Achievable, Ambitious, ADHD or Attention – what does the A mean in SMART Goals?

I hope you are learning from the series of blog posts on SMART goal setting.  The goal setting part of the ADHD coaching process is critical to achieving your goals. Last week, I wrote about setting Specific and Measurable goals.  The A in SMART goals is a little harder to capture because it can really stand for a few different concepts.  I think they all have validity and usefulness for my attention and ADHD coaching clients, but don’t take my word for it.  Keep reading and let us know your input by leaving a comment.

Achievable:  Goals need to be achievable.  Many times, my new clients are frustrated because they have been unable to meet their goals.  As we talk, I learn that their goals are often set in a manner that makes them unachievable.  As you probably know, this can be frustrating.  When looking at your goals, look at them to make sure they are achievable.  If they do not seem achievable, I encourage you break them into smaller steps.  For example, it may not be achievable to get your entire house organized in the next week.  You can, however, get one specific area of your house organized in the next week.

Ambitious:  Your goals need to be ambitious to move you forward in the spirit of continuous improvement.  Without ambition behind the goal, you may not achieve anything new or implement real change with your goal. This may sound counterintuitive to the idea that goals need to be achievable.  I propose that you can meet both aspects as long as you consider both of them.

ADHD and Attention:  I bet this is the first time anyone proposed ADHD and Attention as the A for SMART goals!  If you are setting goals to overcome your ADHD or other attention challenges, be sure that they are addressing the challenges you want to overcome or the behaviors you want to change.

To summarize, you can cover all of the potential A’s by answering the question, “How will the Achievement of this Ambitious goal help me overcome my ADHD and/or Attention challenges?”  What do you think?

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Measure for SMARTer Goals — overcome your attention challenges

In my last post, I talked about how to make your goals more specific.  If you did not get a chance to read it, I encourage you to read that post first.  It will help put your SMART goals into better perspective.

The next element of SMART goals is M – Measurable.  A goal absolutely must be measurable.  When goals are measurable, we objectively know when we achieve our goals.  Without something to measure, you will never know when you reach your goal, or worse yet, when you do not reach it.

When you have ADHD, this element of goal setting becomes even more important.  Distraction can too easily take you away from your goals.  Post your measurement at your desk or put it on your calendar so you have somewhere to focus your attention.  Without something on which to focus, that distraction will keep coming back.  ADHD can also cause you to take on too much at one time.  Measurement has a way of grounding you in the critical elements of a goal.  Again, helping you to focus.

Consider the goal of managing time better.  If you give yourself a goal of managing time better, how will you know when you have succeeded?  You risk being too easy or too hard on yourself.  You do not need to take that risk.  Instead, set a goal that you can measure.  For example, you could set a goal to get to all of your meetings and appointments at least 5 minutes early.  Even if you don’t feel like your goal can be measured, come up with something.  Perhaps a percentage or time frame will help.

Leave a comment with your thoughts about measurable goals, and let us know your questions.

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Set Specific SMART Goals — overcome attention challenges

I often talk about the importance of SMART goals with my attention coaching clients and workshop participants.  Over the next week or so, I’ll cover each component of SMART goals.  Be sure to review each one to set yourself up for success this year and beyond!

As you probably already know, the S in SMART goals stands for Specific.  Even though we know that it means, it can still be difficult to make sure a goal is specific.  When you set your goals, ask yourself these questions to do a specificity check.

For illustration, consider the following examples of non-specific goals:

  • Organize my desk.
  • Get better grades.

Okay, so I made it a little obvious that these goals are not specific.  Take this opportunity to look at these goals and figure out how to make them more specific.

Organize My Desk
Ask yourself how you will know when you have achieved this goal.  Are you looking for the top of your desk to be clear of clutter, do you need to get your junk drawer clean, or do you need to get your files organized?  Think about the end result that you want.  It may be helpful to visualize your goal.  If you can see what it looks like, you have a better chance of making it specific.  A goal such as, “Remove all of the clutter off my desk and keep my desk clear of clutter,” is much more specific than the earlier example of Organize my desk.

Get Better Grades
If a student wants to improve their grades, I encourage them to set specific grades for each class or a specific grade point average for the current or upcoming semester.  A goal of “Achieve a 3.0 next semester,” will give you something more to strive for than simply to, “Get better grades.”  The level of specificity nees to make sense for you.

When reviewing your goals to ensure they are specific, try asking these questions to yourself to help get them as specific as possible.

  • How will I know when I have achieved this goal.
  • What will it look like when I have achieved my goal?
  • How will I be sure I have met my goal?
  • Can I be more specific?

Next post I’ll talk about the M in SMART goals.  Until then, let us know what goals you are working on and how you are ensuring they are specific!

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Goals: Mid-year Tune Up

Corporations often set a requirement for employees to review their goals and career development plans in the middle of the calendar year.  It is intended to maintain focus on goals and help ensure success.  Employees meet with their managers to check in on progress and develop action plans to help them move towards their goals.  When I was working in Human Resources, we called this a “mid-year tune up”.  I like the analogy of a tune up to make sure things keep moving and working properly.

I think the idea of a tune up mid-year is a great idea for everyone and especially for anyone who has ADHD.  If you have a tendency to overcommitt, now is a perfect time to regroup and set the course for a productive close to 2010.  Do you tend to lose focus on your priorities during the year?   Take time to refocus on the priorities that mean the most to you.

Pull out your goals or resolutions that you made for 2010.  They can be personal, family and/or business goals.  Review your goals and first note the progress you have already made.  Take a moment to reflect and celebrate!  This is a step that is easy to skip, but I recommend that you take it seriously.  You need to give yourself credit for what you have accomplished.

Review your goals to see what else you need to put in place to achieve your success.  Identify action steps that you can take in the next week to move you forward.  If due dates have passed, set new deadlines that are more realistic.  Are there any goals that no longer seem relevant?  Get rid of them!  (Decluttering at its best!)  Are there new goals you need to implement?  By formalizing them and setting action steps, you can increase your chances of staying on track and achieving your goals.

Check in with us here and let us know how you will review your goals and plan for success.  We are here to help!  Wishing you a successful second half of 2010.

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