Skip to content

Setting SMART Goals in 2021

  • by

A new year means new ambitions. This is true with most Americans as over 50% of the population creates new year resolutions each January. But, for many their initial ambitions quickly wane and less than 10% actually keep their resolutions for more than a few months. At Em and A Pen, we want to help you avoid being a part of this statistic by setting targeted goals, not “resolutions.” Read below to learn how.

Before we start looking at how to set targeted goals, we need to first look at why resolutions always come up short. Let’s start by looking at the definition of a resolution: “the firm decision to do or not do something.” By nature of this definition, many people view resolutions as one-time decisions to change a behavior in the new year. The result is a generic statement that becomes their resolution, such as “go to the gym more often.”

Now let’s look at the definition of a “goal” which is defined as “the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.” Compared to resolutions, goals are more active processes that involve work toward an intended outcome. This usually leads to a thorough commitment rather than a one-time decision. Now all it takes to find this commitment for your 2021 intentions is knowing how to set the right goals.


The key to setting effective goals is simple when using the “SMART format.” These types of goals include the following characteristics:

  • Specific: Don’t settle with copying your goals from a friend or an online blog. Personalize them to areas of your life that you need to improve and be precise.
  • Measurable: Just like a teacher gives tests to track a student’s progress, you need to do the same with your goals by adding quantitative measures of progress. This could look like “Go to the gym 3 times a week.” This will allow you to easily keep track of your performance.
  • Attainable: It is great to shoot for the stars, but you need to be reasonable and know what you are capable of accomplishing. This might be dependent on numerous factors including available time or other priorities that might interfere.
  • Relevant: When narrowing down which goals to focus on, select the ones that are most relevant to you and will have the most impact on your long-term aspirations. Ideally, your yearly goals should work towards your lifelong objectives.
  • Time-Bound: This might be the most important characteristic of successful goals. Setting deadlines for your goals creates the urgency you need to complete them. To go a step further, consider creating multiple mini-deadlines within each goal to help you stay on track and avoid procrastinating.

Set a Plan

What is a goal without a plan? As we read in the earlier definition, goal setting is an active process that requires hard work to achieve. To do this, you need to create a detailed plan for how you will achieve these goals. This could include specific steps like waking up one hour earlier one day a week to attend an online class, setting up an auto withdrawal from your paycheck to put more into savings, or any other actionable steps. Write these plans directly under your goal so they are connected.

Tell a Friend

Once you have finalized your goals and action plan, tell a trusted friend. Have them to check-in on you every so often to ask about your progress toward your goals. This accountability will help keep you motivated as the year progresses.

Remember, 2020 is in the past and 2021 is wide open with opportunities. Good luck in all your new endeavors!