, there’s the handy built in one-year time period. But that’s really not super useful. How often do you find yourself lamenting last year’s resolutions in the last few weeks of the year? Set milestones along the way. Every month is a good rule of thumb. This lets you see if you are on track to reach your ultimate goal and let’s you adjust your effort or at worst, your expectations.
The best of luck in your endeavours for 2013. I know there’s a lot of SMART folks reading this. I have no doubt you’ll achieve whatever you set out to do.
Jon Reid is an IT professional working in Corner Brook. His column appears every other Tuesday in The Western Star.