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How to succeed at mom goals? Use SMART goals

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This post includes a step-by-step workbook to help you design successful mom goals. Get your copy by signing up at the end of this post!


We’ve all been there—setting mom goals that don’t work out.

Frustrating, right?

It isn’t easy to align our lives with what matters most. And that’s where a goal setting system can be super helpful.

In this post, we’re going to focus on one particular approach—SMART goals—and explore how this actionable goal setting framework can help us build better lives as moms.

And here’s the added bonus.

The SMART system can be used for any personal or professional goal, whether it’s improving our parenting, achieving a work objective, or taking better care of our health.

We can liken SMART goals to a bridge—the framework that will get us, plank-by-plank, from where we are now to where we want to be.

And the stronger the bridge the better!

In this post we’ll cover how to build a robust goal—one that can withstand life’s inevitable wear and tear—using a 5-step SMART goal setting process.  

Ready to learn more?

woman jumping in the air overlooking a lake and forest with text overlay stating: "How to succeed at Mom Goals SMART goal workbook included

Step 1: Successful mom goals start with your priorities

We generally have lots of things we’d like to work on. However, it’s best to tackle one aspect of our lives at a time.

As you likely know all too well, taking on too much is a sure and fast way to get nothing done—or at least nothing done well.

So, start the mom goal setting process by identifying which area of life you’d most like to address right now.

Perhaps you already have a good sense of what’s most important to you such as increasing your energy level, being a more patient mom, or feeling less overwhelmed.

But what if you don’t know what to focus on first?

Scrabble pieces arranged in a pyramid with P single square at top then letters "R" and "I" below and so forth spelling the word "prioritise"
Photo by Brett Jordan

How to choose a top priority area

If you find yourself uncertain of what to prioritize, try thinking about what you’d most like to change in this current season of life.

To explore this, find some uninterrupted time to think about your best self and best life.

What picture comes to mind? What are you doing? Who is with you? What do you feel like?

If this exercise generates multiple priority areas—ask yourself which one you’ll act on first.

Then check in with yourself to ensure you’ve chosen something truly important. This should be an area of your life that excites you enough—or that’s bothersome enough—to address now.

We moms have limited time and energy! So, we want to choose something that’s both motivating and meaningful.

Once you’ve whittled your choices down to a single top priority area, you’re ready to move on to step two.

Step 2: Choose actionable mom goals

Goals need to be actionable. This means they involve a behaviour—something you or an outside observer can see or hear.

Actions are things we can do and that can be measured.

To see how this works—let’s return to the priority of “increasing your energy level.”

We can’t “do” having more energy. Nor is having more energy easy to observe or measure, at least not in the short term.

But exercise—a related behaviour to help us get more energetic—is something that we can do, measure, and observe on a day-to-day basis.

Exercise either happens or it doesn’t.

This is an important distinction because without actionable mom goals—goals linked to behaviours—we can’t expect our lives to change.  

So, with the idea of an actionable goal in mind, ask yourself: what’s an associated behaviour that’ll help turn my vision of a better life into reality?

The answer to this question will form the foundation of your mom goal.

Returning to the earlier examples, your answer could look something like this:

  1. Increase my energy level -> exercise more
  2. Be a more patient mom -> read about ways to get cooperation at home
  3. Feel less overwhelmed -> declutter the house

If you come up with multiple potential behaviours, try starting with just one for now.

For example, if you’ve come up with three behaviours that’ll increase your energy level (e.g., exercise more, include more protein at meals, and learn about healthy sleep habits), start with the most personally appealing activity. Your chosen behaviour should also be doable with the resources (e.g., time, energy, finances) you have at hand.

Once you’ve completed this step, you’re ready to move on to refining your mom goal using the SMART goal framework.

Overhead shot of woman's hands holding pen and writing a mom goals list on a notepad
Photo by Anikona

3. Design SMART mom goals

Once we’ve chosen a behaviour, we now need to refine it.

Let’s return to the example of exercising more so you can increase your energy level.

The problem here is “exercising more” is rather broad. And without hammering out the details, we’re at risk of making little progress towards increasing our energy level.

And that’s where the SMART goal setting framework comes into play.

SMART is an acronym that guides us to designing a robust mom goal—one destined for success. Each letter in SMART stands for part of the process:

  • S=Specific
  • M=Measurable
  • A=Attainable
  • R=Relevant
  • T=Time related

While variations exist on what each letter stands for, the basic gist of SMART goal setting remains the same: make small, measurable, and doable changes that are action-oriented, within a defined time period, towards a meaningful and realistic endpoint.

Wow, that’s a mouthful—and why having an acronym helps!

With that brief intro to the SMART goals out of the way, let’s look at each of the SMART acronym components, one at a time.

Specific

We need to be crystal clear on what our mom goal entails.

Returning to the “exercising more” example, this is a vague goal.

But we can make this behaviour more specific by asking questions. These queries include the —what, where, when, and how long/how often—as they pertains to our goal.

For example:

  1. What type of exercise will I do?
  2. Where will I exercise?
  3. When will I do it?
  4. How long will an exercise session last?
  5. How often will I work out?

After going through these steps, our vague mom goal of “exercise more” can be transformed into a highly specific goal: “I will walk in my neighbourhood or on my treadmill three times a week for 20 minutes in the morning.”

We can now also write these details down into our calendars—and hopefully by doing so, turn these walking sessions into non-negotiable events.

If you find yourself torn between options—such as attending a fitness class or walking—choose the most doable and enjoyable activity for you as life stands now.

This isn’t about finding the “perfect” activity or one that you think you should do.

So, trust your instincts on this one, mama!

Woman' holding up glasses that allow viewer to see the trees rather than a blur to represent getting specific and clear on your mom goals
Photo by Bud Helisson

Measurable

You want to know, without doubt, whether or not you’ve carried out your goal-related behaviour.

This requires having something to measure.

By getting crystal clear in the last step—including answering how often/how long you’ll exercise—you’ve already checked this box.

To recap, the goal designed for “exercise more” includes walking for 20 minutes, three times a week.

At the end of the week, you’ll know whether or not you’ve achieved this goal. In fact, you can easily check off the days you walk on your calendar or on an online tracking app.

And as an added bonus, tracking these well-defined, easy-to-measure behaviours helps keep you motivated and on a path to success.

flexible measuring tape on a white surface to symbolize measurable SMART goals
Photo by Siora Photography

Attainable

We’ve all been there—disappointed after biting off more we can chew. It’s hard to go small when we want fast results.

The problem is, starting off too big is hard to sustain in the long run. Life happens. Our motivation wanes. And before we know it, our all-or-nothing approach has slipped towards nothing and we’re back to square one.

Or even worse, we’re beyond frustrated and father away from our mom goal than when we started.

So, what’s the antidote to this?

Making bite-sized goals. It’s easier to chew one small piece at a time rather than a mouthful of food. And goals are no different.

So, set yourself up for success by breaking bigger mom goals into smaller well-defined pieces.

It’s also important to consider your current circumstances before setting a goal.

More specifically, do you have the information, equipment, and support you need to move forward on your mom goal right now?

For example, if you’ve decided to walk daily, do you have the equipment (i.e., appropriate footwear, rainy weather gear or indoor walking space), and needed support (e.g., someone to watch your kids as you walk)?

If you plan to walk in the mornings, will you be able to get up in time? Or do you need to design your environment for success such as setting an alarm or going to sleep in your walking gear?

It’s also important to consider any upcoming obstacles such as vacations, visitors, and heavy work weeks—all of which can derail even the best laid plans.

So, pre-planning is super important when it comes to designing attainable mom goals. It’s an essential strategy to stopping life’s inevitable little—and big storms—from getting in the way of goal success.

woman's hands holding running shoes in front of a field to represent having the resources you need when setting mom goals
Photo by Kristian Egelund

Relevant

We want our goal to match what’s most important to us. This circles back to ensuring we start the mom goal setting process with a vision of our best selves and/or our best life. 

For example, if getting physically active isn’t a high priority, then setting a walking goal isn’t a good fit.

It may seem like a reasonable goal based on what others are doing or what is expected of you. But unless the goal is personally meaningful to you, you’re not likely to see it through.

The same goes for choosing an activity you’ll enjoy doing. If you hate walking, there’s little chance you’ll stick with this activity in the long run.

Motivation naturally waxes and wanes, as does willpower. So, choose a mom goal that’s meaningful and enjoyable to you rather than an activity you think you should do.

Time limited

We want to make our mom goals time bound.

Deadlines help keep us on track. Goals also seem more manageable when there’s an endpoint in sight.

So, set a start and end date for your actionable goal.

For example: “I will walk in my neighbourhood or on my treadmill three times a week for 20 minutes in the morning for the next week.

Setting a deadline doesn’t mean you’ll stop your goal-related behaviour at the check-in point.

Rather, what a time bound goal does is chunk your mom goal into more manageable bites.

Setting a time limit also prompts you to assess your progress and decide whether goal tweaking is required. This is an essential step as it’s rare to design a perfect SMART goal from the get-go—especially one that’ll work for us indefinitely.

And there’s a lot of learning that happens along the way. We want to use this knowledge to shape our mom goal and fuel ongoing success.

For example, if you;’re struggling to meet your original goal, then try scaling it back. Getting additional information or support may also help.

The same goes for goal success.

If you’re finding you can too easily meet your goal, it may be time to scale things up.

We want our mom goals to be doable but not so easy that we don’t grow in the process.

calendar for 2021 on iPad along with clock and notepad and pen on wooden surface
Photo by @ksenia_she 

Step 4: Craft a goal action plan

Once you’ve created a SMART goal, it’s time to get all the details into an action plan.

An action plan is a document that clearly outlines your mom goal including all the specifics needed for goal success.

I suggest including the following goal-related details. These are specifics that you’ll have already determined from the steps above:

  • What
  • Where
  • When
  • How often
  • How long

Change is hard and requires work!

With this in mind, finish off your goal action plan with ways to keep yourself on track. For example, is there a trusted someone who can encourage you along the way?

Also consider rewarding yourself once you’ve reached a goal milestone. But make sure that your chosen reward supports rather than sabotages your goal success.

For example, if you’re working towards a healthier diet, consider rewarding yourself with a cookbook or a new kitchen appliance rather than an “eating cheat day.”

Once you’ve completed your action plan, post the document somewhere you’ll see it often.

And don’t forget to check in on your goal progress on a regular basis—making changes as needed to help ensure goal success. For example, if you’ve committed to walking three times a day for a week, check in in on your progress in 7 days’ time.

As noted above, this doesn’t mean you’ll stop doing your goal-related behaviour after the check-in point. But you may decide to scale your mom goal up or down—or add in another vision-congruent behaviour.

Step 5: Do a confidence check

We can identify something as a problem—an issue bothersome enough to take action on—but not be ready to take steps to change it now.

It’s also possible to really want to change something but not have the information, time, energy, or needed resources to see our mom goal through.

So, before you get cracking on your SMART goal, pause to ask yourself how confident you are—on a scale of 0 to 10—that you’ll see your goal through.

If you score below a 7, ask yourself: what can make me more confident?

For example, would cutting the mom goal in half to make it more manageable? Do you need more information or support?

If, despite goal tweaking, you can’t budge your score to a 7 or higher, it’s time to repeat the process above until you can be at least 70% confident you’ll achieve your SMART goal.

And if you’re score is greater than 7, great! You’re ready to put that goal action plan to work.

Woman jumping in the air on a walk in a grassy hilly area symbolizing setting mom goal that are doable and exciting
Photo by Peter Conlan

Actionable mom goals are within your reach!

Congratulations! You’ve made it through the 5-step goal setting framework.

At this point you should have a good sense of how to set a SMART goal, starting with a top life priority and ending with an actionable goal plan you’re confident you can see through to the end.

To recap the steps:

  1. Start with our top priority
  2. Set a related actionable goal
  3. Design a SMART goal
    • S: Specific
    • M: Measurable
    • A: Attainable
    • R: Relevant
    • T: Time limited
  4. Craft a goal action plan
  5. Do a confidence check

Setting effective mom goals can be hard—harder than we often think.

It takes work to design goals destined for success. So be kind to yourself and don’t forget to celebrate the victories along the way—no matter how small.

And remember that by learning the SMART goal setting framework, you’re already well on your way to mom goal success!

Woman's hand holding a piece paper saying "you've got this" with outdoor flowers in the background
Photo by @MargJohnsonVA

I’d love to hear from you!

Are you working on a goal? Or do you hope to work on a goal in the near future? Do you think the SMART goal setting framework will help?

2 Comments

  • Avatar
    Julie
    July 21, 2022 at 1:34 pm

    Great tips! Thanks so much for breaking it down into actionable ideas.

    Reply
    • Jenny Borst
      Jenny Borst
      July 22, 2022 at 9:25 am

      My pleasure, Julie. Hope the steps prove helpful when it comes to setting a goal.

      Reply

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