Overview to SMART Goals

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SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

Specific. A vague goal like “I want to get in shape,” sets yourself up for confusion and disappointment because you won’t know what success looks like. You also won’t know how you want to get there. Often, you will find that specificity splits your vague goal into a number of smaller goals. Ask yourself questions like: What am I trying to achieve and why? Who will be involved? What exactly will this plan look like in action? 

Professional example: “I want to do well in my job as a sales professional” may become “I want to be the top salesperson on the leaderboard.” 

Personal example: “I want to get in shape,” may become “I want to reduce my intake of sugar and red meat,” or “I want to improve how fast I can run a mile.” 

Measurable. Setting a measurable goal will help you make it more specific and trackable. As you work toward your goal, you will have data that suggests whether or not you’re moving in the right direction. Ask yourself questions like: How will I measure my progress and my success? What amount will make this a success?

Personal example: “I’m going to run a mile as fast as I can, set an improved target speed two months out, and then train to achieve it. My goal is to reduce my time from seven minutes to six minutes and forty seconds.” 

Professional example: “I want to be the top salesperson on the leaderboard” might become, “I want to sell over $1million+ of our software. Last year I sold $800k and our winner sold $900k.” 

Attainable. Don’t set yourself up for failure by overcommitting to goals you or your team could never accomplish. Critics of SMART goals often point to the attainable factor as an issue. They say it kills creativity and the ability to dream. In reality, attainable is about this specific goal, and it shouldn’t hold you back from dreaming big. In fact, setting attainable goals is an excellent way to chip away at bigger dreams without feeling overwhelmed or unsure where to begin. Attainability helps you avoid setting a goal so unrealistic that you give up or lose motivation. Not to mention, attainable goals can still push you to your limits. If you want to, you can set a goal that’s only attainable if you work sixteen hours a day. That’s still attainable, but it takes into account a realistic grasp of the effort required. Ask yourself questions like: Do you have the time and resources you need to accomplish this goal? If not, how might you adjust your goal to what you have or get the resources you need? 

Personal example: Reducing your mile time by two minutes in two months is unrealistic for most, but twenty seconds may be much more realistic. 

Professional example: “$1 million in sales is achievable because I wasn’t far off of $900k last year. I’ve built some new relationships, strengthened old ones, and if I work hard I could make this happen.” 

Relevant. Considering relevance gives you an opportunity to think about how your goal fits into the bigger picture. With a personal goal, you might consider how your goal fits into your dreams and ambitions. With a team or leadership goal, relevance might also factor in how this goal impacts your organization. Relevance also helps you avoid setting SMART goals for smaller, more trivial tasks. It keeps you focused on goals that are high impact. Ask yourself questions like: What greater purpose does this goal serve? How will it impact my passions, values, beliefs, and ambitions? How might it impact my organization, community, or people close to me? 

Personal example: “I have a family history of heart disease and I want a measurable, achievable goal by which you can track cardio strengthening.” 

Professional example: “My long-term goal is to become our Chie

Professional example: “My long-term goal is to become our Chief Sales Officer, and striving to perform the highest of anyone in sales will be a big step in the right direction.” 

Time-bound. Time-bound goals ensure that you have a timeline to attach to your goal. Your timeline will help you determine and fine-tune many of the above factors. Ask yourself questions like: When can I accomplish this by? What will my timeline look like for myself and my team? 

Personal example: “I want to train for two months. Looking at research online, shaving off 20 seconds on my mile time as an amateur just getting into running should be doable.”

Professional example: “I want to reach $1 million+ by the end of our fiscal year.”  

In summary, setting goals that are SMART will help you to stay focused on relevant activities, increase motivation, and increase the likelihood of achieving your objectives.

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CEO of LEADx, and NY Times bestselling author, of Great Leaders Have No Rules and Employee Engagement 2.0. Get a FREE trial of the LEADx platform at https://leadx.org/preview.