goal, attitude, goal setting

Adapting SMART Goals for Neurodivergent People

If you are neurodivergent, setting and achieving goals can be a challenging task. Traditional goal-setting methods may not work for you, and you may need a more personalized approach. This is where adapting SMART goals comes in. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. They are designed to help you set achievable goals and track your progress towards them.

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However, even with SMART goals, neurodivergent people may still face unique challenges. For example, some may struggle with executive functioning, making it difficult to break down a goal into smaller, manageable tasks. Others may have difficulty with time management or may need more flexibility in their goals. Adapting SMART goals to suit your individual needs can help you overcome these challenges and achieve success.

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goal, attitude, goal setting

Adapting SMART Goals for Neurodivergent People

When it comes to setting goals, the SMART framework is a popular method used by many people. However, if you're neurodivergent, this framework may need to be adapted to better suit your unique needs and abilities. By making adjustments to each component of SMART goals, you can create a plan that is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound while also being flexible enough to accommodate your neurodiversity.

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Specific and Measurable Goals

When setting goals, it's important to be as specific and measurable as possible. This means breaking down larger goals into smaller, manageable tasks that are easier to track progress on. Knowing how to break tasks down might be hard for you. I recommend using goblin.tools to help if you get stuck, or ask a trusted friend to help you figure out how to break it down.

For example, instead of setting a goal to “improve social skills,” you could set a goal to “attend at least one social event per week and initiate a conversation with at least one new person.” This is specific and measurable because you can easily check off if you did these things.

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Achievable and Relevant Goals

Goals should also be achievable and relevant to the person's interests and abilities. It is important to set goals that are challenging but not overwhelming.

For example, if person has difficulty with executive functioning, setting a goal to “clean the entire house in one day” may not be achievable. Instead, setting a goal to “clean one room per day” may be more realistic and achievable.

However, if clutter isn't something that bothers you, this might not be a relevant goal. If it's not something that is important to you, you will have a harder time following through and reaching the goal.

Time-Bound and Flexible Planning

Finally, goals should be time-bound and flexible. This means setting a deadline for achieving the goal and allowing for adjustments to the plan as needed.

For neurodivergent people, it may be necessary to allow for more flexibility in the planning process to accommodate for unexpected changes or difficulties. But that doesn't mean you don't set any deadline. Without a deadline, it's not a goal. It's a dream or a wish.

For example, if you have difficulty with sensory processing, allowing for breaks during a task may be necessary to avoid overload. Likewise, if you live with chronic illness or mental health issues, you need to account for bad days. You know you will have days when you simply can't function. Build them loosely into your plan.

By adapting the SMART framework to better suit your needs, you can create a plan that is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound while also being flexible enough to accommodate your unique needs and abilities.

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Supportive Tools and Accommodations

Technology and Supportive Tools

When it comes to setting and achieving SMART goals, technology and supportive tools can be incredibly helpful. Here are some examples:

  • Task Management Apps: Apps like Trello, Asana, and Todoist can help you break down your goals into smaller, more manageable tasks. You can set reminders, deadlines, and track your progress as you go. These apps can be especially helpful for individuals with ADHD or executive functioning difficulties.
  • Text-to-Speech Software: For individuals with dyslexia, reading difficulties, or visual impairments, text-to-speech software can be a game-changer. Programs like NaturalReader, Read&Write, and Kurzweil can read text out loud, highlight words as they are spoken, and even translate text into different languages. I personally think the voices in NaturalReader are WAY better than Kurzweil. The price isn't bad either. Google can also read aloud to you for free.
  • Noise-Cancelling Headphones: For individuals who are easily distracted by background noise, noise-cancelling headphones can be a lifesaver. They can help you focus on your work and block out distractions. Some headphones even have built-in meditation or relaxation programs to help you de-stress. If noise can cause sensory overload, you might try Loop earplugs. You can still hear things, but they dull the noise.
  • Visual Schedules and Timers: Visual schedules and timers can be helpful for individuals with autism, ADHD, or other conditions that affect executive functioning. They can help you stay on track and manage your time more effectively. Clocks like Time Timer and apps like Goals on Track can be especially helpful.

By using these supportive tools and accommodations, you can set and achieve SMART goals more effectively. Remember, everyone's needs are different, so it's important to experiment with different tools and find what works best for you.

time timer

Empowering Neurodivergent People

As a neurodivergent person, setting and achieving goals can be challenging. However, with the right approach, you can empower yourself to achieve your goals and improve your productivity.

Self-Determination and Confidence

Self-determination is the ability to make choices and decisions that affect your life. It is essential for neurodivergent people to have a sense of control over their lives. By setting SMART goals, you can take control of your life and work toward achieving your aspirations.

Confidence is also crucial in achieving your goals. Believing in yourself and your abilities can help you overcome obstacles and setbacks. This is all about mindset. If you don't believe you can, it won't happen. By focusing on your strengths and using them to your advantage, you can build your confidence and achieve your goals.

Encouraging Engagement and Productivity

Engagement is essential for productivity. Staying focused and engaged might be challenging for you. However, by breaking down your goals into smaller, manageable tasks, you might find it easier to stay engaged and motivated.

With every step you accomplish toward your goal, you'll feel successful, which will keep you motivated.

Productivity is also a necessary part of achieving your goals. By using tools such as calendars, to-do lists, and reminders, you can stay organized and on track. Remember to take breaks and practice self-care to help stay productive and avoid burnout.

Adapting SMART Goals for Neurodivergent people

Challenging Stereotypes

Neurodivergent people often face stereotypes and misconceptions that can lead to discrimination and exclusion. As a result, you might feel like you can't do what everyone else does.

Addressing Misconceptions

One common misconception is that neurodivergent people are unable to set and achieve goals. You might've been told that you lack follow through. It might've even been true.

However, with the right support and tools, you can set and achieve SMART goals. It's important to recognize that you have unique challenges and strengths. If you tailor goal-setting strategies accordingly, you can be as successful as anyone else.

Another misconception is that neurodivergent people lack motivation or discipline. You may have been called lazy.

In reality, many people with neurodivergent conditions are highly motivated and driven. However, they may struggle with executive functioning skills such as time management and organization. By providing support and accommodations, you can overcome these challenges and achieve your goals.

Being neurodivergent shouldn't stop you from creating and achieving your goals. It starts with having a growth mindset that will enable to you believe your goals are possible. Experiment with different tools and strategies that can help you with the things you struggle with. Learn to tap into the strengths your neurodiversity has, and you'll be unstoppable.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can SMART goals be tailored to cater to the strengths of neurodivergent people?

When creating SMART goals for neurodivergent people, it's important to consider their unique strengths and challenges. Some neurodivergent people may have strengths in areas such as creativity, attention to detail, or spatial reasoning, while others may struggle with executive functioning, social skills, or sensory processing.

To tailor SMART goals to cater to the strengths, consider incorporating the strengths into the goals themselves. For example, if an person with ADHD has a strength in creativity, a goal related to a creative project may be more motivating and engaging for them than a goal related to a more routine task.

In what ways can neurodiversity-affirming practices be integrated into goal-setting for people with ADHD?

Neurodiversity-affirming practices can be integrated into goal-setting for people with ADHD by acknowledging and valuing their unique perspective and experiences. This can include involving them in the goal-setting process, allowing for flexibility in how goals are achieved, and providing accommodations and support as needed.

It's also important to recognize that ADHD is not a deficit of attention, but rather a difficulty regulating attention, and to design goals and strategies accordingly. For example, breaking down larger goals into smaller, more manageable tasks can be helpful for individuals with ADHD who may struggle with sustained attention.

What considerations should be made when creating SMART goals for people on the autism spectrum?

When creating SMART goals for people on the autism spectrum, it's important to consider their specific needs and preferences. Some people may have difficulty with social communication, sensory processing, or executive functioning, while others may have strengths in areas such as attention to detail, pattern recognition, or logical reasoning.

To create effective goals, it may be helpful to involve the person in the goal-setting process and to tailor the goals to their unique strengths and challenges. For example, a goal related to a special interest or area of expertise may be more motivating and engaging for an individual on the autism spectrum than a goal related to a less preferred activity.

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