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How to Set SMART Goals for Your Personal and Career Development

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As is customary, many people will have made some goals and aspirations heading into the new year. Unfortunately, most struggle to keep up with their goals, whether new year resolutions or just regular, everyday goals.

Regardless of what time of the year you set your resolutions for personal or career development, you can achieve them and change your life. Here’s how to do this the SMART way.

How to Set SMART Goals

You should be smart when setting goals, but SMART here means something a little different. This clever acronym stands for:

1. Specific—Your Goals Should Be Specific

A woman writing in a notebook

Goals should be clearly set out, and as much as possible, broken down into all the little steps you’ll take to achieve them. A goal to master front-end programming might be a little too broad, for example.

But if your goal were to become proficient at HTML, then CSS, and then JavaScript—each by a specific date, that would be much more specific and more appropriate.

2. Measurable—Set Measurable Goals

A tape rule and scale

Just as goals should be clearly set out and broken down into actionable steps, you’ll need a way to measure whether you have achieved them or not.

Keeping up with the previous example, if your goal were to master HTML, CSS, and JavaScript by some specific date, it would be easy to measure your success by attempting to build a website using HTML, with some CSS and JavaScript incorporated on the front-end. You could also do this by creating small milestones that reflect some area of learning.

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Keeping track of your goals and measuring them will require some accountability. If you have a mentor, or a close friend or family member willing to be your accountability partner, this could help.

Alternatively, you could use one of many goal-tracking apps out there. Some options include Strides and Coach.me.

3. Achievable—Take Baby Steps

Woman supporting a toddler to walk

Goals shouldn’t be too hard to achieve. This goes without saying, but a lot of people set huge goals in the heat of the moment, and predictably, fail to follow up on them in the long run.

For instance, you’re not likely to become a professional full-stack developer in three weeks. A more realistic target would be three to six months of learning and practice.

Trying to learn or change your life at an unsustainable pace is one sure path to failure.

4. Relevance—Relevant Goals Are Easier to Keep Up With

Woman with a computer smiling

If your lofty new goals are not relevant to your career or some other aspect of your life, you’re likely to tire of them quickly.

For instance, if you’re fully employed as a lawyer, for example, and are only trying to learn a new skill like front-end development as a hobby, you’re not likely to be able to put in the amount of time and effort required.

But if you were a doctor learning medical programming, chances are, it would come much easier to you. In the course of developing your career, you’re likely to achieve success easier and faster if you build on areas of strength rather than starting afresh in an entirely new area.


5. Time-Bound—Give Yourself Specific Deadlines

An alarm clock

Just as goals should be specific, they should also be tied to specific timelines. Not doing this will increase the chances that you will get distracted or fall prey to procrastination.

Get Started With Your Personal and Career Development

As we’ve shown, SMART goals are an effective way to set goals and turn your life around. Remember that SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

Whether you are trying to get ahead in your career, find a new job, or simply grow as a person, you’ll benefit from long-term planning. One of the best ways to do this is using modern techniques like Kanban boards.


Someone is using a kanban board
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