Everyone’s heard of the SMART acronym for setting goals at some point, but how can we make sure our goals actually meet this criteria and that we’re using it effectively? Well, we’ve put together a little “test” that you can refer to whenever you’re not sure that your objective adheres to the SMART criteria.

Let’s break it down…

Is it specific?

A specific goal is one that’s absolutely clear. Although our goals may have to be adjusted with time, we should always make sure that they’re easy to understand from the onset. For example, saying “I want to get good marks” isn’t really a specific goal. You need to outline what “good” marks means to you, as well as which subjects this goal applies to. So, a more specific goal would be, “I want to get distinctions for all 8 subjects”.

Is it measurable?

How will you know once you’ve reached your goal? It’s never a good idea to set goals in a way that makes it impossible to know when you’ve reached it or even track your progress along the way. So, make sure you have a clear destination firstly, and a method of telling whether or not you’ve reached it. Using the example above, we’d say that a distinction means getting an average of 80% and above for your subjects, which would require you to get A’s for your portfolio assessments as well as exams. You’d measure this by keeping a graph or table where you’d track your marks for every test, assignment and exam. This way, you’ll always have an idea of how far you are from your goal.

Is it attainable?

This is where things get a little bit tricky. It’s really easy to say you’ll get a distinction at the end of the year, but it might not be within reach if you’re already in the third term of school, with a 30% average for most of your subjects. That’s why it’s important to look at all the different factors that may affect your end-goal - like the time-frame and your current status or situation - before settling on a goal.

Is it realistic?

While it’s great to aim high, we’ve also got to think about how realistic our goals are. For example, if you really struggle with Maths, it might not be possible for you to get a distinction at the end of the year. Why not amend your goal to suit your abilities? Be honest with yourself about what you can do, your limitations, as well as the resources that are available to you.

Is it time-bound?

Knowing when you want to achieve your goal makes it much easier to stay motivated to see it through. Giving yourself a year to raise your average from 60% to 80% makes a huge difference since you can keep a timeline to track your progress each term and see how much more work needs to be done and how much time you’ve got left to do it. So, if your goal doesn’t have a timeframe, it doesn’t meet the SMART criteria.

The one thing that separates goals from wishes is having a clear strategy that outlines how we’re going to reach it. The SMART criteria basically gives you a simple guideline that helps you set goals in a way that’s most beneficial to you, by making sure that those goals are specific, easy to measure, achievable, realistic and within a certain timeframe. This helps you stay on top of your game and motivated to keep going, even when things get a little bit rough.

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