Monday, December 31, 2012

How to Set Goals

It's New Year's Eve! Where did the year go? This is going to be my last post of 2012 so I thought it would be fitting to talk about how to set goals for 2013. There are a lot of different ways to set goals and I have found this method generally this works for me but I understand that different things will work for different people.

Here are the basic steps I follow when setting goals for the new year:

1) Set your "big picture" objectives.

I typically have 2-3 main themes for the year so I have a general idea of what I want to focus on. This is my "vision" for the year. In 2012, my overarching themes were organization (mainly decluttering) and finances (mainly saving money).

2) Set a target number of goals.

I find that 8 to 10 goals is my sweet spot in terms of the number of goals I set for a calendar year. If I set more than that, I usually lose focus and end up accomplishing very little on my list.

3) Set goals using SMART criteria.

This is probably the most important step. Each of my goals must meet all of the SMART criteria.

SMART Criteria #1 - SPECIFIC
Set a goal that is clear and unambiguous. For example, instead of saying, "I want to save money next year," you could instead set a goal like, "I want to save $5,000 by December 31, 2013."

Set a goal that can be measured objectively at year end. Usually, if you set a goal that conforms to SMART Criteria #1, it will be sufficiently measurable. For example, it will be very easy to measure whether you have achieved the goal of saving $5,000 by the end of 2013.

Set a goal that is neither too easy nor too difficult to reach. I like to set goals that will require some effort but are not impossible to attain. For example, setting a goal to save $5,000 in 2013 is fine and dandy but if your annual income is $2,000, it is highly unlikely that you are going to reach your goal. Conversely, if you annual income is $100,000, your savings goal is likely going to be too easy to attain.

SMART Criteria #4 - RELEVANT
Set a goal that you actually want to achieve. This is basically the "so what" test. It is important to set a goal you care about and actually want to attain. I set most of my goals according to my "big picture" objectives but I typically have a few that fall outside my main themes - that's ok as long as the goals I'm setting are important to me.

SMART Criteria #5 - TIMELY
Set a goal with an end date. It is important to have an end date in mind when setting a goal so you can circle back and measure whether you have actually attained your goal. When setting goals for the new year, the end date would typically be the end of the calendar year, i.e., December 31, 2013.

That's basically it - the process I go through when setting goals is pretty simple but it does help me to be more focussed during the year. In the video, I don't talk about measuring my progress but that's also an important step for me. In 2012, I measured my progress monthly and I found that was a good way to try to stay on track (with the exception of my dreaded one new beauty product a month goal!). In 2013, I will be formally measuring my progress on a quarterly basis via a video and/or a blog post - behind the scenes, I hope to still measure my progress on a monthly basis.

I've already set my goals for 2013 and will be sharing them in a future blog post. Will you be setting any goals for the new year? What are some of the steps you go through when setting goals?

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