• Shayna Sheinfeld, Ph.D.

Developing a SMART plan

As academics, we like to think we are smart. And we are, but not always with everything, and certainly not with the never-ending work cycle we set up for ourselves. In this series we have discussed taking stock of past experiences, letting go of the guilt that comes with perceived failure—when often that so-called failure is outside of our control—and you have begun the work to recognize your own worth outside of what academia defines as a "success" or a "failure." Because you were born worthy.

Having spent time on reflection, you are now better positions to establish your goals for the semester (or new year/summer/sabbatical, etc.). These goals should be carefully thought out, and they should, in fact be SMART:

S.M.A.R.T goals:

S: specific

M: measurable

A: attainable

R: relevant

T: time-bound

In other words, your goals should not look like this:

- Finish writing and submit my article on patriarchy in 2 Samuel

But should instead be S.M.A.R.T.:

Today I will:

- Read through my article and make a list of all the things I need to do work on

- For the 5 work days I will: tackle 1-2 items on my list each day for the article (as I adjust to the spring semester teaching schedule)

As you can see from these examples, these goals are SMART:

They are Specific: I know what I need to do today and what I need to do during the following 5 work days.

They are Measurable: Did I accomplish them in the time frame I set out? If no, why not? Was I too ambitious? If so, could I have accomplished more?

They are Attainable: These goals are not overly ambitious, such as “finish article,” but are specific tasks that I can work to attain each day.

They are Relevant: If my ultimate goal is to finish and submit my article, then these specific goals are relevant in order to reach that ultimate goal.

They are Time-Bound: I am only setting goals for the next week or so, and therefore I set smaller goals: make the list, do 1-2 things on the list per day.

These kinds of goals help keep us on track and they help us keep in mind that we have other responsibilities, both at work and outside of work.


If you are anything like I am, you have multiple writing projects going on at once, in addition to teaching, service, and all the things at home. So setting SMART goals isn't only smarter, it is actually the only way I can accomplish anything beyond those items with immediate due dates.

I set SMART goals regularly—once at the beginning of a large block of time (e.g. beginning of the term), and then weekly before meeting with my Writing Accountability Group. It takes time, but it is worth it in order to succeed and not get burned out.

Next week I'll finish up this series by writing about time management/organization.


Portions of this blog originally published at: https://shaynasheinfeld.hcommons.org/2018/09/02/smart-goals/

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