+ A Free Goal Planning Guide
Summer is time for rest. It’s time to relax by the water, sprawl out on a picnic blanket, and spend time with loved ones. It’s time to chill!
But as much as summer is great for getting a little rest and rejuvenation, it’s also a great time to get some things done.
How often have you said to yourself, “I’ll get to it this summer when I have more time”? Right? I know I’ve said it too many times to count. Summer can feel like this magical season of endless free time, until it’s August and that free time has somehow come and gone. While we all know the plight of disappearing summer days, we tend to push a lot of things off during the year in hopes we will actually get it accomplished over the summer.
Well, fret not. Getting things done over the summer CAN happen. The key is knowing how to set realistic goals for yourself that you can keep track of. The key is making your goals do the work for you by using SMART goals!
I’m not sure when I first heard about SMART goals, but it was probably in a college course. As an elementary teacher, I'll be constantly setting and tracking goals for my students, and this method of goal planning works across pretty much any field.
So whether you’re setting goals for yourself for the summer or the new year or you’re setting goals for others while you’re in a leadership role, SMART goals are the way to go.
Here’s what a SMART goal is.
Often times our goals can start out pretty vague. They may sound fairly big picture, like “lose weight” or “save money,” but goals that broad are incredibly hard to track and maintain. You could save $1 and meet the vague goal of “saving money,” but I suspect that’s not exactly what you were hoping for.
For example, here’s a list of my summer goals I jotted down before I went back and made them SMART.
While some of them may be narrowed down a little more than the previous examples, they’re still pretty broad. Here’s where SMART comes in. Take a look at one of my updated goals.
I changed a LOT about my initial goal. Let’s talk about the S and M first.
These two points go hand-in-hand. Your goals need to have a clear standard. Rather than “save money,” consider how much money you actually want or need to save and specify the purpose. “Save $50 for art supplies” is moving in the right direction. There is something tangible and motivating about numbers, so be exact! You can measure how well your goal is going when you are able to quantify it in some way.
Saving money is a pretty easy goal to quantify, but what about something like “study more” or “improve my blog”? It may be difficult to quantify what improvement or “more” looks like. You may not be able to put an exact measurement, but you can set a specific schedule for studying each week and for working on your blog.
Narrow in to make your goals more focused. Rather than simply saying you want to improve your blog, take a look at what specific details of your blog you are unhappy with. Is it your traffic? Your email list? Consider what area specifically you want to fix and it will be easier to find a quantifiable standard for it (and therefore follow through).
You can see here that I want to grow my traffic this summer by delivering substantial content with great SEO. Not only do I want to “grow my traffic,” but I specifically want to grow my traffic to 1,000 viewers a month by the end of the summer. That’s measurable!
It can be tempting to let your imagination get the best of you when you make a goal specific by adding quantity. It would be wonderful to have 20,000 viewers a month, but I know that growing my traffic to 20,000 viewers by the end of the summer just isn’t likely. When I considered what specific number I wanted to add to my goal, I had to be honest with my current stance and what would plausibly be attainable.
Don’t get carried away hoping you’ll accomplish more than you will have time, resources, or energy for. Likewise, don’t sell yourself short. Like many things in life, you have to find a happy medium. If you eventually hope to write a novel, don’t settle for only getting one chapter written over a whole summer if you know you can take on more. Sure, it’s progress, but goals are meant to be things we strive for. On the other hand, don’t think you’ll write the entire novel over the summer if you have other responsibilities or goals to devote your time to.
Your goals should matter to you! Why set a goal you have no desire to accomplish? Even in the classroom it’s important to let our students know WHY they are being asked to do certain tasks - and “because it’s on the test” is rarely (read: never) a great answer. Goals should be relevant to our lives in some way or we won’t be motivated to follow through.
Note: Some goals may not feel relevant now but they are relevant for the future, and that’s okay, too! A great way to stay motivated and envision your goals (both present and future) is by making a mood board. Check out a DIY version here!
Obviously, goals need to have a time frame or we will never get around to them. I think that’s why so many of us push things off until the summer to begin with! Even if you have decided you’re going to do something over the summer, set a literal date to accomplish it by and schedule checkpoints along the way, as applicable. This way you KNOW you only have so many days to do it and you can stretch out the work as needed. Pace yourself!
One of my goals this summer is to study for the ESL certification exam. I’m going to look up exam dates so that I can pick a day, mark it on the calendar, and see exactly how much time I have to study. Then I’m going to mark the calendar with specific study nights, non-negotiable times that I will devote to preparing for the exam.
As Antoine de Saint-Exupery said, a goal without a plan is just a wish. Get out your calendar and make it concrete.
Fwew! That’s a lot of information to take in, but you only need to take it one step at a time. Here’s exactly how you can make some SMART goals you will be motivated to accomplish.
Step 1: Jot down a big picture list of goals. I started with a vague idea of what I wanted to get done this summer. Simply take out a sheet of paper or a journal and get it all out (or use this free template!) What broad ideas do you hope to get done?
Step 2: Narrow the focus. Go through each broad idea and flesh it out to more specific details - this is the first step to make it SMART. I like to use the traditional web brainstorming strategy to allow my ideas to branch out into more focused thoughts. What are some specifics about this goal? What is my quantity for measurement? How long do I think it will take me to get this done? Weed out the ideas that are simply too broad and focus on the goals that you can make SMART.
Step 3: Make it SMART. Connect all your bubbles of thought into coherent pieces following the SMART acronym. Write out the details for each category that you just brainstormed about. Here’s an example.
Step 4: Narrow again! Look at all your SMART goals and decide which goals are relevant, attainable, and important enough to add to your to-do list now. Some goals can wait! Some goals would be better accomplished with a larger time-frame or during a different time of the year. Separate your goals into four categories: 1) Now, 2) Soon, 3) Later 4) Someday/Never.
Step 5: Conquer those "now" goals with actionable steps! I like to break my goals down even further into smaller tasks that I can check-off as I go - this makes my goals even easier to measure!
This printable guide I created to use along the way makes planning SMART goals a breeze. You can download it free here! I hope you'll find it hard NOT to keep your goals now.
What are your current goals? Any goal setting tips?
Recent graduate + Wife
+ Kindergarten teacher
+ Coffee lover + Artist
I'm a twenty-something trying to figure out this adult thing and using my spare time to run an art shop on Etsy and write a blog about life, art, education, and travel.