There was a time when doing hard work was seen as the essence and foundation of becoming successful.
But nowadays, the concept of hard work is rarely seen as the single best factor that contributes towards becoming a high achiever.
In fact, what most of your teachers, managers, life coaches, counsellors and mentors will tell you today is actually a different thing.
They are more likely to emphasize on the principle that it isn’t the hard work but the SMART work that actually pays off in today’s competitive environment.
For instance, look around you. You see many people working extremely hard to the best of their abilities but still not being able to connect the dots.
So the most important question that arises here is that what exactly does it mean by SMART work and how does it differ from the traditional concept of hard work?
Becoming better vs Adopting better ways
The scarcity of time has always been a major and the most valid constraint in everyone’s life.
While everyone accepts this at some point in their life, very few people are actually aware of its significance and are able to grasp it at the right moment.
Thus enters the concept of ‘becoming better’ versus ‘adopting better ways’.
This concept alone is highly related to the scarcity of time. It also explains how hard work evolved into SMART work in the current times.
Till just a few decades back, almost every person focused on ‘becoming better’ at whatever they were doing.
But ‘becoming better’ at anything is something that requires an ample amount of time.
It deals with applying the same methods with all their pros and cons in a continuing loop, to perform any job.
No doubt that with time you do become better but this doesn’t always bring in or guarantees the desired results.
Another major drawback of this approach was that people ignored the amount of time that they actually spent on becoming better at their tasks.
It meant that the amount of time which people spent on ‘becoming better’ was always considered inferior or secondary to the primary objective of becoming better.
Adopting better ways
The concept of ‘adopting better ways’ is a complete opposite of ‘becoming better’.
This concept sees time spent as the primary concern while performing any task.
It emphasizes on experimenting and developing better and more useful ways of doing everything that you do.
This way you spend less time, increase your productivity and earn more rewards in the long run.
It defies the traditional approach of following the same old routines and rules. It supports flexibility and promotes the change culture.
In simple words the whole idea of ‘adopting better ways’ clearly represents the ‘SMART criteria’.
What is the SMART criterion?
The SMART criterion is actually nothing new.
It is just that people with time became more aware of its importance as they started to realize the difference between following SMART work ethics and doing hard work.
SMART goal criteria were presented by George Doran, Arthur Miller and James Cunningham in their article ‘There’s a SMART way to write management goals and objectives’. This article was originally published in the year 1981.
The SMART acronym is a tool that sets the basic guidelines to plan and achieve any goal in your personal and professional life.
The SMART guidelines ask that each plan and goal should be –
- S – Specific (Be precise and exact; and don’t be vague or indefinite)
- M – Measurable (Goal itself and its pursuit can be measured and tracked)
- A – Attainable or Achievable (Might be very hard but at least falls within your scope and you can possibly achieve it)
- R – Realistic or Relevant (Based on what you practically are capable of achieving, helps you grow in your field and is nothing beyond what you cannot do)
- T – Time bound (You know when to do it, when to start and when to finish within a set and predetermined time frame)
To start with, your plans and goals should be very specific in nature. They shouldn’t be based on vague and general ideas or approaches.
Saying that you just want to be successful isn’t enough.
Narrow down your goals as much as possible. Knowing that what you want to succeed at is the important thing that basically matters.
- If you want to be a successful sportsman, which sport do you want to excel in?
- Do you want to be a successful footballer or more specifically a goalkeeper, forwards, etc.?
Measurable means can your plan or goal be measured. If yes, that how, when, where and to what extent?
It also includes keeping a track of your progress as you are doing it.
- What schedule should you adopt to practice football; daily or weekly?
- If daily, then how many hours each day should you invest?
- And how would you know if you are making a mistake or making any real progress?
- How would you ascertain when to level up or keep practicing the same skill more?
3. Attainable or Achievable
Being attainable or achievable means that your goals can be accomplished and fall within your scope.
You understand that it might be very hard, would definitely require many sacrifices and there would be numerous hurdles and challenges on its way but still you want to pursue it.
The reason is that you are confident enough that it is something that you can possibly do.
- To pursue any physical activity whether football or any other sports, you need to be physically fit. Do you think that you have the physical attributes of a sportsperson?
- Do you have a football field or club near your residence?
- Does it offer a football training facility?
- And can you as well financially afford all of this?
4. Realistic or Relevant
Realistic or relevant deals with how your goals will help you grow and how far can you reach by pursuing them.
It also means how much it relates to your profession or fulfills your passion personally.
It also means that how much your goals can practically be turned into a reality. Would they help others around you or in your team move forward as well alongside you?
- Before setting a football match with an opponent team, think about should you do it or not?
- If yes, then how would it help you and your team grow?
- What if you lose the match, how will it affect the morale of your team and fan expectations?
5. Time bound
Time bound in simple words means that your goals should be time specific and should therefore follow a fixed time frame that mentions starting and end time.
Recall the scarcity of time as discussed earlier in this article and apply it here.
- What should be the length of each practice session and how often should it happen?
- How much time in days, weeks or months would you or your team require to develop competitive skills to challenge an opponent player or team?
15 SMART goal examples to practice for self-improvement
Now that you are familiar with the core differences which give SMART work an edge over hard work norms, you can use the following list of 15 SMART goal examples.
By following this list of 15 SMART goal examples, you will learn useful ways of self-improvement and self-growth in yourself with a SMART approach.
1. Walking or working out
- S – The goal is to become more physically active.
- M – 20 to 30 minutes each day.
- A – In the morning, after lunch or dinner.
- R – To keep your body fit and healthy.
- T – 5 days a week.
2. Develop a new skill or interest (for example book reading)
- S – Increase your reading power as well as general knowledge.
- M – Reading 10 pages every day.
- A – Join any book club or download e-books.
- R – Will help in reading assignment reports and understanding them better.
- T – One book every two weeks.
3. Learn to cook
- S – Benefit of eating home cooked healthy food.
- M – Spend just one hour on your weekend, either Saturday or Sunday.
- A – Follow recipe books or watch short duration cooking videos online.
- R – Keep your health in a perfect shape.
- T – Learn a new recipe each week.
4. Spend time with friends and family
- S – To build a strong relationship and get to know each other better.
- M – Call a friend or spend half an hour with a family member on any day of your weekend.
- A – Make a video call or plan an activity together.
- R – Improves your relationship and makes them feel important.
- T – At least once a month and for 12 months. See how your relationships improve.
5. Meditate every day
- S – To relieve your mind and body from stress.
- M – 10 minutes before bedtime.
- A – Alone in your room or in a quiet place by sitting or lying down on your bed.
- R – Clears your mind of unwanted thoughts and soothes your body and soul.
- T – Every day for one month. See how it connects your mind and body.
6. Reduce sugar intake
- S – To reduce weight and maintain energy levels of your body.
- M – Adding only 1 teaspoon of sugar in tea and coffee instead of the usual intake.
- A – Drinking less tea and coffee.
- R – It will improve your body shape and make you look smarter.
- T – Every day for two months.
7. Increase water consumption
- S – The goal is to keep your body hydrated.
- M – At least one glass of water during each waking hour.
- A – Carry a water bottle with you as a reminder.
- R – It will keep your body hydrated, fresh and healthy.
- T – Every day for three months.
8. Plan your each day in advance
- S – To maximize your day.
- M – Divide your waking hours into 30 minute slots.
- A – Assign each slot a task and see if it gets completed within it or not.
- R – Will help you prioritize between important, less important and not-at-all important tasks.
- T – Practice it for two weeks and see how your pending work gets completed.
9. Disconnect from social media
- S – To practically socialize more with your friends and family.
- M – If the total time that you spend each day on checking social media is an hour, fill this time with any other activity.
- A – Delete any of your frequently used social media apps from your phone.
- R – It will increase your focus on important tasks as you no longer stop in between to check your social media posts.
- T – Practice it for 2 weeks and see the difference.
10. Leave any bad habit (for example smoking)
- S – To financially support some good cause.
- M – Making a pack of cigarettes last for more days than before.
- A – Avoiding gatherings and places which promote smoking or remind you to smoke.
- R – Smoking less for better health and to help someone in need with the amount of money saved from not smoking.
- T – Set a fixed amount as a target that needs to be raised within three months from diverting your smoking expenditure.
11. Write your blessings in a personal journal
- S – To create a sense of gratitude within yourself.
- M – Spend 5 minutes each day and express just one blessing.
- A – Keep your personal journal on your bedside table to remind you of it before going to bed.
- R – Being thankful will make you happy and content.
- T – This can be done forever.
12. Learn a new language
- S – The goal is to increase your vocabulary.
- M – Spend 15 minutes each day learning short lessons.
- A – Join a language class, read a self-help book or watch online videos such as grammar tutorials.
- R – Will help you learn new words, increase vocabulary and understand the culture of the native speakers.
- T – Learn a new language every six months.
13. Plan your weekly wardrobe for each day Monday to Friday
- S – The goal is to enhance your appearance and save time spent each day on deciding what to wear.
- M – Take out two hours on a weekend.
- A – Make dress combinations for each of the week. If something is to repeat, take photos of the combinations for a quick recall of the daily plan.
- R – Will save your time by avoiding last minute confusions as you already know how you are looking.
- T – Every weekend.
14. Wake up early
- S – To make use of the most productive time of the day.
- M – Wake up two hours before the sun rises.
- A – Set alarms and avoid snoozing.
- R – Will increase your waking hours and give more time to do more each day.
- T – Do it for one month and see the usefulness.
- S – To pay back to your community and help those in need.
- M – Spend 2 hours on any single day of the week.
- A – Check for any social causes advertised in the local newspaper or offer your help to any needy person that you know.
- R – Will provoke a sense of happiness and satisfaction within you by making other people happy.
- T – Do it for two months or an entire season.
Definitely this list is not all that you can apply SMART criteria to.
Make a list of all the things where you need to make some real and rapid progress.
Then re-evaluate anything that makes you feel bored and think of ways to do it in a better way by deploying the SMART principles.