Action - Time to Change

Create a SMART Plan for Action

If you are newly interested in political participation, or you tend to cycle through short bursts of political activity followed by long stretches of disengagement, there’s a good reason to borrow some of the accountability and structure you use in your working life.

Setting goals for yourself doesn’t mean you can only support one issue or idea. I donate to causes for which my friends are fundraising, make calls to elected officials at the urging of like-minded groups, and educate myself about issues I don’t work on directly. But when time/energy/resources are limited, setting a goal allows me to know that if I can’t do it all, then what I am doing is what I believe to be fundamentally important.

If you are already confident in your understanding of goals/objectives, skip down to Examples & Tools.

Setting Goals/Objectives/metrics Can Help you:

  • Celebrate success. It is hard to stay motivated if your only guidepost is the final destination. You have to create bite-sized accomplishments that help you see your successes and keep you energized.
  • Hold yourself accountable. It is easy to just share articles on Facebook and convince yourself you’ve done some good based on how you feel. Having tangible objectives forces you to look beyond feelings to evidence: Did I do the work? Did it produce the change I thought it would? If not, will I do differently?
  • Assess over time. Setting goals at least once/year ensures that you will come back to yourself to ask important questions: What did my accomplishments from the past year make possible in the year ahead? Is this issue still the most important I could be working on? Are there new strategies I need to try to accommodate changes in my personal or professional life?


Some people have routine exposure to strategic plans, evaluation tools, and all the language that goes along with managing a team or organization. But not everyone does, so here is a quick primer to ensure we’re talking the same language. For a good explanation of the difference between goals and objectives, check out this straightforward summary on Diffen.

Goal. What I am working toward.

  • I want low-wage workers to have paid medical leave to care for children and elderly parents.
  • I want foster kids to have support from their schools as they navigate the transition into adulthood.
  • I want to eliminate the insane amount of trash from the Angeles National Forest along Rte 39.

Objective. How I will get there.

  • I am going to join the Diners United consumer association and participate in their efforts to expand and improve paid family leave.
  • I am going to request meetings with the principal of my local middle and high schools to learn more about their current training/policies/resources to support foster youth.
  • I am going to organize an event through Facebook for an afternoon of action to clean up the entryway of the park and raise awareness in my community.
  • I am going to raise $500 for _________________, because they directly advance my issue.

Performance metric. How I will know I was successful.

  • The managers at my 3 favorite restaurants will be aware of the benefits of joining Restaurants Advancing Industry Standards in Employment (RAISE).
  • Every teacher, counselor and administrator at the local high school will know about and have a copy of the Foster Care Transition Toolkit to assist foster youth in their classrooms.
  • We will bring 10 people together from our community for an afternoon of clean-up in the Angeles Forest and post photos of the garbage bags we fill on Facebook.
  • I will hit the $500 goal on my giving page for _____________.

Examples & Tools

When they come together, your goals, objectives, and metrics should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, rewarding, and time-bounded. In other words, if someone says to you, “Did you accomplish what you wanted to last year, you should be able to say, “Yes,” “Some of it,” or “No.”

SMART action in practice

An example of a well-developed plan for SMART action.

To make your own chart:
  • Create your own chart in Microsoft Word using the “SmartArt” function on the Insert tab.
  • DOWNLOAD OUR WORD TEMPLATE if you want something ready-made. You can manipulate the charts by clicking on them and then selecting the Design tab.
  • DOWNLOAD OUR PDF TEMPLATE if you want to write out your goals by hand.

Are you using one of these suggestions? Are you doing something different you think others should try? Let us know – in the comments below or by joining our Facebook group

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