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Short-Term Goals: A Step-by-Step Guide to Weekly SMART Personal Goal Setting

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SMART Short-Term Goals

Your Weekly Goals are the guidance systems that keep you aligned with what matters most. They’re the touch point between your strategic, big-picture thinking (mission, focus areas, visions, projects etc…) and your tactical Daily Priorities.

Here are a few pointers to help make them as effective as possible.

1. Make Your Goals Doable Within 7 Days.

Why 7 days? Because if you’ve ever tried annual, quarterly or monthly planning, you’ll know that we just aren’t very good at making long-term predictions.

Don’t get me wrong. Thinking in longer time-frames is essential to living a productive and meaningful life (and it’s a big part of the TRACKTION Masterclass).

But when it comes to taking action, we need to break those abstract visions down to a scale we can actually work on. And that optimal timeframe is more or less 7 days.

To make your weekly goals useful and relevant, make them achievable within a week.

2. Set Outcome AND Process Goals.

When setting weekly goals, it’s helpful to understand and use both of the main types of goal at your disposal:

  1. Outcome goals; and
  2. Process goals.

Outcome goals are the kind of goals that you’re probably most familiar with. They’re ✓ or ✘ goals that are either complete or incomplete (e.g., “I read The Magic of Thinking Big“).

Outcome goals are great because they give us clear targets to aim for.

But there’s a catch.

Because when the goals get too large, or the stakes too high, they can become so overwhelming that they make us less likely to act.

Process goals are a valuable way to overcome this inertia. They emphasise inputs (e.g., “I meditate for 20 minutes”) over outcomes (e.g., “I reach enlightenment”). Focussing on manageable process goals that contribute to large results is a great way to make building habits or chipping away at outcome goals more rewarding and doable.

Using both outcome and process goals when setting weekly goals will make you a much more skilful goal setter than relying on just one or the other. The upshot? You’ll greatly improve your ability to accomplish more of what matters most.

3. Set SMART(ER) Goals.

We use the word SMART(ER) as a memory-aid for the seven features you’ll want to build into each of your weekly goals.

You’ll find many slight variations on the exact wording but at F2M setting SMART(ER) goals means making them:

  • Simple – A stranger should be able to understand your goals without explanation;
  • Measurable – Make your goals trackable with a ✓, ✘ or clear units (e.g., minutes);
  • Actionable – Always start your goals with a verb (Do, Read, Learn etc…);
  • Realistic – If it’s not practical, break it down further or set a Process Goal;
  • Time-bound – Weekly goals should be doable within 7 days;
  • Exciting – Find ways to inspire and incentive yourself to finish; and
  • Relevant. – Always tie your goals back to your big-picture thinking and projects.

Are there goals or projects in your life that you resist or that just don’t seem to make progress on week after week? If so, there’s a good chance your next steps are missing one or more of these attributes.

Review them against the checklist above and adjust them until you find a version that resonates.

Examples of SMARTER Goals

Perhaps the best way to understand SMARTER goals is to see some examples. Here are a few to get started:

Original: Date night.
Problem: Too simple. Not measurable. Not actionable.
SMARTER: Call Kembali (0812-3756-7156) to book date night table for 2 on Friday.

Original: Read more.
Problem: Not measurable. Not actionable.
SMARTER: Read Getting Things Done for [30][30][30][30][30] (150) minutes.

Original: Lose 30kg.
Problem: Not actionable. Not realistic.
SMARTER: Eat < 1500 KCal on [1][2][3][4][5] days.

N.b., Splitting process goals into brackets as above lets you track your progress, giving you clarity and a sense of achievement as you go.

4. Set Balanced Goals.

If you’ve ever been to a gym, you’ve probably seen the “bro” hanging out by free-weights who thinks 90 minutes of bicep curls is a good, well-balanced workout.

Silly, right? And yet it’s exactly the approach so many of us take when setting our goals and investing our time. Instead of balance, we focus overwhelmingly on just a few areas of life (usually the ones we’re best at or those entering meltdown).

The result? We end up lop-sided and off-centre. The performance gaps in our life-areas grow larger until our even our strengths are held back by the dead-weight of our limiting factors.

The solution? Set balanced weekly goals. Make an explicit effort to do something, each week, to improve each part of your life in some small way and you’ll see every part of your life reap the benefits.

The best way to systematically set balanced goals is to use a framework like the one in TRACKTION’s Wheel of Life.

N.B., You don’t have to set equally ambitious goals in each area. But setting some goals (even small process ones) in each area, each week, will keep you mindful and accountable to the balance that’s so important to a holistic and meaningful life.

5. Step Back and Evaluate Your Goals.

There are three times when it’s important to step back and evaluate your weekly goals:

  1. Right after you’ve set them;
  2. At the end of each day; and
  3. At the end of the week.

It can be easy to lost track of the big picture as you work through TRACKTION’s eight core areas setting your weekly goals. That’s why one of the most important times to review your weekly goals is right after you’ve set them.

Ask two questions:

  • “Is it realistic for me to achieve all of these goals in the next 7 days?” and
  • “If I only managed to complete these goals this week, would I classify my week as a success?”

Your answer to both questions should be a confident “Yes”. If not, go back through your goals and adjust them until you feel happy with the results.

The second most important time to review your weekly Goals is at the end of each day. Doing so will help you reconnect with your balanced vision for this week’s success on a daily basis. It’ll also help remind you of what it is you still need to work on as you set your Daily Priorities.

Finally, you should always make time to review and reflect on your weekly Goals at the end of each week. “What got done?”, “What didn’t get done?” and “Why not?” are all helpful questions to ask. Doing so will help you spot (and fix) any patterns of neglect. It’ll also make you better at estimating what is and isn’t possible to achieve within 7 days (for more tips on this, see the Reflection section of this guide).

Next Actions

Setting SMARTER, balanced, weekly goals is critical to getting the most from each week.

Without weekly goals, it can be hard (often impossible) to bridge the gap between long-term or big-picture thinking and your more tactical Daily Priorities.

Without SMARTER goals, it can be hard to know what to do, when, or whether you’ve even accomplished the outcomes you aimed for.

And without balanced goals, it’s very possible to “wake up” years down the road and regret leaving important parts of your life sidelined and suffering from a lack of right care and attention.

To set your SMARTER, balanced, weekly goals turn to page 21 (Weekly Pages) in your TRACKION planner to find a ready-made space to get started in.

And if you haven’t got your first planner yet? No problem. You can download a free PDF or order your first hard copy for just $29 $19 with free global shipping.

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