Doing Anti-Racism Work the SMART Way

As I mentioned earlier this week on Instagram, despite the fact that spring is (finally!) right around the corner, we continue to be deeply entangled with our screens – from working from home, to doom-scrolling on social media, to organizing and attending virtual events as part of our anti-racism work. 

Spring is just around the corner

While so many of us have been keeping up the momentum for nearly a year, there are others who no longer have the bandwidth to continue actively being allies for their BIPOC friends and colleagues.

I get it. This work is exhausting; it takes a lot out of you. But the work is not done just because you are.

So, how might we begin our anti-racism work anew and combat the fatigue – Zoom fatigue, decision fatigue, or otherwise?

The solution: re-framing our approach to anti-racism work using a SMART goal setting framework. 

This approach has already helped me make progress on my dissertation, so why shouldn’t it be useful for making our anti-racism work more realistic and easily attainable?

What are SMART goals?

The SMART goal setting framework “allows you to set clear and measurable goals while encouraging to think about how you’ll get there.”

When setting goals, you should be asking:

S – Is your goal specific, narrow, and provided with real guidelines to follow?

M – Is your goal measurable? Can your progress towards your goal can be easily tracked?

A – Is your goal attainable? Are you working towards a goal that’s challenging, but possible to achieve?

R – Is your goal relevant? How does your goal align with your values and long-term objectives?

T – Is your goal time-based? Do you have a deadline for completing your goal, whether real or arbitrary?

How can you apply SMART goals to your anti-racism work?

@evolvedteacher on Instagram uses the example of how families can keep learning Black history in school and at home throughout the year.

Here, let’s focus on how we can keep up our anti-racism work more broadly as individuals (students, faculty, independent researchers, and staff members) and make it more sustainable.

I take as my example this common initial goal: 

I want to read more by BIPOC authors

Step 1: Make it specific

I want to read and incorporate more articles by Black authors into my Greek History syllabus

Note here the two things that make this goal more specific.

First, I narrowed down the goal from BIPOC generally to only articles written by Black authors.

Second, I also included a specific purpose for this goal – to incorporate these articles into a syllabus for a course that I’m (hypothetically) teaching in the near future.

Step 2: Make it measurable

I want to read and incorporate at least four articles by Black authors into my Greek History syllabus

In order to measure your progress on your goal include a number that you’re striving towards.

Instead of “more articles,” the goal is to read and incorporate “at least four articles” now.

This way you can more easily see and track your progress.

Step 3: Make it attainable

Since I have around 4 months to develop my syllabus before I have to teach my Greek History course, I want to read at least one article by a Black author per month

In this step you should take into consideration how much time you realistically have to achieve your goal. Also consider what other obligations or responsibilities your goal might be competing with.

You might add in the amount of time you have until your deadline (“I have around 4 months to develop my syllabus”), and break your goal down into smaller chunks (“one article per month”).

Step 4: Make it relevant

I want to read at least one article by a Black author per month and incorporate it into my Greek History syllabus because I have noticed that my syllabus is dominated by scholarship written by white authors

Think about why you made this goal in the first place.

Our motivation to complete a task – such as “read more by BIPOC authors” – fades faster when our goals aren’t tied to specific values and long-term objectives.

If you want to read more written by BIPOC authors, is it because:

You want to be better able to recognize and intervene in situations of injustice?

You’ve noticed that your syllabi have been dominated by scholarship written by white authors?

You want to share your knowledge with your friends, colleagues, and/or students?

Make sure that it’s clear why you’ve made your goal. Your chances of following through will significantly increase if it is.

Step 5: Make it time-based

I want to read at least one article by a Black author per month to incorporate into my Greek history syllabus because I have noticed that my syllabus is dominated by scholarship written by white authors. I will incorporate at least four articles by Black authors into my syllabus by 4 months from today

Finally, you should be cognizant of your deadline, whether it’s real or arbitrary.

If your goal is related to a course you’re planning to teach, that deadline might be more real than if your goal is to amplify more BIPOC women scholars on your social media.

However, giving yourself a clear time frame in which to complete your goal is important for ensuring success. If you aren’t sure that giving yourself a deadline would be motivation enough, find some way to hold yourself accountable.

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