5 Tips on How to Create SMART Action Steps

“A goal properly set is halfway reached.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

The ability to set goals and make plans for their accomplishment is the master skill of success. It is the single most important skill that you can learn and perfect. Goal setting will do more to help you achieve the things you want in life than will anything else you’ve been exposed to. Becoming an expert at goal setting and goal achieving is something that you absolutely must do if you wish to maximize your potential.

Here are five tips on how to create SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-Bound) Action Steps in order to reach your goals.

1. Create small actions steps that you know you can complete.

Also known as the Kaizen Approach, making small, continuous improvements is more effective in creating a sustainable lifestyle change than attempting large, sweeping actions. Setting action steps that are too ambitious is one of the most common ways we set ourselves up to fail.

For example, if you are feeling apprehensive as you write, “Go to the gym and work out for an hour every day,” there’s a high likelihood that you won’t complete that step. You might want to try “Go to the gym and work out for 20 minutes twice this week.” At this stage, your action step needs to be something you know you can easily complete.

2. Make your action steps specific within a time frame.

Setting unclear, open-ended steps is another common mistake. When you have an end date and are clear about what you are asking of yourself, the action step becomes more doable. For example: “Take a 20-minute walk at least twice a week for a month.” Or,  “For one week, take one two-minute break daily to relax and observe my breathing.”

3.  Revise your action steps regularly.

By setting small, doable steps, you are creating a success track record and building momentum toward your goals. Setting unclear, overly-ambitious steps will only short-circuit your process. But don’t stop with the initial small steps. As you succeed, revise your plan and stretch just a little more. It’s a lot like doing a stretching exercise. It should be a pleasant, enlivening stretch—never a painful experience that you dread. With persistence and small steps, you can accomplish a lot more.

4. Set yourself up to succeed.

Sometimes the action step you think is appropriate is actually premature and there’s another, better one that will set the stage for later success. It can be beneficial to take a little time to educate yourself, gather support, or take a deeper look at what you want to accomplish and why.

Being prepared can make a big difference in how well you do.

For example, say you want to start drinking more water. Instead of creating an action step, “Drink 6 glasses of water a day,” the actual action steps may be, “Find information about the benefits of drinking enough water and buy a refillable water bottle that I like by Saturday, October 1st.” With incremental steps, you have a higher likelihood of success.

5. Enjoy the process as you proceed through your action steps.

Changing your perspective about what success is will help you toward ultimately achieving your goals. If you are moving in the direction you want to go, you are succeeding.

Focus on what you want, not on what you don’t want. Focusing on what you haven’t accomplished or don’t want will only give you more of it. Conversely, focusing on what you have accomplished and what you want will give you more of it.

And remember…be kind to yourself and keep your eyes on the results you desire!

Source: Wellness Inventory Certification Training, 2008