For many of us, the year 2011 meant new resolutions for self-improvement. According to USA.gov, the official web portal for the U.S. government, some of the resolutions most popular for Americans year after year include the following:
- Manage Debt
- Get a Better Education
- Lose Weight
- Volunteer to Help Others
These personal resolutions serve the same purpose as recommendations made by a president to Congress – they’re intended to determine conditions for the solution to a problem.
But once we identify a problem to resolve for greater safety and happiness, a more difficult problem arises in figuring out how to set the right objectives, as explained in The Practice of Management.
There is only one fruitful way to make this decision: by determining what shall be measured in each area and what the yardstick of measurement should be. For the measurement used determines what one pays attention to. It makes things visible and tangible. The things included in the measurement become relevant; the things omitted are out of sight and out of mind.
SMART Goal System
Lucky for all of us who desire the security of greater safety and happiness in our personal lives and society, America is full of innovative ideas, like those offered free by the extremely smart people at Personal Finance Mastery, who have come up with a quick and easy system we can use to determine what to keep in mind with our objectives.
Their clever system is based on the acronym “SMART,” which helps determine the most relevant factors to pay attention to in order for our goals and resolutions to have the best chances of success.
The goal you are trying to reach needs to have a specific and clearly defined mission. Think about answering the following questions: What, Why, and How? You need to use action words and be as clear as possible about what you are trying to accomplish.
This is where Peter Drucker’s quote says it all: “What gets measured, gets managed.” When you are designing your goals you need to incorporate measurable stepping stones or baby steps. Being able to keep track of your progress is one of the most essential keys to success. When you see progress being made then you are much more likely to see it through.
While any goal you try to go and achieve will stretch you a little and move you outside your comfort zone. If you make your goal too farfetched and are not able to back it up with concrete and SPECIFIC actions to achieve it then the chances of you achieving it are almost zero. That means your goals need to be believable to you with a definite action plan on how to turn them into reality.
This is where effectiveness comes into play. The goals you create need to be about achieving something, having an accomplishment not just doing an activity. Your goal needs to be productive and produce a definable result. Instead of describing what you will do (activity) choose the end result you want to accomplish (Result).
Your goal needs to have clear and definable dates. You will need a specific end date to establish the completion of your goal. Also any interim or midpoint dates that are relevant to the completion of the goal need to be clearly defined and labeled.
Not only can the SMART Goal System help guarantee success with New Year’s resolutions. It’s also a quick and easy way to determine if we’re making effective use of scarce time, keeping our spirits up in the search for jobs amid Obama’s economic malaise or with our goals for success at work.
Peter F. Drucker, The Practice of Management (New York: Harper, 1986).