Tuesday, April 29, 2014

SMART Goals, Habits, and Sleep

This is only sort of about SMART goals, and really about habits. With sleep as an example. I meant to write all about habits starting in the new year, the upshot of that being that in February I published a terrifying list of habits for everything that I want to get done that I don't need to think about and then Second Wind and taxes and moving to a new gym blarf—

I believe in SMART goals, they're better than dumb goals. SMART goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measureable
  • Achievable
  • Result-based
  • Time-based


How specific is specific? "Sleep better" is not specific. "Get eight hours of good sleep" is specific, but not specific enough. Because getting eight hours of good sleep isn't a thing I can just do. Whereas, things I can just do are:

  • Stop caffeinating six hours before bedtime.
  • Stop eating three hours before bedtime.
  • Stop exercising three hours before bedtime.
  • Actually get in bed eight or even more than eight hours before you have to wake up.
  • Straighten the sheets.
  • Turn down the temperature.
  • Turn down the lights.
  • Turn down your brain.
...and actually, I crossed off the two that I can't do right now. Because roller derby with its late practices, where I choose roller derby for now. You can do that, choose. There's no right or wrong, there's your choices work or don't work for you. Which you don't know until you try them out, so what are you waiting for. Seriously, that's weird.


Tch specific includes measurable, if you ask me. But anyway, yes, first of all, you're looking for a measurable result. Sleep better isn't measurable, and neither is sleep more, erk, do you know what my least favorite health tip is, Drink more water. You don't know me! You don't know how much water I'm drinking! Get eight hours of sleep is measurable. I also have a qualitative scale for assessing the sleep I'm getting, of course I do.

Behaviors should be measurable, too. But, I feel like the measure of a perfectly specific behavior boils down to do or do not, there is no try. You either stopped caffeinating by 6:00pm or you didn't, right?


Okay so if you ask me achievable is about asking, Is this a thing I can just do? Which we already did under specific, but perhaps now with a little more emphasis on the I that's not in TEAM. Maybe there's no I in TEAM, but there sure is an I in I. There's things that only I can do and there's things that only I can't do, i.e., that I can't do on my own. For that matter, there's things that only the team can do and there's things the team can't do on its own—so this applies in the plural and not just the singular. But I'm a personal trainer, I accentuate the singular. Achievable is a thing that you—singular or plural—can do on your own, it's achievable by you. Or to put it more finely, the part of you that you control, viz., mind. Not so much body and undermind, which is where "Get eight hours of good sleep" falls down as achievable for me, god knows why I wake up at 3:00 AM and am wide awake for an hour, or when I will stop dreaming about all the dead people in my family being alive again. Maybe when I stop eating and exercising three hours before bedtime.

So basically when you get through specific, measurable, and achievable, you should have a specific, measurable behavior or list of behaviors that you can achieve on your own.


Here's where I let results back in. Yes I want results, I'm not Buddha. I would love to reliably get eight hours of undelayed, uninterrupted sleep with good dreams that leave me feeling refreshed with a sense of well being, the better to take on the world with.

So I regard this as the little space where you park your results, where they will be safe and not underfoot. And also specific, and measurable.

If you're keeping track, so far we're up to SMARsm.


So like, this is supposed to be I will have attained X result by Y time... but if you don't attain X by Y, then what? Is that a fail? What if you get 80% of your goal, geez I'm Asian and I don't think 80% is a fail. Also, did the world end? Or do you live another day and another after that, the better to collect that last 20%, rhetorical question, right?

We're back to the thing about choices and they work or they don't work and you have to try them. You don't know what results you're going to get until you try the thing. Maybe you get there, maybe you don't, but you will get somewhere, but more importantly you will have done the thing, nobody can take that away from you.

How I do time is, I commit to trying this thing I can just do, this behavior, for say six weeks. See if you can work it, see if it works. If you can work it, it might become a habit. If it works, i.e., it gets you results, it'll more than likely become a habit. And get you more results.


Or I guess you'd probably start with the result you want, fine tune that so it's specific and measurable, park it, then think of the specific, measurable, achievable-by-you behavior that might get you there, and commit to X behavior for Y time. Soo that would be RsmSMAT.

But really what it boils down to is, the result you want and the habits that will get you somewhere. No promises, it truly is the journey and not the destination. Or well, the destination is out there; but you can't start out there. You are here, and your journey of a thousand miles begins with a single habit. That's your smart goal right here, this here habit. So now I need to talk about how to start good habits, and how to break bad habits.

ETA 11/3/2014: Eh you know this isn't the worst thing I've ever written, but it isn't the best.