Are you a New Year’s resolutions person? I personally dislike the term “resolutions.” When I hear it, I always picture a younger me, dewy-eyed and naive, with nebulous aspirations of achieving great things, but without a real plan. But a few years ago, a friend introduced me to the idea of SMART goal setting, which was a game-changer for me.
As I sit down to think about the new year, I’m giving myself a refresher on the SMART goal structure, and I thought I’d share my interpretation of each point with you, along with a real-life example of one of my 2023 goals.
What is SMART Goal Setting?
SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound–qualities that turn nebulous aspirations into actionable goals. We can use this process for any goal setting, but since we’re a writing group, let’s talk about how we can use it for our writing.
S is for Specific
One of the main problems with New Year’s resolutions (and one I butted up against myself) is they are often so ill-defined that they are completely unusable. In order to achieve a goal, you have to have a firm grasp on what you’re trying to do. It needs to be Specific.
Not Specific: I want to work on building my writing career. This goal is a good one, but how are you going to build your career? In what areas? With what actions? It’s too broad a statement to be helpful.
More Specific: To build my writing career, I’m going to write more this year. This is better! It’s not a fully fleshed-out goal, but we’ve narrowed it down to something more specific: focusing on more words on the page.
M is for Measurable
The next pitfall of goal setting is picking something that isn’t measurable. If you don’t put quantifiable parameters on your goal, then how will you know when you’ve achieved it?
Let’s go back to our writing career goal: To build my writing career, I’m going to write more this year. Although this goal is more specific, it doesn’t give us firm enough guidelines for success. What counts as “writing more,” anyway?
After we add a measurable parameter, our goal is even clearer: To build my writing career, I’m going to write a flash fiction story every day.
A is for Attainable
Is that more specific? Yes. Is it measurable? Also yes. Is it attainable? Like, is this something I can realistically do this coming year? NOPE. Absolutely not. Writing 365 flash fiction stories would be ludicrous for me to attempt, and I know it. So this goal doesn’t pass the attainability sniff test.
Let’s fix that. To build my writing career, I’m going to write 52 flash fiction stories.
Flash fiction, in particular, is a great way to meet this part of the goal. Because they are shorter pieces, they take less time, allowing for potentially more completed stories. But I still have to give myself a specific, attainable quantity so the goal doesn’t become overwhelming.
R is for Relevant
Next is R for Relevant. This one asks: does this goal really matter? Is this going to be the best use of my time?
Hmmm. Well, although I do think that writing of any kind is going to build my skills, and thus build my career, there are other areas that would be more relevant to my long-term goals than writing flash fiction.
Although I love writing these stories, they don’t play a significant role in my overall vision for my career as a whole. To make it more relevant, let’s change it: To build my writing career, I’m going to write and publish 52 blog posts.
T is for Time-bound
Ok. Our goal is specific now. It’s measurable, attainable, and relevant, too. The last piece of the puzzle is to make sure it’s Time-bound.
Deadlines are the tough love of goals. If my goal is to post 52 blog posts, but I don’t say by when, then I have the option of procrastinating as long as I like (and believe me, it would be forever).
So, let’s add a deadline: To build my writing career, I’m going to write and post on my blog every Monday, with the goal of reaching 52 new posts by the end of 2023.
SMART Goal Setting for the New Year
And there we go! We went from nebulous aspiration (build my career) to a real SMART goal (write 52 new blog posts in 2023). From here, I can add more detail and break it down into micro-goals and steps, but now I have a clear vision of what I’m setting out to do. It’s exciting and challenging, but it’s also doable. Score!
What about you? What are your goals for the New Year? Have you made them SMART yet?
About The Writer: Abby is a writer of fiction and poetry who joined the Moms Who Write team in November of 2021. She’s a homeschool mom of three who loves to teach writing and literature on the occasions she can be torn away from puttering in her garden and binge-reading whatever strikes her fancy. She lives in a rural town in Central Illinois with her husband, three kids, two cats, a guinea pig, and six chickens. To read more of Abby’s writing and to find her social media links, please visit her website at www.abbyharding.com.