Evaluating Goals: Setting up your 2024 for Success
Part 1: Defining Goals
A new year is underway. Some of us have made goals, and some may have already given up. If you have fallen into the latter category, fear not. There is plenty of time left in the year, and I have discovered some tips to help you reframe your goals and pick them back up again. Whether your goal is better physical fitness, a new career trajectory, increasing time with friends and family, or volunteering, this two-part article series will encourage you and help set you up for success!
I recall being in primary school and receiving an agenda each year. If this is new to you, an agenda is a day planner for students with room for schedules, assignment planning, and goals. It's a mandatory $10 purchase that most students never use. One thing that has stuck with me all these years is an acronym on each agenda's first page. S.M.A.R.T. is a guide on how to set and keep goals, and it still rings true to this day. While this rubric can be helpful regardless of your goal, let’s look at how it can be beneficial within the scope of volunteerism.
Specific – Broad goals can be harder to achieve. The more details you can include, the better you can picture and plan for it. Consider narrowing your focus. Instead of simply saying you wish to volunteer or volunteer more, think about how or where you want to volunteer. What values, skills, and passions do you have? Are you social and want to volunteer directly with people? Do you enjoy laborious activities? Narrow down a couple of places using Volunteer Connector before you set the goal!
Measurable – Analyze your goal and determine if you can quantify the steps you must achieve to get you there. If it’s not measurable, consider reframing in a way you can track. If your goal is to find a place to volunteer or to increase the amount you want to serve your community, consider how many days a week or month you want to spend doing so. Consider that the time you need to volunteer must come from somewhere. Try to break it down even further by hours. This way, you can track your progress, adjust your schedule, and measure your success.
Achievable – Let's be honest: not all goals are realistic. Determine whether your goal is reasonable enough for the year or whatever timeline seems appropriate. As someone whose goal last year was to lose weight, I was propelled to further success by achieving an attainable goal. After that, I was encouraged to keep going, sustain good habits, and set new goals. While volunteering can be a realistic goal for anyone, don’t be afraid to set the bar slightly lower and then exceed the goal rather than aim too high and get discouraged. If you have never volunteered before, I would encourage small steps. Try it once a month to start, check a few different organizations, use some trial and error, and adjust your goals accordingly.
Relevant – If a particular goal is entirely outside your lifestyle, values, or long-term goals, it can be much harder to achieve. This can be especially true when volunteering. Volunteering within your life ecosystem will lend some ease to attaining this goal. Find out if your work, place of worship, or community association has volunteer initiatives you can participate in. Volunteering at your children’s school can be great if your work hours allow it. Consider places with a short commute time and remove the excuse of driving across town. If you have friends also interested in volunteering, try doing it together. Volunteering as a social activity is a great way to add it to a busy schedule. Changing your life to accomplish specific goals can be difficult and ultimately unfeasible, but fitting them into your life will help immensely.
Time-based – If you are setting goals for the year, map them out. Set smaller goals or steps for the weeks and months; this will help you prioritize tasks and get a much-needed boost when you accomplish these targets. Planning it out can help avoid the excuses of “I’ll do it in the summer when I have more time.” Never be afraid to dream big and further into the future. Long-term goals and planning are also important. Start immediately; schedule one volunteer experience and adjust your timeline after you get a feel for it.
The S.M.A.R.T. system is simple and effective. It's a tool designed to help you assess and achieve goals. Once you learn how to analyze and break down your goals through this process, this will equip you to succeed. If you are interested in volunteering or if that is one of your goals for the year, I encourage you to browse the opportunities listed on our site and use this rubric to develop and evaluate how you want to achieve that. Stay tuned for part two of the article, where I will provide plenty of practical advice on achieving your goals!