Like many employees, you may have some specific developmental goals that you want to include in your Individual Development Plan (IDP) this fall. Did you know that there is a way to write your goals that can make you more likely to be successful? By using the SMART goal method, you can create tangible, action-oriented goals you can really achieve.
What is a SMART Goal?
A SMART goal is one that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Here’s how SMART goals work:
To be specific, your goal should be concrete and well-defined. It should identify what you are trying to achieve and who is responsible for completing each component of the goal. Start by asking yourself questions like:
- What exactly do I want to do?
- Are there certain steps I should take?
- Will I be using specific resources to reach my goal?
- Will I need to work with someone else?
So, for example, if your overarching goal is to improve your leadership skills, you can make that goal specific by saying: I am going to register for and take online training courses to improve my leadership skills. Note that this goal is still pretty vague. Keep reading to make it SMART.
A goal should also have criteria you can use to track your progress and determine when you’ve been successful in reaching your goal. To make your goal measurable, it can help to think about the following questions:
- How will I know when I’ve accomplished my goal?
- Is there quantitative information I can include to make it easier to measure my progress?
Using the leadership training example, you can make your goal measurable by listing the number of courses you will take: I will complete four leadership courses.
Your goal can be a challenging one, but it should still be attainable. Make sure you have the time and resources needed to realistically reach your goal by considering these factors:
- How much time out of my regular schedule will it take to complete my goal?
- Will I reasonably be able to dedicate this amount of time?
- Will any funding be required to complete my goal, and if so, will I be able to obtain it?
In the leadership training example, you can make your goal attainable by planning to schedule a reasonable amount of time to train: I will dedicate one hour outside of my normal work schedule per week to complete leadership training.
To keep your goals relevant, make sure they are focused in the direction you want to go in your career. For example, if you are a nurse, you may set a goal to develop your therapeutic communication skills to improve your patient service. To find activities that are relevant to your career, review the recommended training and development experiences for your job. Then, consider questions like the following:
- Is this a reasonable goal for me in my current job?
- Will this goal help me move forward in my career?
- Does this goal support my employer’s mission?
You can make the leadership training goal relevant by choosing the right level of leadership training: I will take a TMS training course such as “Transitioning from Technical Professional to Management” to help me prepare for the transition to a management position.
Finally, your goal needs a deadline to help you stay motivated. Think about how long it will take to complete your goal. Then, ask yourself questions like:
- Are there outside factors that will affect my timeline, such as objectives I’ll need to complete first?
- Are there things I should be doing along the way to keep myself on track?
- Are there any upcoming events that would influence my deadline?
To make the leadership training example time-bound, you can include a timeline for reminders and the goal’s completion date: I will complete my goal before my IDP check-in with my supervisor at the end of January, and I will set a calendar reminder to check my progress on the 15th of each month.
Putting it all together
Once you’ve worked through the SMART method for each piece of your goal, you are ready to combine them into a SMART goal. For the leadership training example, the final SMART goal would look like this:
I am going to register for and take four online training courses to improve my leadership skills, including the TMS training course “Transitioning from Technical Professional to Management” to help me prepare for the transition to a management position. I will dedicate one hour outside of my normal work schedule per week to complete leadership training, so that I complete this goal before my IDP check-in with my supervisor at the end of January. I will also set a calendar reminder to check my progress on the 15th of each month.
After you finish
Now that you know how to use the SMART method, be sure to record your SMART goals in your IDP.