SMART Goal Setting

by Neil on November 20, 2008

It’s important to have goals, it helps to keep us on track rather than just cruising along through life. However, goal setting can be a tricky task. Many of us might like to loose a few pounds or save some money, but we aren’t really sure how to achieve our goal. Well, fortunately it doesn’t have to be hard. In fact if your SMART about it goal setting can be easy. Furthermore by using SMART goal setting you may find that you’ve increased your success rate.

So what is SMART goal setting? Good question and we’ll get to it in a moment. First I want to cover three aspects that can make achieving your goals that much easier.

  1. Write it down. It doesn’t matter what your goal is, write it down somewhere. Let it inspire you! Your goals are your dreams, so I do hope they inspire you. Referring back to your goal often will remind you of why you are doing whatever it is you are doing. Further, it will make the goal appear more real.
  2. Recruit a partner. Someone who you can talk to about your goal, to help keep you motivated and on track. This person can be a spouse, parent, sibling, friend, co-worker. Whatever works for you.
  3. Like Nike says, “Just Do It!”

SMART goal setting is about working, you guessed it, smarter and not harder. It is a way for you to clearly lay out your objectives and then track those objectives through to completion.

The problem most people have when setting goals is that they aren’t sure how to measure success or how to define the steps they need to take. SMART goal setting takes care of that for you. In five simple steps it allows you to put a plan in place and provides you with the tools to review your progress. The five steps to SMART goal setting are: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time. We’ll break each of these down below.

  • Specific: You should have a specific goal in mind. Many people desire to loose weight and so their goal may be to ‘loose 20 pounds in one year.’ This is a goal and it’s a good one. However, it isn’t specific. A specific goal would be ‘to loose 20 pounds in one year, by eating a healthier diet and working with a personal trainer.’ Another example might be to ‘save three months of income in an emergency fund.’ Again, a great goal but not specific. A specific version would be I plan to ‘save three months of income by setting up an automatic transfer to a savings account of $100 every pay.’ It’s not just enough to have a goal, you need to define exactly how you plan to achieve the goal. By doing this you put a plan to your desire. You articulate how you going to take action and make the goal a reality. Remember you can have multiple goals, however you should define them individually.
  • Measurable: Your goal should be measurable. In order to determine if you are on the road to success with your goal you need to quantify it. In the examples above it is easy to track. Week after week are you loosing weight? On each pay date are you transfering money? These are the easy ones to track. Some goals may not appear so easy to quantify. You will need to determine a way to measure your progress to ensure you are on track.
  • Achievable: Can it be done? Perhaps you’d like to be increase productivity. Demanding a 100% increase in productivity probably isn’t achievable. However, requesting a 10% increase over last months productivity might be. You can then work with that to eventually reach your 100% goal.
  • Relalistic: Achievable leads directly to relalistic. Can it honestly be done? If the goal isn’t relalistic then you need to return to the ‘Specific’ stage and re-evaluate your objectives. Whatever your goal might be it should be achievable with tools that you have on hand or that are easily available to you.
  • Time: When will your goal be accomplished? It’s fine to say you want to loose weight or save money, but when will you reach that goal? Without this element the goal is open ended and has no real beginning or ending. The time element is also a time where you might do a review to ensure you are on track. You could them make adjustments to your plan if required.

Goal setting can be daunting. However, with some forethought and planning it can be a highly rewarding process. Especially when your hard work pays off. Afterall when you achieve your goals you are one step closer on your personal journey of success.

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Dan 11.20.08 at 9:59 am

Great article.

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

You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.

cave2626 11.20.08 at 10:19 am

I like to make smaller milestones along the way to the larger goal. I find that I gain a tremendous amount of satisfaction when I get to my smaller milestones and it keeps me motivated enough to continue striving for the larger goals. In many cases the smaller goals are completely arbitrary, but I get to check it of as completed on my list. It’s amazing how good a check mark can make you feel.

George 11.20.08 at 11:12 am

Nice article. To reach your goal you must learn how to set realistic goals.

vinoth 11.20.08 at 11:43 am

nice blog…….. do drop in mine

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Neil 11.20.08 at 3:52 pm

Dan -> Thanks for pointing me towards your site. It looks like you’ve got some great resources there.

Cave -> I agree, smaller goals along the way help to keep us motivated and on track.

George -> Exactly!

mark 11.20.08 at 5:48 pm

woW!…. a very helpfuL and interisting site…

mark’s last blog post..CELEBRITY OFFSPRING TO BE

Caleb @ Blueprint Economics 11.20.08 at 6:26 pm

My mentor explained to me once that when he started goal-setting, to build confidence he would set unbelievably small goals. He would set goals so small that he couldn’t fail. Every day, he’d wake up and set small, minuscule goals. Every couple of months, he would upgrade his goals to tougher accomplishments. And now, 10 years later, he’s a millionaire. Some story huh?

Caleb @ Blueprint Economics’s last blog post..How to Start a Blog

Kevin Touhey 11.20.08 at 10:04 pm

Nice post Neil. I think that it is equally important to have the flexibility to adjust goals. Adjusting goals just means that we are slightly changing our path on the road to achievement. We’re still going to achieve, but we’re just taking some new and different steps.

Stanley 11.21.08 at 6:48 pm

Thats good advice. Its so hard to keep a goal once you start!

Stanley’s last blog post..Fridays hid-N-gems

LALITA NEGI 11.22.08 at 2:21 am

Very true said dear and i must tell you, the topic you have picked is really fruitful for everybody be it for their professional goal or a routine objective, to bring in the clarity and eliminate the confusion one must really follow these simple things.
Thank for sharing this info dear!

Chris 11.23.08 at 8:58 am

Hey nice post. Some good advice. thanks for posting.

Tess Marshall 11.25.08 at 11:15 am

Neil I just got a group of friends to meet monthly to support each other for 2009 goals. As a coach it’s important to receive the support I tell others they need!

Tess Marshall’s last blog post..How To Put Joy & Simplicity Into The Holiday Season

Barbara Swafford 11.25.08 at 1:49 pm

Hi Neil – Great post. Having someone to share goals with can make the difference between succeeding or not. I’m thinking of programs like Weight Watchers where everyone has the same goal and their weekly meetings provide support, accountability and encouragement. I’m guessing that’s why programs like that are so successful.

Barbara Swafford’s last blog post..NBOTW – An Explorer Of Life

Haziq Ruzaini 11.26.08 at 3:36 am

that SMART tool has been useful for me for years. It applies to all situation in life, not just on formal occasions but also on life planning and many more.

most probably the goal is hard to achieve. alternative to the goals should take place if we plan ahead before we start to put effort to achieve the goals.

Haziq Ruzaini’s last blog post..emotional bank account

Amirah 12.01.08 at 3:20 pm

Good point about setting realistic goals. It’s very easy to get frustrated if you choose a goal that you have very little chance of achieving. Setting small, but realistic goals is much more likely to lead to success and to motivate you to work toward bigger goals.

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Larry Bargers 12.04.08 at 8:16 pm

Great Article! Nice blog layout!

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gloria 01.06.09 at 2:45 pm

great blog idea. How about monetizing your blog

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Darmawan 02.22.09 at 8:42 am

Hi, great post u have
By using this SMART method, hopefully I can set my goals easier than ever and most important I’ll always remember what are my goals and know why I’m doing it right now

Darmawan’s last blog post..How to cleanly uninstall your applications

Deepa 02.22.09 at 10:51 am

Good one. Goal setting is not given as much attention as it deserves. I even set goals for the day(which is what my To Do List does)

Gabriel Gadfly 02.22.09 at 2:07 pm

Great post. Too many people fail to be specific when picking their goals, or they pick goals that aren’t achievable.

Gabriel Gadfly’s last blog post..Kisses For Nemo

Jeanine 02.25.09 at 11:10 pm

Great article. I like your 5 steps to goal setting. As a social worker in foster care I write service plans for the children I work with. Writing measurable goals is important in being able to judge whether or not the goal was achieved. I like your writing style and will check out your other articles.

Jeanine’s last blog post..What is Your Real Age?

Ray 02.26.09 at 12:14 am

I agree completely. Unless we have goals, we have no direction.

Ray’s last blog post..Change I Can Believe In…

Franky Lompus 06.05.11 at 4:19 pm

The SMART formula works well but there are still many questions about goal setting, like
Why do so many people set goals, start to make progress and then backslide diminishing the results they get? Why do many people start to consciously work towards their goals and then unconsciously sabotage their success?
The answer is simply. Many people do not condition themselves. We are creatures of habit. Our daily habits(actions/behaviors) determine our results.
A key element in achieving goals is conditioning your neurology for success. By doing so, you will keep in alignment at the neurological level. Why and how does this work?

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