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Smart Goals: 5 Credible Ways To Achieve Your Dream

Sarah Rexford

Smart goals are more than a way to define goals—it is a mnemonic acronym that was created in 1981. While the names George Doran, Arthur Miller, and James Cunningham may not ring a bell, it was their article that made this type of goal-setting so famous.

They titled their article, “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management goals and objectives” and since its release, smart goals have been discussed by a plethora of people. But what exactly are smart goals and can they help writers? 

What are Smart Goals?

The SMART acronym stands for the following type of goal: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Smart goal setting allows individuals to create parameters around their goals in order to help them find success. 

Imagine how helpful it would be to have a way to measure your creativity as a writer or assess how close you are to achieving your goals. Let’s dive into the specifics of how smart goals help writers.

How Smart Goals Help Writers

Due to the five unique aspects of this acronym, smart goals offer five key helps to writers. 

1. Specific 

First, when you choose to set a smart goal, you must choose a specific method. For writers, this can alleviate pressure that comes with the subjectivity of creative writing. For writers, specific goals could look like answering the following questions:

  • How many words do I want to write daily?
  • How many agents do I hope to query this month?
  • What is the number one area I need to study more in writing?

Setting specific goals helps you set the trajectory for your success.

2. Measurable 

In addition to your specificity, your goal should be measurable. Let’s say you want to write 10,000 words in one month. This comes out to roughly 500 words per week day. When it comes time to measure your goals, you can articulate exactly how close you came to meeting your goal, or even how far you exceeded it.

3. Achievable 

But what if writing 500 words a day (roughly two pages of double-spaced Word documents) isn’t doable for you in this season? If you can’t achieve your goal, you set yourself up for failure. Set a goal, then make it achievable by lessening your daily workload just a bit. If you believe you can write 500 words every week day, set a goal of writing 475 words four days a week. 

4. Relevant 

It’s easy to set goals that are irrelevant to your ultimate dream. If you want to be a full time creative writer, but set a goal of learning code to create your first website, you may be veering off track a bit. Instead, choose a goal that is relevant to your larger dream. 

  • Learn to set up your own website with a template 
  • Hire a web designer to create a custom site
  • Invest in a creative writing course 

Always make sure your goals take you closer to your dream in the most effective way possible.

5. Time-Bound

“I want to write a 80,000 word novel” is a goal. “I want to write a 80,000 word novel in the next nine months” is a time-bound goal. The first goal is subjective and open-ended. The second goal forces you to create actionable steps to meet it.

How to Set Smart Goals 

Learning goal-setting techniques can be the difference between ultimate success and failure. So, how do you set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound goals? You start by accurately assessing your strengths and weaknesses. 

Look At Yourself Honestly

What are your current, ongoing commitments and how much time do you have remaining? If you work a full-time job and are married with kids, your smart goals will look different than a single, college-student working part-time. 

Also assess how much innate passion or drive you have, how many hours you need to sleep per night to function well, and if you have a writing community around you to encourage. 

Set Your Long-Term Goal And Articulate Obstacles 

Let’s say, for example, that you attend college full-time and work part time. Your long-term goal is to be a full-time writer. You dream of becoming a published author. What is keeping you from this goal? Perhaps one or more of the following:

  • Your part time work takes up writing time
  • You need to learn how to write to industry-standard 
  • You’re unsure what idea to choose to write on

Once you can attach words to your roadblocks, it’s time to set an action plan.

Set Your Immediate Trajectory 

What steps do you need to take to reach your goal, and what is the most efficient path to get there?

  • Your part time work takes up writing time → Consider applying for jobs that center on writing (marketing, ads, etc.)
  • You need to learn writing rules → Invest in a mentorship program or purchase books on writing
  • Your unsure what idea to write on → Join a writing community and share some of your ideas 

After you honestly look at yourself, identify obstacles, and set a rough next-step plan, it’s time to create your smart goals. 

Smart Goals: Make It Your Own

If your long term goal is to become a published author but you need to write your book, consider the following example.

Specific: I want to write my rough draft in one year. 
Measurable: I want to write my memoir of 55,000 words in the next six months.  
Achievable: I must type roughly one and a half, double-spaced pages, daily. 
Relevant: I love books and want to be an author, so this will help me on my journey.
Time-bound: I will begin next Monday and have my draft written six months from then.

You can also make smart goals into an action-packed sentence, similar to an elevator pitch: I will write a page and a half every day for six months to complete my rough draft and near my ultimate goal of becoming an author. 

Mistakes to Avoid

Like all goal-setting, smart goals can have mistakes wound up inside. For instance, what if you realize one week in that there’s no way you can write your predetermined word count in the time frame you set?

Or what if you make a goal of writing your first trilogy in the next three years? That’s a huge goal, but very distant. What if you have four smart goals and are pursuing each one at the same time?

These mistakes are common, and thankfully, there’s an easy fix: Simply reassess. Did you set too high of a word count? Track your writing progress until you can identify an achievable, daily number. Reset your goal. 

Is your goal too distant? Set smaller goals that will lead to it. Are you pursuing too much at once? Choose the most important goal and work toward it first. 

The phrase smart goals is an over four-decades old term for baby steps. Like children learning to walk, it’s important to take it slow and make each step achievable. You only learn to walk by first standing up. 

Smart goals act as a guide to help you create those baby steps, and ultimately, achieve them.

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