Goal Setting for People Who Hate Goal Setting

I used to hate setting goals. As a kid, setting goals meant being prodded to make absurd promises or declarations about a future that to me never seemed terribly distinct (I vividly remember writing “I will never swear” on a piece of paper that was then burned in a fire on a 5th grade retreat. Don’t ask me how that one turned out).

As I progressed in my career as a producer, I came to understand how important goal setting is, especially when you’re working with a team. Goals aren’t magical predictions or promises; they’re a set of shared expectations about what defines success. Delineating objectives, and writing them down, at the beginning of a project helps keep your team working with shared purpose and keeps people accountable to each other and to higher ups.

So where to begin? As I’m still recovering from my childhood goal-setting angst, I like a little structure when it comes to planning. I usually turn to the SMART Goal framework. First developed by a consultant named George T. Duran in the early 1980’s, SMART is a rubric designed to help craft “meaningful objectives,” using the acronym to identify the five qualities shared by (most) goals that spur action. Over time, some letters have taken on multiple interpretations, but in my work, I use: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. These are the questions I ask myself as I approach a new project:

Specific:  What is the exact objective? Can it be broken into smaller, individual objectives that are more discrete?

Measurable: How will the success of the objective be quantified? (Not every goal easily lends itself to quantifiable measurement, but many do.)

Achievable: Can this goal reasonably be accomplished in the time allotted and with available resources?

Relevant: Is this goal pertinent? Does it matter to the mission of the organization, or the larger career trajectory of an individual artist?

Time-Bound: When should this objective be reached? Are there any milestones along the way?

In future posts I’ll delve deeper into some of the individual SMART elements. For now, think about the projects on your plate in 2018. Have you started mapping out your goals for the coming year? I’d love to hear about them – and help you bring them to fruition!