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How to Set SMART Goals

Julie Harris, RDN |

At this time of year many of us think about setting new goals. And although we all have long-term goals, like living healthy, or saving for retirement, the key to seeing outcomes is breaking goals down into smaller, more measurable goals. That’s when SMART goals are in, and resolutions are out. Using SMART goals will set you up for greater success and give you better outcomes.

What are SMART goals?

SMART goals are:

  • Specific – simply written and define exactly what is being pursued
  • Measurable – tangible evidence that the goal has been achieved
  • Action-oriented – attainable through one’s own actions
  • Realistic – goal is doable
  • Time-bound – realistic time frame

Many people that use the SMART goal strategy find it easier to stick to their plan.

What’s an example of a SMART goal?

A SMART goal example is: “I will go for a 20-minute walk every day after lunch for the next 7 days.”

Another SMART goal is: “I will track my blood sugar in BlueStar 1 time a day for 5 days.”

These goals tell you what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it. Goals designed like this make it much easier to measure results. And seeing results means you stay motivated.

How to Set SMART Goals:

First, start with setting specific and measurable goals.

Ask yourself the following questions:

Question

Example Goals

How much?

30 minutes of walking

1 serving of vegetables

2 blood glucose checks

15 minutes of reading

How often?

4 times a week

1 time a day

3 times a week

When?

After lunch

Wake up early

After Dinner

Where?

Around the office building

In the kitchen

At the park

Example SMART goal:

Walk 20 minutes after lunch, around the office building 3 times per week.

Focus on Goals that are Action-oriented

Another important component to achieving your goals is to take action. Create goals that put you 100% in control through your own actions.

When drafting your SMART goal, think of actions that you can do. For example, if your overall goal is to eat healthier, your goal should focus on activities that you can do, like bringing your lunch or planning your meals.

Sometimes goals that are specific and measurable aren’t action-oriented. For example, if you want to reach 7.5% A1C or reduce your blood pressure, both are specific and measurable, but not 100% under your control. Individuals with diabetes may have specific long-term goals but in order to reach these outcomes, use the SMART goal strategy to break them down.

Examples of action-oriented goals:

  • Practice yoga at home 15 minutes a day three times a week using Youtube yoga videos.
  • Check blood sugar levels before and after 1 meal a day for 5 days.
  • Plan and prepare 3 meals for the week on Sunday for 4 weeks.

Creating Realistic and Timely Goals

It’s important to set goals that are realistic and sustainable for you. Only you can determine this. Setting goals that are too easy won’t keep you motivated long term. And setting goals that aren’t attainable is frustrating. Lean on others to help you set realistic goals but ultimately it’s up to you.

Removing Roadblocks

Although not part of the SMART goal acronym, an important part of figuring out your goals is to think about potential roadblocks. Think about what you need in order to stick to your goals.

Here’s an example:

Your long term goal is to lower your A1C to 7.5%. You’ve tracked your meals for the past 2 weeks and something your dietitian noticed was you skip breakfast, eat a small lunch, and then eat a large dinner and snack until bedtime. Discussing this with your dietitian, she recommended eating more consistently to help your stabilize your blood sugar.

Your SMART goal is to eat breakfast each morning before you leave the house for work.

Thinking about what gets in the way of breakfast, you know it’s hard to make breakfast each morning and it also takes time to eat.

In order to achieve your SMART goal, you’ll need to plan breakfast the night before and wake up 15 minutes earlier.

Beyond New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s resolutions don’t often last because expectations are high and goals aren’t well designed. It’s important to remember what’s important to your personal long-term goals, not just what is trending right now.

The information we provide at welldoc.com and welldoc.com/blog is not medical advice, nor is it intended to replace a consultation with a medical professional. Please inform your physician of any changes you make to your diet or lifestyle and discuss these changes with them. If you have questions or concerns about any medical conditions you may have, please contact your physician.