How To Set SMART Reading Goals… And Actually Achieve Them

S.M.A.R.T Goals

The SMART goal system was created by George T. Doran in 1981. He invented the acronym so it could be used to develop more productive business goals.

Each letter in SMART stands for one aspect of the terms of a goal:

Specific

Measurable

Achievable

Relevant

Time-bound

There have been many variations on this theme where each letter can stand for something a bit different. For example: A-assignable, R-realistic, M-meaningful. Feel free to adapt to your specific program and goals.

We’re going to go through the steps to create your own SMART reading goal and give some tips on how to follow through!

Here’s how to utilize the SMART goal system to achieve your reading goals:

S- Specific

The first letter of SMART is for specific. Your goals must be discrete and narrow. Broad, sweeping goals will get you nowhere. Know exactly what is it you are trying to accomplish.

This is the main goal.

Take your big ideas and make them unique. Create multiple SMART goals if you can’t encompass your entire idea into one sentence.

In this example, be careful not to be too broad. “I want to get smarter, and read more, and talk about books, and understand literature.”

Choose one: “I want to read more books.”

M- Measurable

Measurable is a key point in any SMART goal. It allows you to see if you are actually doing the goal.

Measuring a goal can come in many forms. Counting the number of items or times, percent increases, or counting days in a row the activity was completed are all good ways to measure.

Reading 100 books is much more measurable than ‘more’ books. How many have you been reading? Is 100 actually more?

Using metrics creates concrete evidence that you are reaching your goal.

In this example, writing down the books you read as you complete them will help you measure your success. Try using one of the free book logs on our Free Downloads page.

A- Achievable

Making achievable goals keeps things real. I am a fan of creating ‘stretch’ goals (that’s a whole other topic), but when something is clearly aiming too high, you are not likely to complete the goal.

We want our SMART goals to actually get done. We need to make them reasonable and realistic.

Assuming this goal is for someone who doesn’t read often, 100 books was too lofty of a goal. Instead, we can decrease the number to 24 books. More manageable and more achievable.

Understand where your personal starting point is in relation to your goal. In this example, maybe 24 books in a year seems wildly out of reach. So make it your goal to read just 12 books a year. Don’t compare yourself to others. It’s your goal, not anyone else’s.

R- Relevant

Relevant goals are the only ones we want to create. Why make a goal that has no meaning?

If your goal doesn’t matter to you, it will never be accomplished.

When making a SMART goal, keep in mind the ‘why’ behind it. The motivation to complete a goal comes from a strong desire to get the results.

In this example, changing ‘want’ to ‘am going’ creates a sense of purpose and ownership of the goal. Find your ‘why’ and you’ll be one step closer to reaching your SMART goal.

It is important to personalize your goals. If you are a budding author, reading books from your target genre will be more helpful than just reading any book you pick up. If you are trying to learn another language, reading books in your target language can help you work on multiple goals at a time.

Make your goal matter.

T- Time-bound

Set a time limit for your goal. No open-ended I’ll-get-to-it-when-I-get-to-it goals allowed here!

Create a hard deadline for when the goal will be completed. Make sure this is reasonable and achievable. No one expects you to complete large or difficult goals overnight.

Clear and concise.

Setting a 1 year goal is very common, as are 1 month or 1 quarter deadlines for smaller projects.

Creating smaller, more manageable goals leads to a higher rate of success. Just don’t go too small (I will read one sentence every day), otherwise you won’t be seeing progress and you’ll likely quit.

Find that sweet spot. Goals that take too long can lose meaning and it can be hard to maintain motivation. Goals that are too short are often not challenging enough and don’t create long-term discipline or habits.

If you give yourself too much time to complete a reasonable goal, you’ll put off working on the goal until the last minute. Too little time means you’ll be frantically rushing.

Remember that SMART goals can also be framed by stating how you will do it.

Adding some clarifiers to your goal will help you succeed. For example, stating when or where you will do your goal.

It is important that each of the 5 components be present in your final SMART goal.

It may take some revising to make the complete goal after you focus on each step. Take your time creating your goal and don’t be afraid to make several.

Be creative.

A fun goal will help you enjoy the process.

Work on your goals often.

If you truly want to accomplish your goals, you need to invest time into them. You get out what you put in.

Without regular maintenance and progress, the timelines you have set can easily fly by. Adding a clarifying aspect to the end of a goal will help keep you accountable by stating when or where you’ll work on the goal.

Write out your goal. Then put it somewhere you see every day.

Handwrite your SMART goal on a piece of paper. Hang it on your mirror, put it on your refrigerator, tape it to the front door.

Or take a picture and set it as your phone background. It’s hard to go straight to social media pages on your phone when you open it and remind yourself you are working towards something else.

Record your progress visually.

Try using a habit tracker to mark each day you work towards your goal. Check out our post on Tools to Create a Reading Habit for free downloads of habit trackers and book logs, as well as some additional tips and tricks.

Some goals are already visual. Like building something or writing a certain number of words. But others not so much.

In this example, you could stack completed books in one pile and your un-read books in another. Moving the book from a pile or shelf signifies progress and makes a visual representation of your hard work.

Also, using a bookmark creates a visual sense of progress. Seeing that bookmark travel from page 10 to page 210 is significant. It’ll help you chunk each book into smaller successes.

You’re ready to create your own SMART reading goals!

Use the examples and explanations above to create your own SMART reading goals.

Each goal will be unique, but they will all be worth it.

What is your reading goal? Let me know in the comments below.

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