Are your practice goals S.M.A.R.T.?

Updated: Jun 27, 2020

Do you ever feel frustrated by your goals? Is goal-setting difficult for you? Do you ever avoid making goals because you always struggle to reach them?

If this sounds like you, you may benefit from something called S.M.A.R.T. goals!


S.M.A.R.T. Goals!

S.M.A.R.T. stands for:


To understand how this works, let's take an example of a goal that is not S.M.A.R.T.:

"My goal is to play this section better."

This goal in itself is very general. It may seem specific in a way, because it has specified one particular section. However, is the goal referring to the entire section? If it is, that is very unspecific. Secondly, what does it mean by "better?"

Let's rephrase this goal to be S.M.A.R.T.!


First, let's be specific. What specifically do you want to improve? Let's say in this situation, it is specifically the rhythm.

Second, how will you measure your improvement of the rhythm? How about this: let's keep track of how often you successfully play the rhythms in the section with a metronome. Keep track of each success by writing it down in your notebook. Also, let's keep track of which rhythms you struggle with. That way, you can see easily your progress, and have a concrete idea of what you should focus on next!

Now, we must make sure that your goal is action-oriented. Right now, the goal is to improve the rhythm in the section. So, we must add an action that ensures you work towards the goal. How about: "I will practice counting the rhythm with a metronome every time I practice."

Alright, now we're getting somewhere! Next is to make sure the goal is realistic. Since the goal is about improving rhythm, make sure that you have knowledge of all the rhythms in the section. If there is a rhythm that you have never seen before and have not learned how to count it, how do you realistically expect to meet your goal? It'll be quite difficult, right? Keeping your goal realistic will help you to ensure success in your endeavors and avoid frustration!

Let's say in this situation that you are familiar with all the rhythms. Great! However, the section you've chosen is a full page of complicated rhythms you need to work on. So, it may not be too realistic to work on the entire page all at once. Would you train to run a marathon by suddenly running for 26 miles? you wouldn't. It's the same with learning - break it down into realistic, workable chunks. So, let's say that you break down the full page into four distinct sections. Now, you have four sections to rotate in your daily practice sessions, rather than stressing out about a full page of complicated work!

Okay - we're almost done! Lastly, we need to make sure our goal is time-based. What is your timeframe for meeting your goal? Let's say you want to improve your rhythm in at least two of the four sections by your next lesson. As long as your goal is specific, measurable, action-oriented, and most importantly, realistic, then your week-long timeline should work just fine!

An example of a very un-S.M.A.R.T. goal would be to improve the rhythm of the entire page by your next lesson, because we've established that the rhythms are complicated enough that breaking it down is needed!

At the end of this process, we've come up with an excellent, S.M.A.R.T. goal:

My goal is to improve the counting of the rhythm of 2 out of the 4 sections on the page for my next lesson. I will do this by practicing it at every practice session and keeping track of my progress in my practice journal.

Is it specific? Yes. Is it measurable? Yes. Is it action-oriented? Yes. Realistic? Absolutely. Time-based? Yeah!

Now it's your turn - time to make your practice goals S.M.A.R.T.!

Until next time, happy practicing!

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