How to set goals during a stressful time

During a time of stress, it can be easy to lose sight of your short-, medium,- and long-term goals. When we’re in a crisis, we are often living moment to moment just trying to get our most basic needs met.

But in every crisis, after the initial shock of change wears off, we start to adapt. We figure out what we need and where to go. While none of this is easy, the extreme unpredictability starts to go away. We start to find a little bit of a rhythm, even if we know it’s temporary.

If you’re not convinced that setting goals in a stressful time is worth it, we encourage you to read this post. But if you’re ready to rock and roll on your goal planning, you’re in the right place.

When making your goals, you will want to think SMART. This is a commonly used goal-planning technique used around the world and has been shown to have a higher rate of success than non-SMART goals.

And SMART goals don’t mean goals that aren’t dumb. 🙂

Goals that are SMART are:

  • Specific: Your goal should be clear and specific. If not, you won’t be able to tell whether you getting closer to or further from your goal. Specificity also helps with motivation. If you’re not sure what you’re trying to do, then why on earth would you do it? In this part, try to answer the 5 Ws — what, who, where, when, and why.
  • Measurable: How do you know whether or not you’re succeeding? If your goal isn’t measurable, you don’t! And that’s annoying. For this one, put some numbers around your goal, like how much, how many, and how you will know know when it is accomplished.
  • Achievable: This one might seem a little obvious at first, but it’s important to remember. You probably don’t have a goal to grow wings and fly because that it obviously not achievable. (And if you do have a way, by all means go for it.) But sometimes factors we don’t initially consider can end up thwarting our progress or getting in the way of our success. Ask yourself how you can accomplish your goal and how realistic it is based on other constraints like financial factors, etc.
  • Relevant: Does your goal matter to you? We definitely hope so since you’re devoting your time and energy to it. Make sure you feel your goal is worthwhile and that it’s the right time for you. If you can confidently say yes, you are ready to move on to the final checkpoint.
  • Time-bound: Wait, there’s a deadline?? Well, sort of. These shouldn’t be stressful ones, but ones that help keep you focused and accountable. Have you ever had a task to do but knew there was no deadline so you put it off indefinitely — and it may or may not have ever gotten done? Yeah, that’s what we’re trying to avoid here. Ask yourself when you can reasonably expect to achieve your goal, and if it’s a bigger goal with a longer time horizon, make sub-goals with their own deadlines to help you get to the grand prize.

At first you may wonder, is all this really necessary? And in all fairness, different techniques work for different people. But the great thing about SMART goals is that they give you some structure and the beginnings of a plan. It’s easy to say you want to achieve some kind of grand plan some day, but if it’s too broad, where do you start? While your heart may be in the right place, it’s also easy to feel overwhelmed when you haven’t broken things down into doable steps.

Have fun and go crush those goals!

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