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SMART goals – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely – is the use of a set of structured steps for the setting of goals. "SMART criteria" are used in project management by business people, life coaches and others who seek a more methodical approach to the setting of personal and professional goals. Put simply, SMART goal setting brings structure and trackability into your goals and objectives. SMART goals can be used for projects that will be completed over a period of one year and occasionally for projects up to three years. After three years, there may be other types of models such as personal learning plans (PLPs) that would be more appropriate. Within the context of on the job performance, SMART timelines can be used to plan projects such as the creation of a new library program, setting personal career goals (such as completing a course, or blogging 5x per month) and implementing new technologies to deliver services via Twitter or Facebook.
In organizational theory, goal setting dates back to the work of Edwin Locke in the 1960s. His seminal paper from the late 1960s entitled "Toward a Theory of Task Motivation and Incentives" argued that most employees are motivated by the setting of regular goals for themselves. However, workers must also be incentivized by receiving helpful and appropriate feedback from supervisors, mentors or interested individuals. In SMART goal-setting, it is important that a worker's plan has an element of accountability. Locke said that when employees were motivated to reach their goals that their work performance also improved. SMART can therefore be used in conjunction with goal-setting in annual performance reviews or short-term projects.
In pedagogical theory, setting personal goals is a major reason why learners may or may not be motivated to learn. The psychological and cognitive reactions to their performance in the classroom, for example, on tests and assignments, help learners to determine what they need to do to be successful. In setting their own goals based on performance, learners are better able to self-monitor and evaluate their performance but when accompanied by some sort of incentive it is more likely that they will be successful.
S – specific
What is involved in goal setting using the SMART framework? Goal setting requires writing down your goals, taking stock and reviewing them on a regular basis, writing a plan of action and setting reasonable time frames for achievement. Regardless of the time you have available, there is no doubt that realizing your goals requires a steady working towards their realization.
M – measurable
A – attainable
R – realistic
T – timely / trackable
Reviewing & Revising SMART goals
The SMART goals criteria are not meant to put learners into rigid categories or remove creative exploration of your goals. Setting goals using SMART should be viewed as one step in articulating short or long-term goals. The framework, while useful, is meant to provide structure but some people find they depart from SMART after a period. As such, SMART may help you after working towards your goals for a time. Often, the most successful deployment of SMART includes an element of accountability and performance. This is where a supervisor, spouse or mentor can help to hold you accountable.
Goal setting is iterative and should be based on a frank evaluation of your abilities and potential. It should not be self-limiting. If you do not know where you stand, enlist the help of a teacher or colleague to help you determine your strengths and weaknesses. What you need, above all, is a commitment towards reaching your goals, and a good understanding of the process to get you there. You can use goal setting forms or software programs to guide you; further, you may want to change or adapt them numerous times. There are some useful software programs to help you develop your goals such as SMART goals and this app. Since you are the master of your universe, you should know best where you want to end up - and what you need to do to get there.
There is also a slight variation of the SMART model. SMART(er) adds two letters: e for ethical-ecology-evaluate, and r for resourced-rewards-revise. Depending on the individual who is setting goals and the context, there may be a need to consider the ethical issues associated with goal setting when using the SMART(er) framework. In that case, the sixth step would include a consideration of ethics. If ethics does not seem relevant, some individuals may want to use the evaluate and revise alternatives that are available in the SMARTer model. Incidentally, there are also a few SMARTest frameworks around. When you reach a significant milestone along the way to achieving any goal, be sure to give yourself an appropriate reward.