Keep your resolutions, learn how to set SMART goals

I don’t know about you, but I have high expectations for 2020.

I see this New Year as a great way to launch myself onto a decade trajectory to help facilitate my personal and professional aspirations.

For me, this will be a year of doing.

"Doing the uncomfortable today, for a comfortable tomorrow."

Sounds easy, right? Every year I set a new resolution such as eating healthier, exercising more, sleeping more, drink more water, or leveling up my technical skills. I’m usually good about sticking to my goals, but there have been times where I haven’t achieved everything I set out to. Sound familiar?

I don’t want to allow that to happen this year, so I’ve finally started listening to my own advice and have devised a plan by setting SMART goals. If also you’re committed to making this year’s resolution stick, you should try turning yours into a SMART goal.

Before we jump into how to set a SMART goal, I want to highlight the importance of understanding the difference between goals and tasks. These terms are often used interchangeably but for our conversation, we need to understand the difference.

In my latest episode of How To Get Started in IT, I use going to the beach as an example. For instance, if you decide you want to spend a nice day at the beach there are several tasks you must accomplish to meet your goal. You can start by logistically walking through what you would need to accomplish and ask yourself questions like — What are the expected expenses? How do I get there? You will then need to address these questions and complete any necessary associated tasks like making sure money is available for expenses maybe stopping by an ATM or mapping out a route.

It’s clear to see that all the aforementioned tasks don’t accomplish much independently, but done together in the right order, I could be soaking up the rays in no time.

For this Florida native, getting motivated to go the beach is a heck of a lot easier than finding the motivation to pass a certification exam.

How can I stay motivated and prevent falling into the valley of despair?

Discovering a methodology that works for you is often key in bridging that gap. I like the SMART goal methodology and will use that to map out an example of how to pass a certification exam.

Let’s begin breaking down the details.

S stands for Specific. Set clear detailed goals so you don’t stay or lose focus. Finding what you need for a certification is usually pretty specific. You can go directly to the vendor to find out what will earn you that certification. It may be a series of exams, projects, or a mix. This process will vary from vendor to vendor. For example, to obtain Microsoft's Azure Administrator certification, you need to pass the az-103 exam.

M stands for Measurable. This one isn’t difficult to adhere to because again, the information is provided by the vendor. They decide what defines a pass or fail. Sticking to our example of taking the az-103 exam, I know I will need to get at least 700 points to pass.

A stands for Attainable. This one is where you must be honest with yourself. Is it possible to achieve this goal? Really ask yourself, do I have the needed resources, capability, time, and financial support?

R stands for Relevant. This seems obvious but I have fallen victim to wasting time on goals that were irrelevant or didn’t quite fit into my overall vision. Remember to analyze and consider your ROI. Ask yourself, will this goal drive you to your ultimate destination or lifestyle? Does this certification fit into my career trajectory? Is there a need for this certification in my current socio-economic environment? Most importantly, is this something you really want to do?

T stands for Time-Based. Once you determine your goal incorporate details such as milestones and completion dates. If you decide to take and pass the az-103 exam give yourself a deadline. You can even schedule your exam online to solidify the date. Perhaps you give yourself two months. My az-103 course on ITProTV is approximately 35 hours long, so maybe you set a task to complete a few hours every day. At that pace, you should finish watching the training within the first month and leave the next month for labs and practice exams. Setting dates to supporting tasks is a great way to keep you moving forward on a successful timeline.

Now that you know how to set SMART goals, work on setting your IT certification goals for 2020. If you prefer video format, check that out below. If you enjoy it you may also like other videos I've created with my colleagues in the ITPro.TV YouTube Channel.

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