Make your goals SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely

Students create 'goal posts' to give themselves a visual reminder.

So how are those New Year’s Resolutions coming along? Getting lean? Eating clean? Reducing, reusing and recycling? Managing the stress caused by not keeping your New Year’s Resolutions?

If only it were as easy to keep them as it is to make them. Although I have been known to say “I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions,” there are actually some lurking around the depths of my psyche collecting cobwebs. Most of them I do not care to share, in order to preserve my sanitized image, but there is one resolution I would love to tackle: I want to be a morning person.                      

I have come to accept that some people are early birds and some people are night owls.  I’m a night owl who wants to get in touch with my inner early bird. Morning people seem to have more patience, are less stressed out, and are more productive. They seem more cheerful too. Maybe it’s because they absorb all of the available sunlight. Try as I might, I can’t seem to make it out of the dark side. I have no excuse as to why I can’t because I know how to set attainable goals. I do it with my students all the time with great success.  

Right after my students go back to school after winter break and before mid-term exams, we work on goal setting. This year I had them make “Goal Posts.” This consisted of setting three academic goals, one extracurricular goal, and one personal goal. Once the goals were in place, we hunted through my enormous mountain of old magazines for visual representations of their goals. On a poster board, the students glued their pictures and wrote out their goals and hung them in their bedrooms. Now they have a fun, daily visual reminder to keep them on track.  

After the Goal Posts are made, students pick one goal to work on. Take the ever popular, “write in planner everyday” for instance. A student who never writes in her planner is going to suddenly produce a detailed account of all her assignments on a daily basis. That’s where SMART goals come into play. A SMART goal is kind of a template for successful goal setting.  

S-specific - answer who, what when, where, and why; break into smaller steps

M-measurable - establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the goal

A-attainable - plan your steps and establish a reasonable time frame

R-realistic - a goal must represent something you are both willing and able to do

T-timely or time bound - set within a time frame to create a sense of urgency


To use my early-bird goal as an example, instead of setting my goal as “getting up earlier,” which I know won’t work, I would try this:

Goal: Be out of bed by 6:45 every weekday. I will work toward this goal by getting up 15 minutes earlier each week for six weeks. Each time I add 15 minutes, I will also go to bed 15 minutes earlier in order to get enough rest.  

For the student who wants to write in her planner:

Goal:  Write all homework in planner every day by spring break. First, begin with a more attainable goal of writing in planner 3x a week for two weeks, then increasing to 4x a week, etc. Create a memory cue or reminder to write in planner, such as setting the phone alarm (on vibrate) when there are 5 minutes left of class.

Do you have any resolutions you want to be SMART about? Give this technique a try and let me know how it goes.  


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