Self-management and organization – How to define goals and put them into practice (Part 1) 

In the personal sphere, we all like to set goals for ourselves, typically in the form of New Year’s resolutions. In the professional context, we tend to talk about projects. In most cases, however, it remains unclear as to whether we’ll achieve these goals – either resolutions or projects.

Why is that? 

First, we need to ask ourselves whether we’re really, truly keen on pursuing a specific project: Are we intrinsically motivated to do so? Implementation tends to fail because the respective goals were defined at the wrong time or, as the case may be, not correctly defined in the first place.

A proven means for defining goals, which also fundamentally increases the likelihood of implementation, is the so-called SMART formula.

In this blog I’d like to present this very formula to you – even though you may already be familiar with it – as I consider it to be valuable and pragmatic. Let me direct your focus to it once again:

Defining goals according to the SMART formula

The five letters making up the acronym SMART each stand for a specific aspect of the goal, the definition of which should make it both concrete and attainable:

S = specific
M = measurable
A = attractive
R = realistic
T = time-phased

In addition to focusing on these aspects, however, it’s important to consider further steps in the goal formulation so that the envisioned and planned goal can be successfully implemented. Unfortunately, these further steps are often overlooked or forgotten about in practice.

 Here’s a possible sequence:

  1. Goals should be phrased in the present tense. In other words, grammatically, we “act” as if we’ve already achieved them.
  2. The goal should be as specific and concrete as possible (e.g., “I am the leader of the XY-team.” or “I am slimmer.”).
  3. In addition, it should be measurable, so that we make achieving it as concrete as possible (e.g., “I am in charge of 10 employees.” or “I weigh 10 kg less.”)
  4. The goal should be attractive, in other words, desirable, so that we are truly motivated to make the effort to attain it. The more attractive, the higher our intrinsic motivation. Our motivation is also increased if the goal is not just factually appealing, but emotionally appealing, too. 
  5. The goal should also be realistic. Of course, it’s fine to set oneself big goals, but they must always be achievable. The more realistic the definition of a goal, the more likely it is that we will pull it off.
  6. Many goals are never achieved because they are not scheduled. The many unachieved New Year’s resolutions are a typical example of this. Often, they simply peter out. In other words, a well-defined goal should include a target date. (e.g., “On March 31, 2022, I will be responsible for team XY.” or “On September 1, 2022, I will weigh 10 kg less.”)
  7. Another important aspect is the to use the “I” form. Because of course it is I who wants to achieve the goal and not someone else.
  8. Also, the achievement of the goal should be independent of any conditions. So, it should not contain any “if x then y” connections. Conditions such as these would make us too dependent on the “if” event, which may be beyond our control.
  9. And finally, the goal should be achievable without any external help or support, in other words, through our own efforts. Otherwise, we may be putting ourselves in an unfavorable position of dependency.

While at first, it may look as if you need to plan for plenty of time for each goal, this is not the case. You may require a little more concentration at the beginning. But once the application is put into practice, things tend to start moving very quickly – and all the more effectively.

Of course, the SMART formula in and of itself is not a guarantor for goal achievement and implementation, but it certainly takes us a significant step closer to reaching our concrete goals.

In my next blog article, I’ll share with you what additional aspects you should take into account, what alternative ways there are to proceed and what we can possibly do cumulatively.

If you have any questions or are looking for any specific input, just let me know. And as always:

Go for it, 

Your crisis manager

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