What did you achieve last year? Can you think of anything specific? It’s easy to move through life, but if you want to achieve something difficult, it’s important to make achievable goals. If they’re too difficult, you might not meet them, and you won’t feel motivated. One way to set achievable objectives is to set SMART goals.
What are SMART goals?
SMART goals are a tool to help you set achievable goals and stay motivated. There are five sections – S, M, A, R, T – that help you focus on what you really want and how to achieve it.
Let’s imagine you want to achieve a B2 level in the Oxford Test of English next year. How can you make goals to achieve this?
Have a look at these SMART goals and examples.
Set numbers and deadlines. This helps you to stay motivated because you have a number or date to meet. Make them simple and significant, so it’s more likely you’ll achieve them.
Examples of this for your test might be:
- I find writing in English difficult, so I aim to achieve a score of 110 in practice tests.
- I find speaking easier, so I aim to achieve a score of 130 in practice tests.
- I aim to get an overall score of 112 in practice tests by September.
Make goals that you can measure. If you meet them, you’ll feel motivated to continue to the next step. Some examples are:
- I aim to complete one complete practice test every month.
- I aim to read two short stories in English every week.
- I aim to listen to a podcast in English for ten minutes every day.
If you make goals that you can’t achieve, you’ll stop trying. Goals need to be difficult, but possible. Make small goals that build on each other towards a bigger, main goal.
- I will learn five new words every week (instead of 50 new words every week, which probably isn’t possible).
- I will write one text every week using five new words and my notes.
- I will complete one practice writing test every week without my notes.
Ask yourself why you want to reach the goals you’re setting, and why they are important to you at this moment in time. Your goals need to be reasonable and realistic so that you want to achieve them and are able to.
Relevant goals for the Oxford Test of English could be:
- I want to teach English, so I need a B2 level of English.
- I would love to travel with work. I need to have a B2 level of English for this.
- I want to study at a university in an English-speaking country, so I need a B2 level.
There is no goal without a time limit. This helps motivate you in the days, weeks or months that lead up to the finish date. If you continue trying to reach a goal for a very long time, you’ll become tired and unmotivated.
Make small time goals that help you reach that final test:
- I aim to achieve a score of 90 in practice tests by May.
- I aim to achieve a score of 115 in practice tests by October.
- I aim to book my test for November.
Use the SMART goals template below to write your own SMART goals. It’s a good idea to write them down and leave them for a few days. Then, have a look at them again to check if you still think they’re relevant and achievable for you.
Do you have any goals for next year? Share your SMART goals in the comments below.
Billie Jago is an ELT writer and teacher trainer, specialising in digital & assessments. She is the founder of the professional development podcast ELTcpd and co-founder of the digital ELT content agency, otterelt.