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  • Writer's pictureRyan Wilson

Measuring your SMART Goals

Want to make your life better? How will you know when you’ve succeeded? This is a post for measurement geeks out there!

We’ve talked a lot about SMART goals. They are really important because they can help us turn vague, meaningless, unreachable statements into Specific, Meaningful / Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Time Limited goals.

Without this kind of specificity we can be frozen into inaction and we rob ourselves of any sense of accomplishment or direction.

One problem I’ve experienced with SMART goals is there are only 2 possible outcomes: success and failure. You can put a lot of effort into achieving a SMART goal, but if you don’t hit the target, it’s a failure. Today I want to try and introduce a way of measuring performance on SMART goals that let’s us acknowledge our efforts and give ourselves a grade based on how well we performed. It’s a “simple” adaptation of work done by Bouvend’Eerdt et al.’s excellent work on how to help with rehabilitation patients (2009).


Compare these two statements about a goal many people have:

“I want to lose weight”

“I want to lose 15 pounds by March 1st 2015.

The first statement is very vague, it seems meaningful but there is no clear measurement and no timeline for completion. The second give’s us a clear attainable goal and a deadline. Wouldn’t it be a shame, though, to set this goal, work really hard for the next 3 months, and then after losing only 10 pounds, have to declare that it was a failure?? Does that even make sense!!! You’ve just lost 10 pounds! On the other end, wouldn’t it be useful to measure if the goal wasn’t just a failure, but you got further away from your goal???

So, how are we going to keep score? First of all, this will be most useful if you keep track of all your SMART goals (meaning record all of your goals and keep them in an excel spreadsheet or a binder) because this will help you “keep score” on SMART goal performance on a month-to-month basis. If you’re not that geeky, then this still helps on a goal-by-goal basis, you can just ignore the numbers.

Grading your SMART goal performance

In this grading system you can get a score ranging from -2 to +2.

+2 = Gold Star Performance: I did better than I expected. +1 = Mission Accomplished: accomplished my goal. 0 = Didn’t Make It: but I’ve made progress. -1 = Didn’t Do a Thing: no progress. -2 = Even Worse: I’m worse off now than when I started.

Using our SMART goal of “ Losing 15 pounds by March 1st, 2015” lets set the levels. To make things easier I start by setting my -1 level – doing nothing. Easy, if I do nothing I will not lose any weight. The +1 level is also already set, it means we’ve met our goal. Now I can fill in the blanks. I’d score myself a +2 if I lost more than 20 pounds. I’d score myself at a 0 if I lost between 0-14 pounds. I’d score a -2 if I gained any weight!



+2 = Gold Star Performance: I lost 20 POUNDS +1 = Mission Accomplished: I lost 15 POUNDS 0 = Didn’t Make It: but I lost 1-14 POUNDS. -1 = Didn’t Do a Thing: I lost 0 POUNDS -2 = Even Worse: I’m worse off now and I gained 1 or more POUNDS

You might be asking yourself, why would you give “doing nothing” a score of -1 instead of 0? The reason is simple – doing nothing towards your goal is a choice with negative consequences. You are still stuck in the same place you started!

So, now you can rate your performance on any goal rather than just success or failure. For those of you who are extra geeky (like me) this becomes a very useful tool for measuring your performance month over month.

For example, if you regularly set 1 SMART goal per week, then you can measure how each month compares to others. Add up your total score every month to see how you are doing. At the end of the month, do you have a positive score? That means you are regularly going above and beyond the goals you set. Do you have a score of 0? Excellent, you are meeting your goals. A negative score? Maybe something isn’t working out and it’s time to trouble shoot your goal setting practices.

Using this kind of scoring is a work in progress for me and I realize it’s not for everyone. That said, I’d love to hear any comments or suggestions for improving.

Tweet me if you try it out @kryanwilson!

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