How To Make Your Smart Goal, Smarter
Trying to get out of debt or even just get ahead in life requires a goal, not just a wish. The most successful goals all have one thing in common. They're SMART goals. I'm going to go over each aspect of setting a SMART goal to increase your probability of success no matter what your goals.
A SMART goal is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. With these 5 aspects of a goal in place, your chances of achieving your goals are greatly increased.
While it's an admirable goal, simply saying “I want to save more money” is very vague and you're not likely to succeed without some more parameters. Let's break it down into a SMART goal.
First, be specific about what the goal is. Instead of “I want to save more money,” try including the 5 W's in your sentence. That's; who, where, what, when and why. If you can answer these questions you're well on your way.
Who: I want to save more money
Where: This isn't relevant for this particular goal
What: Time to be specific… “I want to save an extra $6000”.
When: This is the ‘Finish line' “I want to save an extra $6000 in the next 12 months”
Why: This is really important. You need to know why this goal is valuable to you so you don't lose sight of your motivation. “I want to save an extra $6000 in the next 12 months to put towards my emergency fund.”
So now we have a much more specific goal. It went from a rather vague “I want to save more money” to “I want to save an extra $6000 in the next 12 months to put towards my emergency fund.” I think you'll agree that this has a lot more direction to it.
Once you have your goal, it needs to be something you can measure. This is usually a yes/no, true/false or numeric value. In this case, it's numeric: $6000. So we know when this goal has been attained because there is a clear number to strive for.
Making the goal attainable is where we evaluate the steps and resources needed to complete the goal. How will the money be saved? What resources are available to help save money?
Break the goal down to smaller steps. This goal has 12 months to save $6000 which is a neat $500/month. Setting a mini-goal like this is a great way, to keep on track. It also means you get to celebrate the small steps along the way which can help to keep you motivated. Tracking your spending with a budget is a key to successfully completing this goal.
By the way, if you need help setting a budget, you can learn about that here.
Each month, money can be saved by bringing lunch to work or extra money earned with a side job, for example. By tracking the goal monthly, you will know if the savings goal is on the right path.
All the planning in the world won't help you achieve your goal if it's not realistic. If the goal was to save $6000 in one month or a $100,000 in a year, those goals aren't necessarily realistic and that's a fast way to lose your motivation to even try. Don't set yourself up for failure by making the goal unrealistic.
Part of being realistic is ensuring that your goals are relevant to your life plan. For example, if you want to learn to snow board, but you hate the cold and snow, is it really a skill set that you'll use and enjoy? Will you stick it out and actually follow through to learning? Is there a better use of your time and energy on another more relevant goal?
Read more: Setting A SMART Financial Goal This Year
Putting a time limit on your goal creates a sense of urgency. Remember; a goal without a timeline is just a dream. Putting a deadline on your goal gives you a time structure to work towards. In this case, the 12 month time line can be easily broken down into one month mini-goals.
Now that you have a SMART goal, that's not quite the end of the process. Goal setting is ongoing. To make your goals SMART-ER, you will need to Evaluate and, if necessary Revise your goal. It's ok to adjust your goals as factors in your life either make them irrelevant or unattainable on the current timeline. Heck, maybe you finished your goal well ahead of schedule due to some good fortune coming your way. Keep an eye on your goals to ensure you're on track and adjust your action plan.
Remember: If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there.
Lori Stratford is the Digital Media Manager at Navicore Solutions. She promotes the reach of Navicore's financial education to the public through social media and blog content.