We recently talked about obstacles found while using the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-Bound) method for all goal setting, and some non-traditional alternatives. Today, we’d like to share additional approaches that may work better for you than SMART. Choose what works best for your individual goals – you don’t have to stick to just one method for all your goals. As with SMART goals, none of these methods work perfectly for everyone and every situation. Determine what works best for your personality, needs, and types of goals.
CLEAR (Collaborative, Limited, Emotional, Appreciable, Refinable)
CLEAR goals work particularly well for group goals, as collaboration plays a major part. Thy this method for your workplace, family, friend group, or volunteer organization.
- Collaborative. Is everyone involved who needs to be? Do you have buy-in from individual members of your group and do they understand the goal and how to get there?
- Limited. What time and financial boundaries affect achieving this goal? It’s critical that time and financial boundaries are considered when first setting a goal. Otherwise, you are hoping things will change, rather than planning for what you have. This can set you up to not achieve the goal before you even start planning.
- Emotional. Is everyone emotionally invested, and do they understand why this is an important goal for the group? If one individual doesn’t understand why this is an important goal, it may be more difficult for them to finish tasks on time and make progress.
- Appreciable. This is one of those methods were it’s important that you can measure progress. When working with a team, finding a way to measure progress helps everyone stay accountable.
Refinable. Can you make adjustments as you go along? Perhaps you do get extra money from a grant or big donor, or an additional team member to take up some of the slack. Or you may lose money or a team member. Whatever happens, ensure that you can refine your goal as time progresses. There’s nothing wrong with adjusting your goal to accommodate changes in your circumstances.
PACT (Purposeful, Actionable, Continuous, and Trackable)
PACT focuses more on effort than results. You track progress toward achieving a goal and creating new habits. This method works very well for long-term goals because you are emphasizing growth over short-term goals. This is particularly useful if your goals are creative or have a lifelong goal or dream. PACT goals work particularly well for people with ADHD or other neurodivergences.
- Purposeful. Why did you set this goal? Does it speak to your values? For more information about finding your “why,” read "Setting Goals: What's Your Why?".
- Actionable. Act today to avoid “procrasti-planning.” It’s easy to over plan by focusing more on creating than working the plan. Instead, what can you do now to make progress on this goal? Don’t allow yourself to overanalyze it to the point you get paralyzed and take no action at all. What can you do now to move forward on this goal? PACT encourages us to experiment, to discover what works best for us individually. It can also be better for your mental health, as it allows for trial and error rather than having to do it perfectly the first time.
- Continuous. We can avoid "choice paralysis" by immediately taking action. Stop overthinking and fearing the unknown. Instead, get started and see what works by continuously acting on your plan. This is how you learn how to do better next time.
- Trackable. PACT is great for improving mental health and overall wellness. You’ll feel accomplished based on effort and progress, not final outcomes. If your life is a bit chaotic, this is extremely helpful and motivating.
WISE (Written, Integrated, Synergistic, Expansive)
If you are setting multiple goals, try the WISE method. Each goal is separate, but you plan goals so they are working together to help create your better future.
- Written. Have you written down your goals on paper, or do you have them stored digitally where you easily access them? However you track your goals, ensure that they are easily accessible to you – in a paper or digital planner, audio recording, main goals hanging on your fridge – whatever works best for you.
- Integrated. Do you have goals sets for different parts of your life? Makse sure they fit together. If your goals at work require more time spent in the office but your goals at home require more traveling and time with family, those goals sets may conflict with each other often.
- Synergistic. Do your goals work together or is there a conflict. Chances are, you won’t be able to save an extra $10,000, pay off $20,000 in credit card debt, and take four cruises next year. I’m not saying it’s impossible but trying to reach all these goals at once could set you up to achieve none of them.
- Expansive. Are you challenging yourself enough to stay motivated? It can be difficult to walk that fine line between challenging and very difficult. If you find your goal isn’t motivating you enough, rework it so that it’s a bit more challenging – but not too much. If you reach your goal early, can you add to that goal while still working on your other goals? Be realistic, but also stretch yourself a bit.
WOOP (Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan)
WOOP was originally designed for young people but works great for anyone who tends to self-sabotage. This method works particularly well for those who have various mental illnesses, such as anxiety and depression.
- Wish. Is your wish (goal) feasible? You want to challenge but not overwhelm yourself. People living with a mental illness often want to do so much at once, but get easily overwhelmed and paralyzed, unable to take action. Be kind to yourself when setting goals.
- Outcome. What is best possible outcome of reaching your goal? Perhaps you set an attainable goal that you still had to work for, and you achieved it earlier than expected. That’s great! Now you can decide if you want to raise the bar on that goal or spend time working on another goal.
- Obstacle. What inner obstacle could stop you? Self-doubt often plays a big part in stifling our potential to reach our goals. You may have more tangible obstacles, like working two jobs or taking care of a special needs child. No one knows what’s in your way better than you.
Plan. How can you overcome the obstacle? Track your habits, write in a journal (or record for your audio journal), do your best to carve out a little time each day for yourself. Break goals down into micro-goals that can be done in fewer than 10 minutes, and you will see progress.
These are just some of the alternatives to the SMART method. If you search the internet for “alternatives to SMART goals” you will find even more. Remember, the SMART method is still a valuable tool and works well for many people and goals. Now that there are so many options, you can pick and choose what method works best for you and each goal, or apply the same approach to all your goals. As always, you know what works best for your circumstances. You might be surprised how thinking differently about your goals helps you achieve them.
If you are working on goals of any type, we recommend our Achiever Planner II. Available in two sizes Undated A5 Planner and Undated B5 Planner in several colors, it has everything you need to envision, track, and review your goals no matter what method you use!
Non-Traditional Alternatives to SMART Goals
Setting Goals: What’s Your Why?
Coping with Goal-Setting Anxiety