step by step

Get Prepared Using S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Big Journeys

Starting a Preparedness Journey can seem daunting.  Once you’re on the Journey, it can sometimes seem overwhelming.  Finding yourself in a mental place where you realize how much you don’t know and how much you could learn, can add immense stress and pressure.  These emotions can turn an activity that you felt energized about into a process that you think is draining; causing you to stop altogether.

A lot of times, this mental and emotional rollercoaster is caused by a lack of understanding at the beginning that leads to poor goal setting.  Tell me is this story sounds familiar…

  • A friend of yours tells you about an impending earthquake (or another disaster), and you ignore him/her the first 6-10 times they tell you.
  • Eventually, you decide “you know, maybe I should get some supplies.”
  • While you’re getting water and food, you realize you need a stove, and a tarp, and tents, and radios, and…, and…, and…, and “what about my neighbors?”, and “what about my family that lives in town?”, and “what about my family that lives out of town?”, and…, and…, and…
  • After your first wave of “and’s” you declare “I need to prepare for anything and everything and to protect everyone I careabout.”
  • Within 30 days life happens, you get busy, your prepping declaration seems silly, overwhelming, and unreasonable and you go back to your regular life, stopping your prepping efforts.

In a lot of ways, this was my story.  I ignored other people for a while, then decided to dip my toe in, quickly realized the ocean that I was about to dive into, and made a grand declaration.  The difference between that story and mine is that I adjusted my declaration so that I could continue.  I recognized that setting small, achievable goals would help me gain momentum and turn an overwhelming situation into a manageable one.

S.M.A.R.T. Goals

We all think our goals are smart.  Why would anyone make a stupid goal? Well, while most goals seem smart, you can actually make them S.M.A.R.T.-er.  S.M.A.R.T.  Stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.  By using this framework to create your preparedness goals, you can take your lofty declaration, and turn it into a workable plan.  Here’s how they work.


Being Specific means, you’re isolating one element to eliminate confusion.  Make the description of the component as detailed as necessary.

  • Bad Example: “I want shelter.”
  • Specific Examples: “I want a tent and sleeping bags” or “I want a hammock.”
    • Why this is Better: You can’t buy “shelter,” but you can buy “a tent” or “sleeping bags” or “a hammock.”  You want to make sure that if you come back and read this goal in a week, or someone else does, that you, or they, know precisely what you were talking about.


tape measureIf you can’t measure your performance, you can’t identify progress or completion.  Make sure that you add an element to your goal that establishes a method for measurement.

  • Bad Example: “I want water.”
  • Measurable Example: “I want 56 gallons of water for my family of 4 to last us for two weeks.”
    • Why this is Better: By just saying you “want water” you haven’t defined how much you want, so you won’t know if you’ve fulfilled your “want.”  By defining how many gallons you want, you can measure your progress and completion by counting how many gallons you have.


You want to set goals that can actually be completed.  If you create goals that literally can’t be done, in the context of prepping, you’re setting yourself up to fail.  For this set of examples, you live on the 2nd floor of an apartment building.

  • Bad Example: “I want to build a bunker in my backyard.”
  • Attainable Example: “I want to buy a house and put a bunker in my backyard.”
    • Why this is Better: Building a bunker may seem like a leap to some people, but you can buy bunkers and have them buried.  What makes the Bad Example bad it that if you live in an apartment building, you can’t legally bury a bunker in the backyard, because you don’t own the land.  The goal isn’t attainable because you can’t legally or physically do it.


It’s easy to come up with all kinds of goals, but you want to make sure that your preparedness goals actually have to do with the topic of “preparedness.”

  • Bad Example: “I want to spend 1 hour a night studying for my art history test.”
  • Relevant Example: “I want to spend 1 hour a night studying first-aid.”
    • Why this is Better:  Studying for an art history test is a method of preparation, but it’s not relevant to the topic of preparedness.  There are lots of topics associated with preparedness, but art history isn’t one.



Placing a time constraint on a goal allows you to prioritize it among other goals and make sure it doesn’t remain on-going. It is essential to think about all of the factors that affect the goal when deciding on the appropriate amount of time to assign.  You may need to consider other goals or events that have external deadlines (I need to finish project A before I can begin project B, and project B needs to be done before Winter) or elements of achieving your goal that may be out of your control (In order to complete project A I need a part, and that part will take 5-10 da

ys to ship).

  • Bad Example: “I want to buy sleeping bags.”
  • Time-Bound Example: “I want to buy sleeping bags by September 1st, so I have them before it gets cold outside.”
    • Why this is Better: Both goals are about buying sleeping bags, but by placing a date in the goal, you’ve given yourself a dealing to achieve the goal and a reason why that deadline is meaningful.

Put it all together

So now that we’ve gone through the elements here are some examples of complete S.M.A.R.T. goals.

Example #1

  • Bad Example: “I want shelter.”
  • S.M.A.R.T. Example: “I want to buy one tent and four sleeping bags by September 1st.”
    • Why is this Better: This goal is specific about the type of shelter items being acquired, it is measurable based on the number of items, it is attainable because you can buy the items, it is relevant to preparedness, and it has a reasonable deadline.

Example #2

  • goal progressBad Example: “I want water.”
  • S.M.A.R.T. Example: “I want to buy 4 gallons or drinking water, every week, for the next 14 weeks, so I have 56 gallons by September 1st.”
    • Why is this Better: This goal is specific about the type of water to acquire, it has two methods of measurement (the weekly amount and the total amount), it is attainable because the item can be purchased, it is relevant to preparedness, and it is time-bound with a weekly cadence and a deadline.
    • Bonus: This goal has a cadence and an endpoint.  Why does that matter?  Well, sometimes you may need to set up a cadence and an endpoint to help you stay on track or to allow a goal to be attainable.  In this case, you may not have a car, and you’ll need to carry the water, so setting a weekly cadence helps keep you on track but allows for flexibility in how many times you go to the store.  Additionally, you may not have the financial resources to buy 56 gallons of water at one time, so this cadence allows you to account for financial flexibility.  You can always finish the goal early, but the cadence keeps you on track to the more critical deadline, without setting 14 individual goals.

One of the reasons you’re on a Preparedness Journey is to remove the stress of being unprepared, should an emergency or disaster happen.  Ambiguity and vagueness can add undue stress to a project that, by its nature is full of stress.  By using S.M.A.R.T. goals, you can add focus and clarity to your progress, which will lead to increased energy and momentum along your Journey.


For more articles on planning click here.

Author: Casey Feves

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