The SMART Goals process is based on defining the following for your goal or project:

  • Specific Goal
  • Metric
  • Attainability
  • Relevance
  • Time Specific

This technique is great for defining goals and setting objectives.  If you are not familiar with SMART Goals, there’s a quick tutorial at the end of this post.

(Here’s a downloadable pdf worksheet I created, based on the SMART Goals process.)

However, I keep running into a problem  with SMART Goals–I find they are great for building habits and lifestyle changes, but incomplete when applied to projects.

The best way to start a project is to list out all the steps in the project you can think of.  This accomplishes two things:

  1. The list allows you to capture all the parts of the whole in one place–creating this Gestalt will help your brain organize the project and get a sense of the time and energy involved in the project.
  2. Breaking the project down to each step makes it easier to begin–crossing just one thing off the list creates momentum.

So, I needed an easy project-based To-Do list.  I created this list (you can download here), which I call Project ACT because it has three columns:

  1. Accountability:  How will you hold yourself accountable to complete this step?  Do you need to report to someone?  Or, if you have delegated, who is accountable?  Maybe you’re using the reward system; if so, list the reward you get when you complete this step.
  2. Concrete Task:  This is where you list all the steps.  There’s plenty of room for notes and specifics.
  3. Timing:  After listing all the steps, you might rank them in terms of importance or order for completion.  Alternatively, you can list a date for when you want to complete the step, or simply check it off with the date when completed.

Hope this helps!  If you want to read more about SMART Goals, keep reading.

SMART Goals are used to create habits or lifestyle changes.  The process is based on defining:

Specific Goal
Time Specific

The first step is to take an overarching goal and identify any discrete components of this overarching goal. As an example, take the goal, “I want to live a healthy life.” My list of components for this goal include:

Eat a healthy diet
Maintain a healthy body weight
Engage in physical activity on a daily basis
Practice mindfulness meditation
Get enough sleep

If you’re just beginning to create a lifesyle change or new habit, it might be overwhelming to address each component simultaneously. If that’s the case, choose just one or two components for SMART Goals, and once those lifestyle changes become habitual, you can tackle more.

For this example, let’s choose “Eat a healthy diet.” Even this subcomponent of “I want to live a healthy life” can have dozens of applications! Do you want to eat more vegetables, prepare more food at home, avoid transfats, cut out soft drinks? This is why it’s important to break things down into specific, manageable components. Doing any one of these is great, but trying to do all of them at once may not be sustainable. So choose one or two and identify a Specific Goal. In this example, let’s say you choose “Eat more vegetables.”

As you’re deciding on your Specific Goal for your SMART Goal, you should be incorporating the other SMART Goal concepts:

Metric: How will you measure progress toward your goal? Identify specific behaviors and put a number on them. In this example, you could say, “I will eat fresh vegetables twice a day.”

Attainable: Your SMART Goal has to be attainable within a reasonable amount of time. It’s usually best to set SMART Goals that are attainable within a week or a month. For our example, eating more fresh vegetables is certainly attainable within a week or month.

Relevance: Your SMART Goal must harmonize with your values, overarching goals, and stage of life. If the goal is not currently relevant, you can designate the goal for reconsideration in the future. Also, if the goal is relevant but would be a particular challenge this month, consider postponing the goal. For our example–eating more fresh vegetables is always something to work toward, but if you will be travelling away from home a great deal over the next month, it may be hard to establish this as a new habit. It’s fine to wait a month until your routine settles down–but consider working toward another goal instead that is more relevant and harmonious.

Time Specific: One of the basic tenets of goal setting is that goals should be time-specific, i.e., there should be a point at which you want to accomplish the goal. How does this work for habits and lifestyle changes? Identify the timeframe you are working with, i.e., this week or this month. Then, identify the behaviors you expect from yourself, incorporating the specific goal and metric. For our example, the Specific Goal is to “Eat fresh vegetables,” the Metric is “twice per day” and the Time could be “twenty out of thirty days this month.”

And that’s how to create a SMART Goal for a lifestyle change or new habit!