Don't just work hard; work smart

Goal setting
By Eleanor O'Neill, Student Blog

28 August 2017

Goal setting is an integral part of advancing your own career, development and academic success. But are the goals you set truly SMART?

The SMART system of goal-setting is credited in part to Peter Drucker, author of The Practice of Management and his Management By Objectives theory. This checklist of requirements can help you decide which goals are really worth the effort and will pay off for you in the long run.


What do you want to accomplish and how will it benefit you in the long term? Know what your aim is and what you will need to get there - this will make it easier to break your journey to success into smaller, more manageable stages.

Avoid vague ideas like 'I want to move up in the company within two years'. Consider exactly where you want to be and use it as a starting block for the rest of your career progression.


Ensure your goals have a clear metric for success. For example, if you are aiming to manage your own team or department within a year, have a good idea of the skills and development opportunities that will advance you to that level and set out to acquire them.

Without definable steps toward a finish line, goals can easily begin to seem unachievable and damage your motivation.


Be realistic in terms of timeframe and feasibility when considering the level of pressure you want to put on yourself. Big goals need to be thought out in terms of years and not months or weeks.

Do a little research on the level of experience generally expected and consider consulting a mentor to set out an achievable plan.


Make sure that your goals feed into each other. Short-term achievements should always contribute to a long-term target and relate to your overall development. Have a clear and definite positive outcome in mind before setting out towards a goal.


A clear deadline drives productivity and reduces the risk of procrastination or stagnation when pursuing your goals. Have a schedule and work hard to stick to it.

SMART goals are also a common component of appraisals and annual reviews. Work with your employer to map out your targets and see our previous advice on handling these meetings like a pro.


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