The beginning of the year is the most common time to set self-improvement goals. However, after just a few weeks into the New Year, many people find themselves discouraged, not focused, and ready to abandon their goals. If this sounds familiar, it is quite possible your goal statement and plans to get there are the source of this derailment. Don’t give up though; stay focused, get back on track instead and view this experience as an opportunity to apply S.M.A.R.T. principles to your goals and couple them with a comprehensive Action Plan.
S.M.A.R.T. goals are Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound. For example, “Get in shape and lose weight” is a broad and general long-term goal statement and lacks substance. The same goal, adding S.M.A.R.T. principles becomes, “Run a 5k before October” or “Lose 20 pounds by July 1st.”
Once you make your goals S.M.A.R.T., the next step is to create a short-term ACTION PLAN to accompany those goals. This is a crucial step where the goal is broken down into smaller activities that can be completed in 1-2 weeks. For example, if the goal is to lose weight, some examples of activities to include in a 1-week action plan are:
- Walk 20 minutes 3 days a week before showering for work
- Add blueberries, carrots, and celery to the shopping list
- Prepare fresh fruit and vegetable snacks on workdays
- Select and prepare 2 new healthy recipes
- Drink water at lunch instead of soda
Your action plan should also consider when and where you will complete the activity and if anyone else needs to be involved in the plan (ie: for childcare, accountability, or other support). Potential distractions and barriers to carrying out the plan must also be taken into consideration to help avoid pitfalls.
Once you complete your plan, rate your confidence to follow through with it. If your confidence is less than 7 out of 10, then your plan may not be realistic and needs to be adjusted. Once you are confident with your plan, pick a date to review it. When the time comes, think about what worked well, what didn’t work so well, and why that may be. From there, you can update and adjust your action plan accordingly.
Applying S.M.A.R.T. principles to your goals and developing focused action plans may take a little more time, but will ultimately keep you rolling on track towards achieving your goals more quickly. Try it and see where your goals will take you in 2021?
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