In November, I shared a process to SMART-ly set goals for yourself. After reflecting on your interests, we reviewed ways that you can set strategic goals and create action plans to hold yourself accountable to growth and development.
The final step in the process involves committing to reflecting on your actual progress toward those predetermined goals. Here are some easy steps that you can take to check in with yourself and see how it’s all going.
Start by taking the full length of your goal and divide it into quarters. You’ll want to commit to checking in and reflecting at least once during each quarter of your predetermined period. Add those times into the plan that you created, both to establish milestones for yourself and to hold yourself accountable for reflecting on your progress.
When you do these quarterly reflections, keep your action plan in front of you so you can honestly assess each of your actions. Start the process by thanking yourself for taking the time to set a goal and congratulate yourself on any progress you have made. Following some self-celebration, ask yourself the following questions:
Is working toward this goal giving me satisfaction and making me feel accomplished?
- If “Yes” – Great! Carry on.
- If “No” – Ask yourself “why not?” Is following your plan creating other life imbalances? Is the goal not bringing you the joy you thought it would?
- If the answer is one of the first two options, then take that information and apply it to a revision of your SMART goal and action plan.
- If you find that, since beginning to work toward your goal, it’s no longer as appealing, go back to your “I am a(n)” list, and start over.
- Remember, things can be difficult and satisfying at the same time. If you set a goal to learn to code to and manage your organization’s website, you are going to have to spend hours practicing writing short codes. This is a challenge, but the progress will come.
Is my timeframe still achievable?
- If “Yes” – Great! Carry on.
- If “No” – Ask yourself “why not?” Is the goal more difficult than anticipated? Have you not been able to follow the plan you created? In both cases, go back and adjust both your SMART goal and your action plan. The “T” is SMART refers to “time-bound.” This is the window you had allotted to achieve the goal. You can choose to extend your window, or adjust the outcome of the goal to be achieved in the original timeframe.
Which of my action steps am I doing well/not so well?
- If I am a social worker and expanding my language capabilities would be beneficial, perhaps my goal is: “In the next six weeks, I will have four intake interviews in Spanish, having improved my Spanish vocabulary to 300 words” and two of the actions I have identified are studying flashcards and listening to Spanish radio.I am doing well at studying my flashcards. Understand if this is something in your personality or situational: “I really like the quick turnaround and improvement when I study flashcards,” or “I know I always have time on the train every day.”If you are unsure of which it is, test it. In this case, try doing your flashcards after dinner for a week to see if you still do it consistently. If you don’t, then the specific time allotted while taking the train is key to studying your flashcards. If you do continue to use the flashcards after dinner, then you have a personal preference towards flashcards. Use this knowledge to help you improve in an area where you are doing less well.I am not doing well at listening to Spanish radio. As in the previous example, understand if this is something in your personality, or situational: “I have a hard time sitting still to focus on the radio broadcast in Spanish,” or “The time I had put aside for this disappeared because my daughter has been getting up earlier.” Try to use the knowledge you have about whether you have a preference for flashcards, or are successful studying on the train to your advantage. In this case, you won’t get the auditory benefit of putting a broadcast transcript on flashcards, but you could download a broadcast and listen to it on the train. Make sure if you make any changes to update your action plan.
You can always reflect more frequently. Often, when I have had days that are either very successful or very unsuccessful, I take a moment to ask myself what happened differently. Taking the example above, if part of my goal is to study my Spanish flashcards on the train every morning and I have been very consistent about it, but this morning I didn’t do it, I would ask myself why. Answers may include: “I took a later train and it was too crowded,” or “I haven’t made new flashcards in a while and feel unmotivated, because I know all of the words.” All of those impediments can be addressed for the next day.
Taking the time to explore old and new interests gives us a feeling of accomplishment not often felt once we are out of school and don’t have designated learning, art, sports etc. time. I hope this series has helped you to set and work towards achieving some of your personal aspirations.
Do you have questions about the process outlined above? Perhaps you’ve tried this format and want to share your experience, or maybe you have a suggestion about how one of the questions should be adjusted. Whatever you have to say, say it in the comments!
About the author: Laura Robitzek works at a public charter school network, helping school leaders and teachers leverage data in their classrooms – not the overwhelming kind of data, but the “exactly what I need to help kids learn” kind. Combining her BA in economics and an MPA in Public Policy, she loves writing content, whether it is numbers-focused or focused on actionable ideas.