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We all have ambitions, aspirations, and objectives that we want to achieve in life. But we hardly take a systematic approach towards them. Do you know that out of every hundred people, only twenty set their goals, and from those twenty, only eight are able to accomplish what they plan for?
The concept of SMART goals can be applied to Time Management and Productivity and help with significant improvements in these areas.
What Are SMART Goals?
“SMART Goals” has become a common buzzword over the past years, and why shouldn’t it? After all, goal setting is one of the best and most helpful ways to achieve what you want in life. SMART goals lay out a clear roadmap, which you can follow to reach your target.
A person who does not have a direction will probably get nowhere. But setting SMART goals can give you a clear vision of your targets and increase your chances of reaching them.
Goals and SMART Goals – The Difference
A proper goal is narrowed down and clearly defined. For instance, take this clichéd goal, “I want to be rich.” This sentence is very vague and is going in all directions. Most importantly, it does not specify or measure what “rich” is. A person with $10,000 in their savings account might consider $100,000 as rich, but a person with $100,000 might want to become a millionaire to feel rich.
Similarly, suppose a person makes $2,000 in monthly wages and aims to reach a million dollars. In that case, they will have to consider their options to see if it is even attainable and if such a huge goal is relevant to them. They also need to understand how much time it will take.
You can’t design a plan of action if you aren’t clear about what you want to achieve. This is where SMART goals come into play. SMART is an acronym that stands for:
Let us look at each one in more detail.
Specifying your goals will considerably increase your chances of achieving them. Whenever you are setting a goal, start by asking five “W” questions:
Specifying a goal allows you to see and measure your progress and to know when you have achieved this goal. The more narrowed down a goal is, the easier it is to identify and achieve it.
Every goal needs to have some criteria to measure it against. Without a criterion, there is no way to track your progress towards the goal, which means you will never know where you are standing or how much more effort you have to put in. There are three important questions that you can use to make your goal measurable:
Your goals must challenge you and further push your limits, but they must not be impossible. For instance, say your objective is to lose weight, and you set a goal to lose 20 pounds in two weeks. This is not only challenging, but it is not even safely possible.
Or take the person with a $2,000 monthly wage aiming to save up a million dollars. This is also not too realistic. Instead, that person can set smaller, more attainable goals, aim to make investments, and then aim for the million when it is more attainable.
At this stage of goal setting, you will ask yourself if you have the resources needed to attain the goal that you are setting? If not, what are you missing, and how can you fill in the missing parts?
The goal needs to have importance in your life. It should also be aligned with other goals that you want to achieve. You will indeed require some assistance and support when achieving a goal. But remember to maintain control and not let go of ownership for the goal.
When setting a goal, ask yourself the following questions to verify if the goal is relevant to you.
- Is the goal worth the effort?
- Is it the right time to start working on the goal?
- Is it aligned with other objectives you are working on or trying to achieve?
With these questions answered, you will understand how relevant and important the goal is to you.
If your goal does not have a deadline, you will never be able to achieve it. It is okay to extend deadlines occasionally, but you must set a timeline for achieving your goal. With a deadline in place, the goal will remain a priority and not allow other daily tasks to hinder progress.
Sometimes, it is better to break down a bigger goal into smaller goals and set deadlines for each task. A few questions that you can ask yourself for timing a goal are:
This Ultimate Guide to SMART Goals discusses SMART goals in more detail and a more detailed explanation of SMART goals and will help you set your smart goal with easy-to-follow steps.
Why SMART Goals Are Important for Time Management and Productivity
Time management and productivity are skills that take time to learn and master. If your objectives are not in the correct order, you will have difficulty mastering these skills.
Throughout your journey of improving your time management and productivity skills, you will need to identify and work on areas that need improvement. Some advantages of setting SMART goals in these areas are:
11 SMART Goals Examples for Time Management & Productivity
1. Learn More about MS Excel Formulas
“To reduce the time it takes me to implement formulas in Excel from six hours to three hours by the 30th of next month. I will use the MS Excel Guide to learn new methodologies for formula implementation.”
S: Three hours to complete formula implementation
M: The progress can be measured with the decreasing time and the difference from the initial six hours.
A: Using resources to learn more about formula application, and by practicing what I have learned, I can make this goal attainable
R: If I am spending six out of eight hours of my workday implementing formulas, more than three-quarters of my day is gone. Reducing the time to half will allow me extra time for other activities.
T: Since I have set a deadline for this goal, I know that I have to reduce my formula implementing time to three hours by the end of next month.
2. Arrive at Work Early
“Build a habit of arriving to work early by getting up an hour earlier by the end of the month. I will build this habit by pushing back my alarm by fifteen minutes every week.”
S: I want to be at work at least an hour before what I am doing now.
M: The progress can be measured by checking how many minutes after my planned time I am arriving.
A: Probably one of the most attainable goals that I can set for myself. It does not involve many people, and I have also given myself a transitional period of one month to build the habit.
R: This goal is important to me because by arriving early, I can accomplish more tasks and get more work done throughout the day
T: I have set a deadline for this goal, and I know where I should be standing at the end of each week.
3. Improve Time Management Skills
“I often sit at least two hours late to complete all tasks. I want to leave on time to spend time with my family. I will improve my time management skills by taking an online course for the next month to bring work-life balance into my life. I will apply what I learn and plan to leave on time by the end of the course.”
S: I would like to leave at the end of my shift and avoid late sittings.
M: I can measure my progress by comparing how many late sittings I am doing and how late I am leaving work.
A: This goal is attainable because I plan to take on a course for time management to manage my time better and help me achieve my goal.
R: This goal is relevant for me because I want to enjoy my life outside of work.
T: I have set a deadline for this goal. As the course progresses, I can gradually start to leave earlier to get into the habit.
4. Improve Productivity
“To improve my productivity by dedicating 20% of my work hours to tasks marked as important. I will turn off all distractions during these hours and focus only on the important tasks. I will implement this practice starting today and make it into a habit by the end of next week.”
S: Dedicate 20% of my time to important tasks during the day.
M: I can measure my progress by evaluating how much time in a day I am giving to important tasks and make adjustments accordingly.
A: This goal is attainable as it requires me to get more organized and requires only dedication.
R: This goal is relevant for me because it will improve my productivity.
T: I have set a deadline for this goal and know that I have to achieve this by the end of next week.
5. Double Company Sales
“To double the sales for my company over one year, I will learn how to use social media ads by attending social media marketing workshops. I will gradually invest up to 30% of my profit in social media marketing by increasing 10% every month.”
S: To double the current sales for the company
M: The sales volume can be measured weekly or monthly
A: This goal is attainable because I will learn and apply new marketing techniques
R: This goal is relevant for my company and me as it will help us grow
T: I have set a deadline for this goal and know that I have to achieve this within a year
6. Learn How to Use Apps
“To improve productivity by learning to use and getting used to time management tools. I will learn to use advanced apps to manage my to-do lists, appointments, and everyday tasks by this week.”
S: Learn and use apps to better manage time and improve productivity.
M: Productivity and time management can be measured by watching the amount of time being wasted.
A: This goal is attainable because I will learn and use technology to improve myself.
R: This goal will help improve my productivity and is essential for my personal development.
T: The deadline is the end of this week.
7. Improve Public Speaking Skills
“To increase the engagement of participants during my presentations, I will improve my public speaking skills by joining a public speaking club for one year.”
S: Increase the engagement of participants during presentations
M: Engagement of participants can be measured by having presentations evaluated by audience members
A: I am already delivering presentations and would like to improve them, which makes this goal attainable
R: This goal will help improve audience engagement, which is essential for every presentation
T: Deadline is one year
8. Use One Color-Coded Schedule
“I currently keep separate schedules for work and home. This has been causing me to overbook my time, and I end up missing either family events or important work appointments. In order to prevent this, I will start keeping a master schedule this weekend. I will use a color-coding system in order to be able to easily tell what area of my life the event pertains to. I won't make any appointments without this schedule being visible. A new monthly schedule will be posted on my bedroom door each month, so I see it first thing every morning and last thing each night.“
S: This is definitely specific. It lists what kind of schedule, when it will be started, how the different areas will be divided, and it states where the schedule will be kept and why.
M: It will be easy to measure whether or not this goal is put into place. It is also possible to measure how successful this method is by keeping track of how many times there is a schedule conflict or how many important events are missed.
A: This goal is very attainable. There may need to be something added as to how appointments are made when the calendar is in one place, such as at home, and you are at the office. Maybe there could be two copies of the calendar.
R: This is related to getting a handle on time management. Having a schedule that is integrated is one of the easiest ways to bring together the various aspects of life, so there are fewer conflicts.
T: Stating that the schedule will be in place by the coming weekend makes it time-bound.
9. Delegate When Possible
“I waste a lot of time doing tasks that others not only can handle but would also be happy to do. I will identify who can handle what tasks and, starting this coming week, I will delegate routine tasks and tasks that don't require my personal attention to others, freeing me to concentrate on essential tasks that need to be done. I will also research automation apps to see if some tasks can be automated completely.”
S: This is specific in that it states what you are going to do and when you are going to start. It also gives a second action. It could be more specific if you took the time to list specific tasks that you will automate or delegate, but this is a great place to start.
M: This will be measured over time as the saved minutes and hours add up. You will be able to measure how many of the tasks you delegate or automate.
A: This goal is attainable as long as you are willing to let go of the control over everything and put it into action.
R: Often, we waste time on little things when we can better put our energy into more important projects. By figuring out what others can easily and willingly take off your hands, you make more time for what only you can do. This definitely relates to better time management.
T: Stating that this will start the upcoming week makes this time-bound.
10. Group Like Tasks
“Stopping to answer phone calls and constantly checking messages and emails is eating into my productivity. Starting next week, I will designate a period of time each day solely for answering emails and returning or making phone calls. I will make this period at the beginning or the end of my workday and will re-evaluate in one month to see if it makes a difference in the amount of time expended.”
S: This is specific in that you mention what you plan on doing and why. You mention when you will initiate the goal and when you will set aside time for it. You also mention a re-evaluation period.
M: It will be easy to measure whether or not you achieve this goal. You will also be able to measure its effectiveness over time by the amount of extra time you are being productive.
A: This goal is achievable in that you have control over when you will answer messages and make phone calls. There will be exceptions, but those should be rare.
R: Since it has been proven that every interruption causes you to lose time getting back into focus on a project, this goal is definitely relatable to saving and managing time.
T: Stating that this will start the following week makes it time-bound. The mention of a re-evaluation date also adds to this factor.
11. Take Breaks
“My productivity starts to wane as the day goes on. I will start making sure I include a ten-minute break every two hours to simply stretch and take a deep breath. At the midway point of my day, I will no longer skip lunch but will instead take an outside break when the weather is nice or walk around the building if the weather is poor. I will pack a healthy lunch each day to rejuvenate my body as well as my mind. This routine will start tomorrow and will be followed indefinitely.”
S: This is very specific. You talk about why and mention exactly what you will do and when you will do it. You also mention when it will start.
M: This is highly measurable. You only need to note whether or not you took your breaks, including lunch. A mood journal might help you in deciding whether or not the breaks help.
A: This goal is attainable. You could also set alarms to make sure you don't work through the scheduled breaks. All this goal takes to achieve is self-discipline.
R: Minds get tired. Making sure you take breaks for food and exercise, which helps get the blood flowing to carry oxygen to the brain, helps you maintain focus and energy longer.
T: This is highly time-bound. You state it will start tomorrow and you specify when the breaks will occur.
Final Thoughts on SMART Goals for Time Management and Productivity
Setting SMART goals for time management and productivity might be a small step, but it is a giant leap for honing your skills. Start by writing down your goals, and then break them into smaller tasks. Revisit your written goals every day to know your progress and identify areas that require improvement.
Here is a SMART goal-setting worksheet to help you outline and document your objectives to get yourself started. And check out our roundup of effective time management activities to help achieve your SMART goals.
And if you want more SMART goal ideas and examples, be sure to check out these blog posts:
- 7 SMART Goals Examples for Administrative Assistants
- 7 Examples of SMART Goals for Project Management
- 6 SMART Goals Examples for Finance Managers
Finally, if you want to take your goal-setting efforts to the next level, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.