I have a bunch of stuff I want to do in life. I believe in “To Do” lists as a way of getting things done. I note my daily errands as “A”, “B”, and “C” — in order of declining importance. But what about goals that last more than a day? Like most people, I make New Year’s Resolutions. And like most people, I declare these goals in front of people in the hope that social pressure and the fear of looking a fool will drive me on. Sometimes I even write them down and stick ’em on the fridge. Yet like most people, I find my enthusiasm and direction peters out as the year gradually grinds to a halt, ready to start again with the next set of New Year’s Resolutions.
The main issue is that, like most people, my goals tend to be general, not SMART. An example:
In 2017 I will learn Spanish well enough to speak with people.
A noble goal. But very vague. Firstly, I don’t define my success very well. After all, “speak with people” is vague, and can cover anything from basic beginner level A1 up to advanced C2, and anything in between. Indeed, I find that body language, gurning, and smiling tend to do a lot of work when trying to talk to people who speak a different language.
Not only is success therefore hard to gauge, and therefore by definition hard to achieve and feel like you have achieved it — so you never get the satisfaction you are looking for. Worse luck: if you have no clearly defined end goal, you have no clearly defined path of getting there — wherever “there” is. After all, say you are taking a road trip to St. Ives. But you don’t look at a map, or SatNav, or ask anyone, or anything, and you just get into your car and hope the wind will somehow take you there. Guess what? You ain’t getting to St. Ives in time. It’s so obvious, yet often overlooked: (DISCLAIMER: SNIDEY POLITICAL ASIDE COMING) just look at those politicians who took us into Iraq(!) So you need to define your END GOAL, and then WORK BACKWARDS to figure out the steps needed to get you there.
SETTING SMART GOALS
SMART stands for:
So we could break down my earlier vague goal into a SMART one like this:
- I want to achieve the C1 (“Advanced”/university entry level) level of Spanish (=SPECIFIC) and get the DELE qualification to prove it (=MEASURABLE);
- the study guides recommend around 200-300 hours to go up a level, and I am currently B1;
- therefore, I need around 500 hours to get to C1; this is around 16 months if I do one hour a day, around 11-12 months if I do 1.5 hours a day;
- I can realistically only fit 1.5 hours a day into my schedule (=REALISTIC/RELEVANT);
- so I’ll give myself 12 months to do it (=TIME-BOUND);
- and this is ATTAINABLE if I have a fully rounded program of study covering all bases, including reading, writing, speaking, listening, grammar, vocabulary, real world use of the language, and use of various media including books, TV, radio, and music. ((I’ll save you the specifics on this point!!))
Therefore, you can see that I have done my homework, as it were, and know exactly what will get me where and how long it’ll take. I will even break this goal down into step one: move from level B1 to B2, and step two: move from B2 to C1. I’ll give myself six months for each. So I therefore have a mid-to-long-term goal (12 months: get to C1 in Spanish and do a DELE qualification) and two mid-term goals (move up one level, then move up another level). I can, do, and have given myself short term goals, too, such as X number of words a day and Y each month.
NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS 2017
In my next post, I will share some of my main goals for 2017. I’ll make a SMART plan for them. You can use the further examples in my plan to help you get a grip of SMART planning. And you can also see how I get on!
© 2016-2017 Bryan A. J. Parry