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Get S.M.A.R.T

There is so much to consider and do while working and developing your music career, setting your goals and defining the next steps.  

For instance: keeping at least two resumes up-to-date (one specifically based on performance and another including jobs, teaching and other accomplishments), keeping social media and websites accurate and current, managing and keeping lesson plans/notes for each student, searching for new gigging opportunities, organizing rehearsals with fellow musicians, and oh yes, practicing and making reeds. Phew! 

With lists like these, you need to be able to determine what to do and when/how to get it done. But how do you set your priorities? There is a process that I use quite frequently to help clear my mind and schedule - S.M.A.R.T. - an acronym for a process and means of checking to make sure an objective/goal is valid (Peter Drucker - Management by Objectives).

The process, originally intended for use as a business management strategy, works quite well for musicians and ensembles.  It helps to ensure that you are asking the right questions and don't end up spinning your wheels.  It REALLY HELPS, so check it out!

​S=Specific, M=Measurable, A=Achievable, R=Realistic, T=Time-bound


The criterion stresses the need for a specific goal rather than a more general one.  To make goals specific, they must tell a team exactly what's expected, why it's important, who’s involved, where it's going to happen and which attributes are important.

  • What: What do I want to accomplish?

  • Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.

  • Who: Who is involved?

  • Where: Identify a location.

  • Which: Identify requirements and constraints.


The second criterion stresses the need for concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of the goal. The thought behind this is that if a goal is not measurable it is not possible to know whether a team is making progress toward successful completion. Measuring progress is supposed to help a team stay on track, reach its target dates and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs it on to continued effort required to reach the ultimate goal.

  • How much?

  • How many?

  • How will I know when it is accomplished?

  • Indicators should be quantifiable


The third criterion stresses the importance of goals that are realistic and also attainable. The goals are neither out of reach nor below standard performance, since these may be considered meaningless. When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills and financial capacity to reach them. The theory states that an attainable goal may cause goal-setters to identify previously overlooked opportunities to bring themselves closer to the achievement of their goals.

 - How can the goal be accomplished?

 - How realistic is the goal based on other constraints?


The fourth criterion stresses the importance of choosing goals that matter. Many times you will need support to accomplish a goal: resources, a champion voice, someone to knock down obstacles. Goals that are relevant to your boss, your team, your organization will receive that needed support. Relevant goals (when met) drive the team, department and organization forward. A goal that supports or is in alignment with other goals would be considered a relevant goal.

A relevant goal can answer yes to these questions:

  • Does this seem worthwhile?

  • Is this the right time?

  • Does this match our other efforts/needs?

  • Are you the right person?

  • Is it applicable in the current socio-economic environment?


The fifth criterion stresses the importance of grounding goals within a time-frame, giving them a target date. A commitment to a deadline helps a team focus their efforts on completion of the goal on or before the due date. This part of the SMART goal criteria is intended to prevent goals from being overtaken by the day-to-day crises that invariably arise in an organization. A time-bound goal is intended to establish a sense of urgency.​

  • When?

  • What can I do six months from now?

  • What can I do six weeks from now?

  • What can I do today?​

Give it a try! I think you will find that it truly helps to quickly eliminate the excess "stuff" and allow you to home in on important issues and goals. 



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