Keep it Simple and S.M.A.R.T.

Continuing our theme of action planning in order to make the most of the remaining three months of the year, I wanted to explore the concept of using S.M.A.R.T. objectives for action planning. Read my end of year action planning blog Welcome October 

S.M.A.R.T. It’s one of those acronyms that is often referred to in articles and workshops about action planning, but what does it mean in practice? My aim with 13 Rhythms is to always make the content of my workshops, blogs and coaching sessions as clear as possible, demystifying commonly used phrases or concepts, without making assumptions about what someone may or may not know, just because I may be well versed in it. It’s all too easy when one works in a sector or industry to forget that there is information we are familiar with that isn’t so transparent to others.

Starting at the beginning – why do we use S.M.A.R.T?

Using the S.M.A.R.T. method is about creating objectives and goals that are clear in their intention and desired result. The clarity of how you communicate your goals to yourself, a coach, accountability partner or mentor, means that you have a clear idea of the actions you’ll need to take to achieve each goal. Using the S.M.A.R.T. framework is about articulating your goals in a way that means you are able to work towards them with focused direction.

So in the spirit of K.I.S.S. (“Keep it simple, stupid!”) I wanted to break down what it means to be S.M.A.R.T. in setting objectives and action planning.


So what is a S.M.A.R.T. objective? Let’s use the example of someone wanting to secure a new job, at a more senior level to the one they have now. How could they create a S.M.A.R.T. objective?

S is for SPECIFIC 

“I want a new job.” vs “I want a management role in the marketing sector.”

The more specific your goal, the clearer the message to your brain about what you’ll need to do to achieve it.


“I want to search for vacancies.” vs “I want to submit five application forms.”

Give your goal a definite point at which the goal is achieved. This action appears to do this. However, there are other elements that we can add to these goals to make them even more compelling. Let’s keep going.


“I want a new job by next Monday.” vs “I want to be in a new job by March 2019.”

Whilst the first goal would be great to achieve, it’s impossible no matter how great a candidate you are! Logistics around job search and recruitment processes means that there will always be an amount of time that needs to pass before one can start a new role. Whilst it may be possible for the process to take place quite quickly, in creating your goal it makes sense to give yourself an achievable timeline.

In setting a goal for a new job, you might want to allocate up to three months – a month from submitting applications to interviews, then a minimum of one month as a notice period, then at least three weeks from an offer being made to an actual start date. It can happen sooner, but this is a realistic and achievable minimum. I’ve gone from submitting an application form to starting a new role in six weeks, but those were very specific circumstances, so it would be unwise for me to plan to this timeline in the future. I’d recommend that you give yourself a realistic time-frame to meet your goals too. 

To ensure your goal is structured in an achievable way, give yourself time to complete all of the necessary tasks that build towards achieving your objective. Crafting your goal is about articulating what you want to achieve in a tangible way, not setting yourself up to fail by giving yourself goals that are unrealistic. Which leads us to…


“I want a new job at NASA.” vs “I want a new job as a marketing manager.”

Unless you have experience in astronautical sciences…this one speaks for itself! Your goal should be based in your capabilities, with some stretch, not unobtainable pipe-dreams. Assuming you have work experience in marketing and have the skills and qualifications that are sought in marketing manager candidates, securing a new role as a marketing manager is a realistic option.


“I want a new job.” vs “I want a new job by March 2019.”

Giving yourself a deadline is going to structure your goal setting and your action planning and will give you a method of accountability. If you set yourself a goal with an unending time-frame there is little motivation, little urgency and little challenge to your mindset to make something happen. The time you give yourself to achieve your goal should be set within realistic – there’s that word again – time-frames.


So using S.M.A.R.T. as the principle for action planning, how do we craft an objective that meets its parameters?

We go from “I want a new job.”


“I want to secure a new role as a Senior Marketing Manager, in a creative firm in Central London, managing a team of five or less, with a minimum salary of £35,000, starting by 31st March 2019.”

This new objective gives you all the specifics that should be featured in a S.M.A.R.T. goal. It is specific in its intention, is clear in what will have happened when you achieve the goal, and requires you to be challenged to work hard towards your goal through the use of a time-bound deadline.

As we look towards the end of 2018, let’s focus on articulating your objectives using S.M.A.R.T. in order for you to plan and implement your actions towards your chosen goal.

All the best to your goal setting! 

Thank you for reading. If you would like to speak about creating and implementing your own dynamic action plan for your career and business development goals, schedule a no-obligation, complimentary Explore call with me here: Speak to 13 Rhythms


Natalie  Freeman


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