Personal Development Planning - How to Set Objectives & SMART Targets

Personal Development Planning - How to Set Objectives & SMART Targets

Throughout my life, from a young age to adulthood I've had a fairly clear vision in my mind of all the things I want to do and achieve. This has been extremely helpful for me to know what I am striving to achieve and set myself on a path to take actionable steps towards those goals or dreams. While in reflection I think this has been key to some of the personal and professional successes I've seen in my life, I know that this isn't necessarily the same for everyone and that it can be hard to think about, visualise and break a goal or objective down into specific, measurable actions to be taken as next steps. 

I know from professional experience working in government and multi-national organisations that defining a clear personal development plan and writing this down can really help you to set clear goals and objectives, think about and outline a high-level plan to achieve these targets. Personal development plans usually involve defining what your short and long term objectives are. This is typically done on a near term, i.e. 12 months, and a long term, i.e. 2-5 year, time horizon. The best way to set these objectives is essentially by thinking about the age old interview question of 'where do you want to be in 12 months?' and simply writing that down. It's important to consider your situation in this as it's pointless in saying you want to be the CEO of your company if this is well outside your reach. So consider your current state situation and think about what's a realistic place to be in 12 months. This might simply be closing gaps in your knowledge, skills or experience or having completed a training course that was time bound and are now in a position to apply that new capability. 

Your longer term objective should be bold and ambitious. Ensure you still consider your current situation but this time set a longer term objective which for example will set you on a path to what you really want to achieve. Great examples of this might be specifying a named role within your organisation that represents a promotion and step up in responsibilities. Or alternatively, to have made a transition to a new industry, bigger or better organisation. Or from a personal perspective having commenced or completed a major change in your personal life such as entering a long term relationship, being married or having children, having travelled to multiple countries etc. 

Once you've established your short and long term objectives, check back end ensure that both of these objectives are aligned to each other. For example it's much more powerful if your short term objective sets you on your path towards your long term goal if the two are working together. That being said it's not the end of the world if you have multiple objectives you want to strive for, in fact this is great because it will mean you're considering your circumstances broadly and see that you want to achieve many things in your life. It will simply mean you'll need to set clear goals and actions for both parallel objectives to ensure you're making progress towards both. 

From here, you'll need to start breaking these objectives down into specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound (SMART) targets or goals. What this means is that your targets, goals or milestones you're setting along the way to your objectives must be clear, concise and specific (instead of vague) to what you want needs to be done. Measurable means that the target must be quantified so that you can clearly demonstrate that you've achieved the goal once done, e.g. 'I want to start running to work' is specific but not measurable, instead 'I want to start running to work and do this at least 3 times every week for this year' is a much more measurable target. In this example, I know what I need to do and I can clearly measure and track whether I'm achieving my goal of at least 3 runs to work per week. Alternatively, this could be based on the number of kilometres I want to run or the time I want to be running each week. Attainable is simple, it must be something that is reasonable for your circumstances, i.e. Don't say you want to run to work 3 times a week if you live 30km from your workplace and have only ever run up to 5 kms in your life. This isn't a reasonable goal to set yourself, so be nice to yourself and set something that's attainable for you. Relevant is important and I think this really links back to those objectives I was describing earlier. It's important to ensure any goal setting that you're doing is relevant to what your trying to achieve overall or where you're aiming to be... Your dreams. Don't set goals that aren't contributing to your overarching objectives, dreams or plans. Relating this back to my running example, don't set a running goal if you're a swimmer and want to get to the olympics for swimming. Set a goal which gets you into the pool practicing and building up fitness that contributes to your objective. Lastly, time-bound is extremely important as this helps you specify and track your goals in time allowing you to set your short-term objective then break your goals down into monthly, weekly, daily steps or actions that progress you towards your goal. Setting these interim milestones out on a calendar or planner is a great way for you to visualise your incremental milestones and celebrate success along the way as you see yourself achieving progress towards your personal or family goals.

Thanks for reading, check back in with us again soon for more insights. 

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