Using SMART Goals: Stay on Task, Improve Satisfaction


In order to achieve large, long-term goals, break them up into easily achievable, short-term goals.

In order to achieve long-term goals, break them up into easily achievable, short-term goals.

Everyone’s busy, and sometimes competing priorities and overwhelming workloads control us, rather than the other way around. One way successful professionals can increase their productivity and also increase job satisfaction is by using SMART goals.

SMART goals are: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-limited. By establishing long- and short-term SMART goals, professionals can maintain their focus on projects that are important to them—and, more importantly, take on additional tasks that increase their job satisfaction.

For example, I often hear from pharmacists who want to write and publish professionally but can’t seem to get started. I encourage them to establish SMART goals that address their particular situation. The key is to establish a long-term goal that is achievable and realistic, and then work backward with short-term goals. Here’s an example:

  • Long-term goal: I will publish a case study (or review article, or research results) from my practice in the next year. Short-term goal 1: I will identify a topic for which I have or will have enough information to draft a manuscript in the next month. Short-term goal 2: I will find 3 publications that may be suitable venues for my article within 2 months and review their author guidelines. Short-term goal 3: I will begin to draft my article and write 300 words every Thursday afternoon for 12 weeks, ending within 6 months. Short-term goal 4: I will submit my manuscript to my journal of first choice within 7 months.

Using steps like this breaks down a seemingly overwhelming task, and allows you to make steady progress toward your goal.

Many successful pharmacists use short-term SMART goals to overcome obstacles and introduce new elements to their jobs. One moonlighter told me that he works in a very busy pharmacy and that time constraints prevent him from doing as much patient counseling as he would like. When he brought up this issue with regular staff, they rolled their eyes and said there was not enough time for counseling.

To deal with this problem, he first set a goal of counseling 1 patient who presented a new prescription for a high-risk medication on each shift. He found this so satisfying that he increased his goal to 2 patients per shift, and then to 3 per shift. Ideally, he would counsel every patient, but by setting short-term, achievable goals, he has increased his job satisfaction and developed great relationships with many patients. After observing his success, other pharmacists at his pharmacy have begun to do the same.

Pharmacists may find SMART goals most useful if they set goals in areas that are out of their comfort zone, which can help them develop new skills or an understanding of formerly confusing processes. These new skills will enhance one’s resume and increase the potential for promotion and success.

Ms. Wick is a visiting professor at the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy and a freelance writer from Virginia.

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