New preppers and sometimes, even experienced one, can easily get caught up in thinking they must purchase everything on the “must have” lists of the experts or they buy something because “it’s cool.” It can be very hard to narrow your focus, and without a plan it can be very easy to fall into the trap of spending a lot of money on gadgets and other things that end up sitting in a closet, waiting for an emergency to happen.
If you are serious about prepping and about being able to provide for your family in an emergency or following a SHTF event, then setting achievable and realistic goals as part of your SHTF planning is something that will help you focus. So how do you set achievable and realistic goals as part of your prepping plan?
The SMART method of Goal Setting
SMART stands for Specific-Measurable-Actionable-Realistic-Timed goals. Before you can set SMART goals, you need to know where you want to end up. Otherwise, your goal setting will be like trying to get to take a trip without having a roadmap or a destination in mind.
So, the first thing to do is to picture yourself and your family during an emergency or SHTF event. What is your goal or your desired outcome for your family? If you’re having trouble thinking of a goal, just make a list of words that pop into your head first. When I think about my family during a SHTF event I think about the following things:
- Safe from Harm
- Warm & Dry
- Not Terrified
- In Control
- Able to Rebuild
Your word list might include totally different words than mine, more words, or fewer words, and that’s okay. It’s your list, and there are no right or wrong answers. I imagine safe from harm, and some version of warm and fed will be on everyone’s list, though.
Okay, so now that you have your list of words, you’re going to create your overall goal for your family during an emergency or SHTF event. You may want to use some or all of the words in your list, and some other words may come to mind as you work through it.
Here’s one example of an overall goal using my word list:
My family will use teamwork and resourcefulness to remain in control, and not terrified so that we can be warm and safe, stay together and be fed, during a SHTF event and we will rebuild and be self-sufficient after the crisis.
It’s a little convoluted maybe to use all those words, but it’s a good overall picture, right? It’s probably what a lot of people would want for their family. But this goal doesn’t tell me what to do to make sure my family is these things. So, it’s more of vision. It’s an image I have in my mind of how I want things to be for our family during a SHTF event. An overall vision of how I want things to go for us. A destination or end-result.
So now, let’s apply the SMART technique and create several different goals in some crucial categories to help us carry out the vision and reach our destination. Look back at your word list and instead of trying to fit them all into one sentence like I did, think of them more like categories. Try setting a SMART goal for each word in your list. Here are draft versions of a short-term, medium, and long-term goal for my first word or phrase which was safe from harm.
Short-Term Goal—something you can do without much planning or preparation
To keep my family safe from harm, I will carry pepper spray, mace, or some other self-defense tool
Medium-Term Goal—something that takes some research, planning, and time to finish
To keep my family safe from harm, I will get a gun and learn to use it. (medium-term goal)
Long-Term Goal—more complex goals which take time and may require extensive research and/or completion of other goals first.
To keep my family safe from harm, we will create and practice a bug out plan.
Specific. The first thing to check about a goal is to make sure that is specific. Even though my original long vision invokes a certain picture of what I want, there’s nothing specific there. But my short-term goal above is a lot more specific in the area of security. But it could still be more specific because I could identify the type and size spray I will carry. My medium-term goal about buying a gun needs to state what type of gun and how I intend to learn to use it.
Measurable. When you look at your goal, ask yourself if it’s measurable. How will you know when the goal is complete? One way to make sure that you follow through on goals is to make sure you can easily see when you have made progress on your goal. Look at my medium- term goal—to get a gun and learn to use it. That’s a big goal, and it’s going to be hard to know I’m making progress. I may need to break this goal into steps or smaller goals that are measurable so that I can get it all done. So, after doing some research, my goal may become something like “I will research and identify the best gun for me to own and take a CCW class to learn to use it.”
Actionable. Does your goal contain a verb or main action? Is it very clear what action you need to take to accomplish your goal? For this step, you want to make certain your goal and any steps to meeting your goal include action words or verbs.
Good verbs: Purchase, Identify, Complete, Make, etc.
Poor verbs: see, think, discuss, be, know, etc.
Realistic. Goals must be realistic for your current situation and skill level. It doesn’t do any good to have a goal to buy a gun if you know nothing about guns, have never shot one before, and don’t know yet what kind of gun you want. When setting goals, try to make them as realistic as possible. Break the whole pie (goal) into not just slices but bite-size chunks so you can digest them easily!
Timely. Make sure each of your goals and any related action steps has a deadline. Hold yourself accountable to when you accomplish this goal. Your short-term goals might be ones you will complete this week. Someone else may focus on completing short-term goals within the next 3 months. It depends on your goals. If your goal takes more than six months to complete, I recommend you seriously consider breaking it into smaller goals or at least several steps.
Example Goal Categories for Your Prepping Plan:
Food Stockpile and Inventory
When setting short-term goals for food stockpile and inventory, start small. If you don’t currently have an inventory of your stockpile of food and water, do that first. A quick short-term goal that is easy on the budget is to re-organize your pantry and cupboards to follow the “first in first out” rule (FIFO). This means that items that have been in your cupboards or pantry the longest are the first ones to get used in your everyday meal planning.
There are a multitude of apps available that can help you to track and organize your food stockpile if you haven’t been doing that already. There are also several different organizing systems you can buy or make yourself to help keep your stockpile organized and rotated.
If the power goes out for several days or even indefinitely, do you have an alternate method for feeding your family? If not, perhaps securing an alternate way of feeding your family in a short-term power outage can be a goal. Can you feed your family while on an overnight or three-day long bug out trip?
For a short-term goal in this category, you will need a method that is portable (for feeding a family on the move) and a method that is more permanent such as putting in a garden or making your own rocket stove.
Make your cooking and food goals suit your needs but check them to make sure they are also SMART.
For example, if you don’t already have a barbecue grill, your short-term cooking goal might be to save money to buy a used grill and purchase a stockpile of propane. If you already own a BBQ grill, your medium-term goal might be to stockpile additional propane or save money to upgrade to a bigger one. Other alternatives for cooking methods, of course, include solar ovens, rocket stoves, fire pits, and even an outdoor brick oven.
Heating & Staying Warm
Hypothermia is a very real danger during any power outage or SHTF situation, especially if you live in one of the colder climates. Make sure that at least one of your goals involves securing ways of getting and staying warm without electricity. Short-term goals can be simple low-cost things like to:
- Learn or secure several ways to start a fire during a bug out trip
- Seal up drafts in your current home
- Buy or make wool socks, gloves, a hat, and long underwear for each family member.
- Stockpile significant extra firewood for your existing wood stove
Medium and long-term goals can focus on more permanent ways to heat your home such as:
- Research alternative heating methods and identify two that work for your needs
- Save money to purchase a woodstove, generator, or propane heater
- Build or modify your home to take advantage of passive solar heat
- Invest in a portable solar powered charging system for your phone and other electronics
- Identify an alternate power system for your bug out retreat
- Purchase the components for a solar or hydro powered system
- Install a hydro or solar powered system at your home or bug out retreat
If your prepping plans fail to include how to store and replenish your water supply, you are putting your life and the lives of your family in grave danger. Water goals can focus on things such as:
- Purchase a Lifestraw water filter for every BOB
- Buy a Berkey water filter or make your own
- Increase the amount of stockpiled water you have on hand
- Identify and secure an unlimited fresh water source for your bug out retreat or home
- Make your own small rainwater catchment system at your existing home
During a SHTF event, security will be of the utmost importance. Other people and predatory animals will be desperate, hungry, and panicked. You will want to make sure that your prepping plan adequately covers the area of security. Consider setting security goals not just for your personal safety and to secure your existing home, but for your bug out trip, and your bug out location as well.
Examples of goals focused on security might be to:
- Buy pepper spray or mace and carry it regularly to give yourself time to flee if you are assaulted.
- Purchase bullet-proof inserts for school backpacks
- Install bars and shatter proof windows in your home or bug out retreat
- Install a security system at your home or bug out retreat that doesn’t rely on public power.
Sanitation and Hygiene
When it comes to a SHTF event or any kind of off-grid or prepper lifestyle, one of the things you must be prepared for is how you will keep things clean and dispose of waste when public utilities aren’t working or available. The ability to maintain good hygiene and sanitation can be critical to preventing infection and disease.
Examples of hygiene and sanitation goals include:
- Waste disposal during a short bug out trip
- Hygiene during a power outage such as learning to Make Your Own Solar Shower
- Create a bug out plan that includes regular practice drills
- Identify several emergency rendezvous points for your family members
- Purchase handheld walkie-talkie units for emergency communication between family or group members.
Obviously, there are more categories to consider than those listed here and you will have to add your own deadlines, but hopefully, you get the idea. Set goals in the categories that are a priority for you. Personally, I always have at least one goal that focuses on learning a new skill. I don’t think I’ll ever learn it all!
Your goals might all be focused on your existing home and a bug out plan initially. Once you have those goals accomplished, you may set goals more focused on a bug out location or even a future relocation to an off-grid home. You know best what will work for your family. Just make sure to do your research and ensure that whatever goals you do set are SMART, and you’ll make better progress.