Setting SMART3R Goals
After you set a goal, one of three things happens: you achieve it; you fail to achieve it; or you can’t tell whether you’ve achieved it or not. We have all seen our fair share of unrealistic or un-measurable goals, and by now most of us have seen more than one framework like the “SMART” goals promoted.
If you think you know all about SMART goals, you may find the Wikipedia entry interesting—the acronym unpacks in several different ways. But at least they are all variations on a consistent theme: SMART goals are crisply defined and reachable. Good so far.
Today’s topic is not setting goals smartly. This is about smartly reflecting on the goals you set. I have often seen education systems—schools, districts, parochial school systems, charter operators—set Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Reachable, Timely goals…and completely forget about those goals when the time is up. As a national system, we just did that this past year: all students were to be ‘proficient’ by spring 2014, remember? (Actually, this perhaps was not quite a SMART goal; call it a SMUT goal.) There was a huge national conversation when the goal was set; when the time was up, we all sort of pretended it had never happened.
When I was young enough to care about how fast I could run, I used to set goals: I would run a set number of laps on a track, each on a certain time. The first track workout of the season, I would set a very comfortable goal pace and then try to run each repeat at or faster than that pace.
And here is the key: I would record the lap-times on my handy watch, then go home and enter all the data into a spreadsheet (yes, I am a nerd.) I would then calculate the difference between my actual times and the goal—that is, I REMEMBERED what my goal was, and considered my actual performance relative to it. I would note whether I had been fastest at the end, suggesting I had taken it too easy in the first laps, or gotten slower at the end, suggesting I had started out too fast. That is, I REFLECTED on how and why my actual performance differed from my goal. Whether or not I had met my goal, I would set a new goal to something very slightly faster than the actual average—that is, I REVISED my goal based on reality.
If you happen to be leading (or, God help you, attending) a PD on SMART goals anytime soon, consider adding 3 R’s—REMEMBER, REFLECT, REVISE—and make your SMART goals SMART3R.