The Importance of Setting Measurable GoalsMay 10, 2022
You can’t organize your mind. You might start lots of projects without finishing them. Even if you do complete your tasks, you don’t feel like you’ve really achieved anything.
Why SMART Goals are Important
The ideas behind SMART are timeless, however if you simplify complex ideas into simple acronyms a lot is lost. That is why we think it is time to go back to the source, and explore exactly what makes SMART goals smart.
The reasoning behind setting “specific” goals is that we perform better when we know what to do. Think about your to do list. Which are the items that get done quickly and which are the ones that seem to stay on your list forever? If you are like me, something like “Buy a dozen eggs” will get done quickly while “Buy a chicken” might stay on my list for weeks. I have lots of experience buying eggs and can get right on it without much thought. I have never bought a chicken and having lived in the city most of my life I’m clueless about where to start.
There have been several studies that prove this. One study, out of Stanford, created two versions of a reward card for a frozen yogurt shop. The first version offered 1 free yogurt after purchasing any six flavors of yogurt in any order. The second version required ordering banana, apple, strawberry, orange, mango, and then grape in that order to receive the free cup.
The customers given the more specific version of the rewards card were 75% more likely to return to the store 6 times, complete the card and get their free cup of yogurt.
Professors Edwin Locke and Gary Latham have also written about this phenomenon. They found that as we move further outside our own area of expertise we have to engage in more and more problem solving to understand how to approach a goal. This can have negative consequences on our ability to stay motivated and complete our goals quickly.
It is a logical idea. If buying eggs is my goal I can move right to completing it. However if I am tasked with buying a chicken I will first have to engage in some problem solving, starting with my very minimal knowledge of chickens and expanding on that knowledge until I know enough to complete the task. This second process involves a lot discovery and does not always happen in a predictable way. The less I know about chickens at the start the longer and more unpredictable the process of buying a chicken will be.
What are measurable goals?
Measurable goals are important to identify exactly what it is you want to achieve and when the goal has been achieved. Having a measurable goal can improve excitement and motivation because you know when you’ve reached your destination and achieved the goal.
It is important to create measurable goals so you can measure your progress and performance. When you set measurable goals, you can track your progress, celebrate your achievements and improve areas that aren’t performing as well.
Assessing your performance builds excitement and motivation and helps build momentum towards achieving your goal. Having measurable goals gives you the motivation, focus, and accountability to achieve your goals.
The Importance of Measurable Goals
1. Measurable Goals Are Specific
Initially, you had a goal in mind to get fit. However, you cannot really measure anything in this goal. To make it more measurable, you decide to add exercise to your daily routine. It will help you gain stamina, lose the extra inches, and strengthen your muscles.
In this goal, you’re basically measuring how much fitness you want to add to your lifestyle while also making it specific. In fact, you have added more detail this way than you would have if you were trying consciously.
This isn’t any rocket science. Yet, it can be confusing when you’re under the pressure of planning effective goals. So, it’s helpful that simply adding the aspect of measure makes your goals so much clearer and well-defined.
2. Measurable Goals Are Achievable
As previously mentioned, goals that aren’t achievable aren’t goals at all. It is very important to plan something attainable. Otherwise, no matter how well you plan everything and how much you struggle for it, you’ll never reach your desired destination.
There is a fine line between getting unrealistic and going the extra mile. It’s great to want to reach new ends. But sometimes, this ambition can detract you and lead you to something impossible.
For example, it is great if you want to expand your work expertise. Despite working in the sales department for 10 years, you now want to start experimenting in the marketing department as well. Your aim is simply to broaden your skillset.
If you catch yourself in a confusing state like this, focus your attention on making the goal measurable. It will naturally start becoming more achievable too.
So, what you can do is measure how much expertise you want to increase in the department of marketing. A good example of this wanting to play a marketing executive’s role flawlessly by the end of the month. Furthermore, you can decide to utilize the 1-hour lunch break to learn these skills.
Measurable Goals Provide Feedback
“For goals to be effective, people need summary feedback that reveals progress in relation to their goals. If they do not know how they are doing, it is difficult or impossible for them to adjust the level or direction of their effort or to adjust their performance strategies to match what the goal requires.”
In order to track your progress, you need to be able to measure it. Locke and Latham go on to give an example of loggers who are asked to cut down 30 trees a day. The goal is clear; there is no question about the number of trees that they need to chop.
To measure their progress, all they have to do is count the number of trees that they’ve cut. They can’t tell if they’ve reached their target unless they can count the number of trees. This is an easy task to understand.
First, they would have to be able to answer the question, “How many trees is it possible to cut down in one day?” But it’s hard to find a clear answer to that question.
Why is Feedback Important for Goal Setting?
Combining goals with feedback is more effective than just setting goals without measuring them. Feedback drives motivation. When people find that their progress isn’t meeting the target, they’re more likely to increase their effort.
If you’re told to cut down as many trees as possible, will you be motivated to cut down 30? You might come up with excuses. On a day that you’re tired, you might say that it just wasn’t possible to cut down 30 trees.
In this scenario, nothing urges you to put in the extra effort because you can reason why it was only possible to cut down 10 trees. On the other hand, if you are told that it’s possible to cut down 30 trees, and that’s your goal, you can work diligently until you have achieved your target.
Let’s say that you’re given the goal to cut down 30 trees, but you are exhausted one day. You feel like you’re not going to be able to hit your numbers. Researchers say that if you can’t put in the extra effort, you’re more likely to try a different strategy when you have a specific, measurable goal.
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