A Really SMART Way to Set Goals

light bulbYou may be familiar with the SMART model, either because of goal setting, or through another planning process. SMART is a way of evaluating goals, projects and objectives across many different disciplines.  Well-known author and business consultant Peter Drucker is credited with coining the term, SMART, in his 1954 book, “The Practice of Management.”

While there are several different meanings of each letter, one of the most common breakdowns is:

S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Attainable
R = Realistic
T = Time-Bound

When you are writing out your goals, each goal should be evaluated against this criteria. If your goal fails in any of these areas, you may need to make some revisions. The SMART model is also a great way to measure your success during your regular goal check-ins.

Is Your Goal Specific?

A good goal is a clearly defined and easily understood one. It’s okay to start with a vague idea of where you want to go, but by the time you are done identifying your goal, specifics matter. The more you can drill down and provide details about your goal, the more successful you will be.

To start, write a goal statement or an intention, outlining what you want to accomplish in specific terms. To test your statement, check if it clearly specifies:

  • What you want to accomplish,
  • Why this is an important goal for you, and
  • How you intend to accomplish the goal.

Is Your Goal Measurable?

You need to be able to determine success or failure for your goal, upon completion and during each stage of your goal check-in process, and in order to do that, you need to create a way to measure your progress.

For short-term and mini-goals, this can be fairly easy since the life of your goal will span a shorter period of time and will be easier to track.

For long-term goals, create a plan that includes targets and milestones, essentially breaking the main goal down into smaller goals.  Check your progress against this criteria at each checkpoint to make sure you’re focused and moving in the right direction.

Is Your Goal Attainable?

Your goals need to pull you out of your comfort zone and make you want to strive to accomplish them. They should be challenging. But at the same time, if you’re creating goals that really aren’t attainable, you may be setting yourself up for failure.

For example, let’s say your goal is to travel around the world by next week. We all know that it is probably not something you can achieve, even with a significant amount of planning. Instead, go back to the specifics of your goal and adjust the timeline to make it more reasonable.

Is Your Goal Realistic?

Once you have determined that your goal is attainable, it’s usually realistic with the right amount of planning. Some of your goals will be more difficult than others, but the reality of accomplishing them almost always comes back to your plan.

If you’re able to create a realistic plan that breaks the goal down into smaller, more manageable targets, even your most ambitious goals can make the cut.

Is Your Goal Time-Bound?

You goals can’t be open-ended; every goal needs to be limited by a period of time, whether it’s years in the future or next week. The time factor of your goal is vital in order for you to complete your commitment to the goal and it creates an urgency that can kick-start your motivation.

Of course, the timing for your goal can change as you begin to work toward it and start to analyze your progress, but there should always be a specific timeline attached to every goal.

Have you used the SMART model with goal setting? Does it help keep you on track?

Tomorrow’s post will provide some helpful tips for making your goal setting process even more effective.

Image credit: Bartosz Borecki

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  • http://www.patricksamphire.com/ PatrickSamphire

    I’ve tried this method several times over the years in various careers, and it does have its uses, but it can also be a really bad idea. The problem is that not everything that matters can be modelled by SMART goals. The result of an over-reliance on SMART goals is that you can find yourself more focused on the things that are SMART rather than the thing that are most important.
    So, yes, use them when they are useful, but don’t overuse them, and don’t let them control what you do.

  • http://www.scriptsdesk.com jakab

    Wow ! Very nice defination of Goals and its issues.Really a nice sharing.

  • laroncarter

    Just what the doctor prescribed Ms. Gregory. Very practical and easy to digest system for attempting to design goals that produce successful results. Particularly interested in learning more about the goal statement. I’ll have to read on to see where you’ve hidden those gems. Solid blog post. @laroncarter

  • Dan

    If you’d like a tool for setting your goals for 2010, you can use this web application:

    http://www.Gtdagenda.com

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
    A Vision Wall (inspiring images attached to yor goals) is available too.
    Works also on mobile.