This one is mostly for me so I can remember/find it when I need it. It has been around for a long time in different forms. I have seen this several times but decided to keep it this time.
Specific – The task has to be specified well enough that you know what it is. One way to think of this is that when you decide to tackle something on your to-do list, you shouldn’t first have to figure out what it means. “Revise web site based on client feedback” isn’t very specific. “Change to new color scheme and headers” is more specific.
Measurable – If you can’t measure your progress, how do you know when you’re finished? A simple done/undone task, like “Take out the trash” is measurable; you’re done when the trash ends up at the curb. A task like “Make sales calls” isn’t measurable (unless you’ve got a fixed list of contacts to call). Better would be “Call ten new prospects.”
Achievable – It doesn’t do you any good to have tasks like “Make a million dollars this year” unless you are in a very high-paying job already (or don’t mind staring at a task that sits on your list for years). There’s no reason not to have life goals – but these aren’t the sort of thing that should clutter up your task list. Save the list for things that you can knock off.
Realistic – For a task to be realistic, it needs to be something that you will actually do. This is another bar to putting stuff on the task list just to have it sit there forever. For example, if you never prepare your own taxes, “Prepare form 1040″ is not a realistic goal – “Send tax paperwork to accountant” is the realistic equivalent.
Timely – If a task doesn’t have a deadline, will you ever do it? Probably not. A timely task is one that you’ve assigned a deadline to, whether as part of the task (”Finish design comps by Tuesday”) or by entering a date in your to-do manager.