Practice Perfect 712
How SMART Are Your Goals?

Before we begin today’s editorial, the title of last week’s Practice Perfect was poorly received by one of our readers who was insulted by the use of a Hispanic allusion in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. This reference was not intended as an insult to any group of people, and for that I apologize. We never want to marginalize or insult anyone. As a result, we have changed the title of last week’s editorial to “COVID Impressions” and removed the offending phrase from the article’s body. We greatly appreciate the feedback and will always strive toward the same mutual respect and understanding as we expect from our readers.

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Now, on to a discussion about goals. This may seem a little remedial, especially for those of you who have been in the medical field for some time. However, you may not be surprised to know that many people approach goals and tasks in a more subjective manner, in which they simply start a task or project without any way to structure the approach to that goal. I have seen – and experienced myself – tasks that have drifted off into noncompletion for lack of organization. And, of course, we’ve all had run-ins with that evil specter called procrastination. In many cases, it’s not laziness that ends up with us doing the all-nighter to complete that last-minute project before the due date. More commonly, it’s lack of planning that leads us to difficulty completing our goals.

We’ve all had and seek to avoid tasks drifting off into noncompletion for lack of organization.

Enter the mnemonic SMART. Yes, the mnemonic is intelligent, but it’s also an acronym for:

  • S – Specific
  • M – Measurable
  • A – Achievable
  • R – Relevant
  • T – Timebound
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For those of you who love acronyms, you could also add on a couple of letters to make SMARTER (E = Exciting; R = Reach). It makes sense to motivate others or be motivated yourself with a task that excites ones’ passions and causes one to reach a little beyond their capabilities, stretching oneself to new heights of achievement.

As an example, I am the faculty sponsor of a student-led journal called Extremitas: Journal of Lower Limb Medicine. The students publish one printed issue per year. There is an editorial staff led by a student editor-in-chief, and the editorial team is generally tasked with fundraising, calling for papers by student authors, editing submissions, and completing the various aspects of publishing the journal itself. Completing this process successfully is a lot of work for the students, and I’m proud to say they do a fantastic job. I have little to do with the process (other than as general overseer and guide when questions arise), but I always meet with the new editor-in-chief, and we discuss goals for the team.

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The SMART acronym works very well in a situation like this. The editor might create a goal for the team for fundraising such as “raise funds to pay for journal publication in the amount of $5,000 by January 1 of next year” (specific). It’s measurable because we know if we reach the $5,000 goal. Whether or not this is achievable or realistic is up to the team to figure out. It’s relevant (without money we don’t have a journal), and it’s timebound with the specific listed date.

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From a leadership standpoint, if I had to add another aspect to this mnemonic, I would include the letter “F” for follow up. Whenever I assign a task for someone, I also set one to two check-in reminders for myself to make sure the job is being done on track for completion by the deadline. This also gives me the opportunity to reconsider and adjust the original goal with feedback by the other person. Automated calendar reminders are available on all electronic calendar programs and are easy to add the reminder and then forget about it for a while.

I would include the letter “F” for Follow Up. I recommend using the automated calendar reminders available on all electronic calendar programs

Give the SMART acronym a try next time you set out a new goal!

Best wishes.

Jarrod Shapiro, DPM
PRESENT Practice Perfect Editor

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