A Really SMART Way to Set Goals

Share this article

light bulb
You 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

Frequently Asked Questions about SMART Goal Setting

What is the origin of SMART goal setting?

The concept of SMART goal setting was first introduced by Peter Drucker in his book “The Practice of Management”. He proposed the idea of setting objectives that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. This approach to goal setting has since been widely adopted in various fields, including business and personal development.

How does SMART goal setting differ from traditional goal setting?

Traditional goal setting often involves setting broad, vague goals without clear criteria for success. On the other hand, SMART goal setting requires goals to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. This approach ensures that goals are clear, realistic, and trackable, which increases the likelihood of achieving them.

Why is it important to set SMART goals?

Setting SMART goals is important because it provides a clear direction and criteria for success. It helps individuals and organizations focus their efforts, measure progress, and achieve their objectives more effectively. Moreover, SMART goals can also increase motivation and commitment, as they provide a clear vision of the desired outcome.

How can I apply SMART goal setting in my personal life?

You can apply SMART goal setting in your personal life by setting clear, specific goals for different areas of your life, such as health, career, or personal development. For example, instead of setting a vague goal like “lose weight”, you could set a SMART goal like “lose 10 pounds in 3 months by exercising 3 times a week and reducing calorie intake by 500 calories a day”.

Can SMART goal setting be used in team settings?

Yes, SMART goal setting can be effectively used in team settings. It can help teams align their efforts towards a common objective, track progress, and measure success. Moreover, it can also improve communication and collaboration within the team, as everyone has a clear understanding of what needs to be achieved and how.

What are some common mistakes to avoid when setting SMART goals?

Some common mistakes to avoid when setting SMART goals include setting goals that are too vague, unrealistic, irrelevant, or not time-bound. It’s also important to avoid setting too many goals at once, as it can lead to overwhelm and lack of focus.

How can I ensure that my SMART goals are achievable?

To ensure that your SMART goals are achievable, it’s important to consider your resources, capabilities, and constraints. You should set goals that are challenging yet realistic, based on your current situation and potential for growth.

How often should I review my SMART goals?

It’s recommended to review your SMART goals regularly to track progress and make necessary adjustments. The frequency of review may depend on the nature of the goal. For short-term goals, you might want to review them weekly or monthly. For long-term goals, a quarterly or annual review might be more appropriate.

Can SMART goal setting be applied to any type of goal?

Yes, SMART goal setting can be applied to any type of goal, whether it’s personal, professional, short-term, or long-term. The key is to ensure that the goal is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

What are some tools or resources that can help with SMART goal setting?

There are various tools and resources that can help with SMART goal setting, including goal setting worksheets, apps, and software. These tools can help you define your goals, track progress, and stay accountable. Additionally, books and online courses on goal setting can provide further guidance and strategies.

Alyssa GregoryAlyssa Gregory
View Author

Alyssa Gregory is a digital and content marketer, small business consultant, and the founder of the Small Business Bonfire — a social, educational and collaborative community for entrepreneurs.

goal setting
Share this article
Read Next
Get the freshest news and resources for developers, designers and digital creators in your inbox each week
Loading form