ButtonedUp: Six steps to help you accomplish a goal

Sarah Welch and Alicia Rockmore

Setting and successfully accomplishing goals depends a lot on how they are formulated and implemented. Too little of one thing and you end up going off the rails. Too much of another -- same thing.

So, what matters? Here are the six essential components of a killer goal.

1. Your goal must be meaningful to you

Meaning provides the inner motivation and strength to persist and keep working when the going gets tough or when you become bored. Look to tie your goal, even one as simple as getting up early in the morning, to a higher purpose or vision, such as helping your parents, raising your children or earning money for an activity you are passionate about. Because if you're passionate about it; if it really means something to you, you'll get out of bed for it.

2. Your goal must be S.M.A.R.T.

You have probably heard of "SMART goals" already. But do you always apply the rule? The simple fact is that for goals to be powerful, they should be designed to be SMART:

-- Specific. Goals light the way. If they're vague and ill-defined, they provide no meaningful direction.

-- Measurable. You need specificity to be able to determine when you have succeeded -- in making progress and in crossing the finish line.

-- Attainable. A goal set with bravado is just wishful thinking. The goals you set need to make sense within the context of who you are, what makes you tick and your skills.

-- Relevant. The goals you set should be relevant to who you want to become. They should take you in the direction you want your life and career to go.

-- Time Bound. All goals need a deadline. Urgency propels us all forward.

3. Your goals must be written down

The physical act of writing down a goal makes it real and tangible. You have no excuse for forgetting about it. As you write, use the word "will" instead of "would like to" or "might." For example, "I will organize my digital photos this year," not "I would like to organize my digital photos this year." The first goal statement has power and you can "see" yourself creating order in your digital photo libraries; the second lacks passion and gives you an excuse if you get sidetracked.

In fact, a recent study at Dominican University in San Rafael, Calif., found that those who wrote their goals accomplished significantly more than those who did not.

4. You must develop an action plan

This is where 99 percent of goal-setters fall down. It is easy to get so focused on the outcome that you forget to plan all of the steps that are needed along the way. I think we've all been there.

5. Build in accountability

Researchers at Dominican University found that real accountability was crucial to success. People who sent their commitments to a friend accomplished significantly more than those who just wrote action commitments or did not write their goal.

6. Create an if-then statement

We often make good intentions, like "I will start project X first thing in the morning." But when morning comes, it's easy to get distracted by something "more important." Many studies by clinical psychologists have shown that deciding in advance when and where you will take specific actions to reach your goal (e.g., "If it is 11 a.m. on Saturday, then I will go to the gym.") can double or triple your chances for success.

The writers are co-founders of Buttoned Up, a company dedicated to helping stressed women get organized. Send ideas and questions to