Child & Family Development Child & Family Development

January 12, 2024


Starting Off the Year with SMART Goals

Written By: Taylor Hoover, LCMHCA

What better time to create goals for yourself than at the beginning of the year? Often times, the most difficult part of goal setting is sticking with your goal. Many of us have already ditched our goals before January ends. If this sounds like you, then using SMART goals can help make sure that you reach those goals!

So, what exactly is a SMART goal? SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable/Attainable, Relevant/Realistic, and Time- bound. SMART goals helps to clarify ideas, focus your efforts, and have a more productive use of time.

S: Specific: Target a specific area for improvement.

M: Measurable: Quantify or identify how you will monitor progress for goals.

A: Achievable: Specify who will do it and how.

R: Realistic: What can be realistically achieved given resources?

T: Time-bound: Specify a target date or general time frame when results will be achieved.

Making SMART goals can be challenging in the beginning, but can make maintaining steady progress throughout the year much easier. SMART goals can help you keep focus and create motivation by monitoring the progress of your measurable goals. It also ensures that your goal is significant and achievable. SMART goals can be effective for children as well! SMART goals can aid in the increase of a child’s confidence in themselves and their abilities. It can teach children how their actions impact their outcomes.

Let’s practice setting our own SMART goal! An example of a goal that is not SMART is to “have a better sleep schedule.” While this goal has great intentions, it may be difficult to achieve until reformed into a SMART goal. In order to do this, let’s first make our goal more specific and break the goal down into smaller goals. To achieve a better sleep schedule, we could go to bed at an earlier time, reduce our caffeine consumption, increase our activity throughout the day, and cut back on technology use in the evening.

Now let’s make our goal measurable! In other words, we need to put some numbers in our goal. We can go to bed by 10 pm, consume 1 caffeinated beverage per day, get 60 minutes of activity per day, and put our devices away by 8 pm.

Next, we need to review if our goal is achievable and realistic. It may not be feasible to get 60 minutes of activity every day. In reality we may have 30 minutes/ 5 days per week. It’s better to modify your goals into something that is achievable and realistic, than to set expectations that cannot be reached. Setting unrealistic goals is typically where we abandon the goals altogether and resort to previous behaviors.

Lastly, we need to set a date for when we would like to see a change in our sleep schedule. Perhaps we would like to see a change by the end of the year. So now our SMART goals looks like the following:

Improve my quality of sleep by the end of the year by…

  • Going to bed by 10 pm
  • Consuming only one caffeinated beverage per day
  • Having 30 minutes of activity/ 5 days a week
  • Putting away my devices by 8 pm

Once you have set your SMART goal, it’s helpful to keep track of your progress. One method of monitoring your progress is through a daily habit tracker. Each evening you can assess which behaviors you completed, and were unable to complete. If you were unable to complete a behavior, I recommend reflecting on what got in the way. At the end of each week, I suggest reflecting on the changes that you were able to make, and notice patterns preventing you from consistency. Remember, it’s okay to modify your goals! Using a daily habit tracker should be simple and shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes of your day. An example of one that I enjoy using is found here (Habit Tracker).

If you are interested in setting and more importantly REACHING goals, please contact me! I am currently accepting new clients. I offer parent coaching where we brainstorm ways that can make parenting easier and more effective for your child’s specific needs. I also help children modify challenging behaviors, such as emotional dysregulation and impulse control.

Now that you have learned how to set and monitor your SMART goals, you can check back on those New Year’s resolutions and look for ways to improve, or adjust them. With the SMART method of goal setting, I can assure you that you will start to see more progress! Happy goal setting!