In life, as in business, we’re constantly making decisions. Decisions about what to do next. Where to go. What to buy. How to spend our time.
For the most part, the decision-making process isn’t very long or involved. Some decisions can be made quickly, while others require a bit more thought.
Sometimes a particular task or project is more involved or very important. You don’t want to be too quick about it. Some people have a systematic process for deciding what to do. If you don’t, and you often find yourself mulling over an issue for a lot longer than you should, consider the SMART principles.
Designed to help corporate executives make sound decisions, SMART stands for:
Specific: It’s a well-defined task. What is to be accomplished, who is involved, and why you are proceeding. Some tasks may require you to stipulate a location (where the task is performed) and any constraints or outside factors that may affect completing the task.
Measurable: Results are quantifiable. You have some way to track or measure progress.
Attainable: It’s good to set high expectations, but be sure you can accomplish the task. Otherwise, you will become unhappy and give up.
Relevant: It is a worthwhile use of your time. Forces you to value your time, especially at work.
Time-bound: The task is accomplished within a particular period of time. Could be one week, one month, three months. You decide, but make it appropriate for your task.
As we round out this year, many people are planning their New Year’s resolutions. Did you make a list last year at this time? How many of those goals have been met?
That’s understandable. Chances are you didn’t apply the SMART principles. Let’s see how they apply to a popular New Year’s resolution, losing weight.
Typically, a person will say (or write), “I want to lose weight.” Or, “I want to lose 20 pounds.” The second one is better, but it is still missing key components. SMART provides the structure you need to ensure you’ll stick with the program. (For some decisions, SMART will show you why you shouldn’t or couldn’t accomplish the task.)
Let’s see how your goal to lose weight would be mapped out under SMART:
Specific: I will lose 20 pounds by eating less fattening food and by exercising more. This will improve my health and my self-esteem. Exercise will involve an additional 15 minutes each day of walking or biking. Will also cut back on soda consumption. I will pull my bike out of storage when the weather gets permits, approximately mid February.
Measurable: By using a scale, I can determine whether I have lost those pounds. My watch will serve as timepiece.
Attainable: Yes, that is a reasonable goal. My calculations tell me that these lifestyle changes will result in at least that much of a weight loss.
Relevant: Very much so. My health and well being depend partially on my losing this weight.
Time-bound: My deadline is April 1.
Your amended resolution, therefore, would be:
I will lose 20 pounds by April 1. I will accomplish this by cutting out two high-fat meals each week and replacing them with low-fat, high-fiber meals. In addition, I will walk an additional 15 minutes on Monday through Friday (my normal days), and I will add 15 minutes of walking on Saturday and Sunday. Weather permitting, I will ride my bike for that time in lieu of – or possibly in addition to – my walking. I will cut back on soda consumption from two cans to one can per day. I will check my weight every Sunday to assess my results.
You see, when your goals are specific and you have a solid action plan, you’re more likely to achieve those goals. Try the SMART process then next time you are stumped for a decision or need to set goals.
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