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Will You Be SMARTer in the New Year?

As we approach the end of the year, it is time to reflect upon the last 12 months – our successes and our failures – and set goals for the year ahead. For many of us, the start of each year will feel like a fresh beginning – a chance to start again with a clean slate. Often, we and our friends, colleagues, and family set ambitious New Year’s resolutions and, irrespective of whether the year has been good, bad or indifferent, all of us hope the next one will be better.

They say the definition of insanity is repeating the same action and expecting a different result. Yet, even for those of us with unwavering will power, some of the New Year’s resolutions will have a somewhat familiar ring to their tone. But, next year will be different, right? This year will be the year we get fit, quit smoking, lose weight, etc. Of course, by the time February arrives, many of these all-important goals will once again fade into the realm of forgotten memories.

I mean, why is it that Aunt Mildred never gets fit, and Roger from Finance never sticks to his diet? Are they, and the rest of the planet – myself included – weak-willed, forgetful or just plain lazy? Or is the whole concept of New Year’s resolutions hopelessly flawed? Perhaps! But, perhaps there’s a different approach, a way we can all achieve our goals for the next year, by adding a dash of strategic planning into our personal lives.

To test the waters, I’m setting myself one simple objective for the next year, to be SMARTER than I was in the previous one. Sounds ambitious; perhaps, even a touch pretentious, right? But, there is a method to the madness. You see, SMART is a mnemonic that guides the process of setting objectives; the letters conforming to the words Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-boxed. The concept is simple enough; if an objective is defined in SMART terms, then you maximize the possibilities of it being delivered.

In simple terms, SMART is defined as follows:

● Specific – target a specific, clearly defined issue for improvement.
● Measurable – quantify a way to determine and record progress.
● Achievable – ensure there are available resources, at the beginning
● Relevant – the objectives should be appropriate for the business/person
● Time-boxed – specify when the result(s) will be achieved.

So, as an example, let’s consider one of the most common New Year’s resolutions of ‘getting fitter’. The issue is, even with the best of intentions, it’s a rather fluffy, open-ended objective. After all, it’s not going to happen overnight. So how do we measure progress and success (or failure)? We understand the objective, but there’s no structure, no definition, no milestones, etc. In contrast, let’s consider the same goal – defined in SMART terms. To get fitter, we need to go to the gym (specific, relevant) twice a week (measurable) for a minimum of 1 hour per visit (achievable) throughout the year (time-boxed) – suddenly, it’s a whole different ball game.

Of course, there’s nothing tangible that forces compliance; this being said, the clarity and visibility of the objective certainly encourage achievement. We can measure progress week-by-week and month-by-month and, in doing so, celebrate the baby-steps along the path to success. In effect, it’s like a self-regulating system, where this ongoing process of Evaluation & Re-evaluation transforms SMART into SMARTER.

The best thing is, the SMARTER principle can be applied for all objectives – personal and business. So, in the New Year, when a CEO sets the fluffy, open-ended goals of more profits, increased brand awareness, and more customers, try giving them the same advice; albeit, without mentioning Aunt Mildred! So, will being SMARTER lead to me ‘getting fitter’ and being more prosperous? Well, keep reading my blog and I’ll let you know this time next year! In the meantime, I wish you, your colleagues, friends, and family a happy, safe and SMARTER New Year!

I’d love to hear your views on this subject, so please feel free to reach out to me via the contact form or on LinkedIn.