How to be SMART about goal-setting in 2017

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It’s a new year and with it brings endless possibilities and opportunities. It’s a logical point in time to reflect on the year that has been and the year to come. It’s a time to consider what we hope to achieve in the next twelve months. For many of us, we set ourselves goals, challenges and resolutions.

So, it’s 2017.  What do you hope to achieve? Whether you’re a writer, a reader, both or neither… If you plan to set yourself goals this year, don’t set yourself up to fail with vague, general ideas. You’ll only set yourself up to fail.

Using the principles of SMART goal- setting, you can translate the aspirations floating around in your mind, to something that’s tangible and achievable.

What is a SMART Goal?

This is what the acronym stands for:

S- Specific

M- Measurable

A- Achievable

R- Realistic

T- Time-based
The method of SMART goals is commonly used by psychologists, life coaches and personal trainers to help people develop clear goals and provide a pathway to achieve them.

Okay, let’s start with these two goals:

I want to write a novel.

Or, I want to read lots of books.

Great. You want to write a novel and read a lot of books. But how do you get started? Just the idea of ‘writing a novel’ or ‘reading a lot’ makes me feel nervous. They are such vague statements and need to be broken down.

Let’s start with a longer-term, general goal for the year:

I want to write a 60,000-word novel in six months.

I want to read 24 books in twelve months.

Next, we apply the SMART goal approach.

A 60,000-word novel can be further broken down into smaller goals over six months:

Write 10,000 words per month.

Write 2,500 words per week.

Write 500 words per day, five days a week.

Let’s break it down further using the SMART principles:

Specific: Write 2500 words each week

Measurable: At the end of the week word count will total 2500 words.

Achievable: Yes, I will set aside thirty minutes every morning to write 500 words.

Realistic: Yes. I will start writing at six o’clock in the morning before my children are awake.

Time-based: In six months, I can review my progress. I will have a first draft of 60,000 words.

The same principles can be applied to the ‘reading’ goal I used in the example above.

The yearly goal: Read 24 books in twelve months.

Specific: Read 2 books each calendar month.

Measurable: At the end of the year I will have read 24 books.

Achievable: Yes, I will read one book every two weeks. I will set aside thirty minutes every night to read before bed.

Realistic: Yes. I can read approximately 30 pages in 30 minutes. (An average book is about 400 pages)

Time-based: At the end of each  month I can review my progress and adjust my goal if needed. By the end of December I will have read 24 books.

I’ve applied the SMART principles for the development of my own goals this year. I have a busy twelve months ahead and the best way to achieve my goals is to ensure they are specific and trackable. I have clear goals for my fiction writing, my blog and also my Etsy store. I start with general goals and deconstruct them until I have small, weekly (and daily) tasks that I can accomplish. There’s nothing more satisfying than checking off completed tasks at the end of each day!

The SMART method can be applied to absolutely anything. Whether it’s writing  a novel, losing weight or saving for an overseas trip, it can help you form a clear path to achieving your goal.

What are your goals for the new year? What method are you using to keep track of what you hope to achieve in 2017?


  • I have written down my goals but now I have pulled out my notebook 📓 📝 and have written down each principle in it. London is my goal, so that’s specific but didn’t know what to put for measurable. Travelling all over England is my BIG goal, but realistically I need money to get there first. So, unsure of what to write down now!!!! Hahaha! But thanks for the post. It has started me off on something at least! ❤

    • Hi Emmalisa, that’s so great that your aim is to get to London! I’d try and be more specific though. Figure out when you want to go and how much it will cost. Once you’ve got that you can break your goal down even further. For example, say you want to go in twelve months and it will cost $6000 for a 3 week trip. Then your goal is to save $6000 in 12 months to go to London in 12 months. Your monthly goal would be to save $500 per month. You could break it down to weekly as well. You can readjust the timeframe of your goal depending on how much you can realistically save in that period. I’ve used this method plenty of times to help me save money for overseas trips. Hope this helps!! Good luck!

      • Well, depending on when prince harry may marry that’s when I want to go….. I want to be at his wedding….. because it’s a big historical event!!!!!! I’m not sure on how much it will be at this stage because I don’t know when the wedding will happen (even if it’s not Meghan) I still want to be there. Flights are around $1000 and something from Perth. I live close to Perth airport. I really really want to save up for that money but I just don’t have a job. When I lived in Melbourne I always had money, but Perth is a bit more expensive in living – coffee is like $7!!!! So the issue is basically money just to get there and I have a friend in London who said I can stay with her!!!! BONUS!!!!! I’ve noted down most places in my “A list of travel dreams” post…. but I can’t WAIT to get there as I feel I will have MORE to blog about!!!!! Especially if I’m at a “royal wedding”!!!! Eeeeeeee thanks for all your tips. It’s really helpful.

  • That would be amazing, Emmalisa! You’d definitely have plenty to blog about then 🙂 And that’s so great that you have someone you can stay with in London. All you have to do is come up with the flight costs! I guess that should be your first goal… how to get the money! Good luck with it x

  • As a teacher we use these with students all the time. Really powerful for students to take responsibility for their own learning. We regularly check back in class to assess progress on our SMART goals.

    As a new author just planning marketing as well as juggling writing, parenting and the new possibility of returning to work- SMART goals become extra important to keep me focused!

    Thanks for the article, Lauren.

  • Goal-setting would be a great tool as a teacher and it’s good to hear it works for you professionally, but will also be helpful in your personal life too with writing and parenting. Congratulations on becoming a new author and thank you for the follow and taking the time to leave some comments 🙂

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