Set SMART Goals for Your Most Productive 2011

Tired of making New Year’s Resolutions that you can never seem to stick with? Borrow the SMART mnemonic from performance management and strategic planning methods to set goals for 2011 that you’ll be able to actualize.

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant/Rewarding and Timely. If you define each individual goal with those criteria in mind, the chances of realizing your goals improve dramatically. Let’s briefly drill down on each qualifier.


Be specific; describe your goal in detail.  What exactly do you want to accomplish? How will you define success? Maybe even describe how you will accomplish the goal.


Non-specific (bad): Lose weight and get healthy.

Specific (good): Lose 25 pounds by July 1 by adopting a healthy lifestyle that incorporates good diet and regular exercise.


The most effective goal-setting involves defining quantifiable results.  Ask yourself how much? How many? When? Subjective goals are harder to stick to, since it’s difficult to determine when you’ve actually achieved them.


Un-measurable (bad): Get more clients.

Measurable (good): Sign at least 1 new client a month to increase revenues by 10%.


The best way to sabotage yourself is to set goals that are entirely unattainable. You may have always wanted to be an astronaut, or the President, or a millionaire before you’re 30, but is that realistic?


Unrealistic (bad): Be accepted to play in the US Open.

Achievable (good): Hire a coach and pick up a competitive match at least 3 times a week to increase my USTA rating by half a point.

Relevant or Rewarding

Goals leading to some other larger objective need to be Relevant to that grand plan. But personal and professional goals should be Rewarding on some fundamental level.


Irrelevant (bad): Memorize the words to every song that hits #1 on the pop chart in the month of February.

Relevant (good): Memorize the names of every person on my #1 client’s team.

Rewarding (good): Memorize the words of 10 of my favorite songs by the Killers.

Timely or Time Based

Map your goals to seasons, quarters or months so that they have the best chance of being realized. Set time limits or deadlines for phases or milestones. Break goals down into manageable chunks – bite-sized pieces – to allow you to recognize a sense of accomplishment as well as making the end result more achievable.


Untimely (bad): Start jogging daily in January (when you live in Chicago.)

Timely (good): Join on a gym in January so I can train on the treadmill 5 days a week until it’s warm enough to run outside.

Time-Based (good): Add a half-mile to my run every week until I can comfortably run a half marathon.

Start with 5 or 10 SMART goals and experience for yourself how the sense of accomplishment fosters renewed motivation and self esteem. Review your goals monthly or quarterly – not just to bask in satisfaction, but also to identify bigger and more aggressive goals!  And remember to break down larger objectives into manageable tasks. How do you eat a wooly mammoth? One bite at a time!

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