According to a study, 76% of people who write achievable, measurable, and time-specific goals find success, compared to the 34% who don’t write them. This statistic underscores a core principle and goal-setting technique that has repeatedly proven successful, called SMART goals.
SMART goals help you break down a bigger goal into smaller tasks, track progress, stay accountable, follow a timeline, and stay relevant. These are all essential elements to success, especially if the goals are really ambitious.
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The word “SMART” in smart goals stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. The five elements are essential to setting goals so that achieving them becomes simpler and easier.
When you define each parameter, you ensure better accountability and specificity. This technique helps you eliminate guesswork while also making it easier to track your progress.
Smart goals also work well when you’re leading multiple teams, each with a set of specific goals that are measurable and time-specific.
An example of a smart goal would look something like this. Let’s say your ultimate goal is to be a world-class writer. As you can see, this goal is quite vague, albeit ambitious.
To turn this goal into a SMART goal, you’ll bind yourself to write 500 words daily. This goal is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Ultimately, if you stay on this track, you’ll be a far better writer by the end of the year.
To be able to set SMART goals, we must break down each goal and look at it closely. Here’s how to write each SMART goal with an example.
If you set vague and indefinite goals, you’re unlikely ever to achieve them. Specificity is the first step, as the more clearly you describe your goal, the better you understand it, and the easier it will be to achieve it. To make your goal more specific, you can ask questions like:
- What exactly do you need to accomplish?
- What can you take away from your goal without affecting its primary purpose?
- Which steps to take to achieve this goal?
Example of a Specific Goal. Shawn, a digital marketer in an agency, has been tasked with making one of his client’s business websites more visible on Google. This goal is quite vague as it doesn’t discuss how it will happen or what metrics need to be met to make this goal a reality.
Shawn sets a specific goal of generating at least 1000 visitors on his client’s website by updating previous blog content and making it more search engine friendly. This highly specific goal gives Shawn milestones to work on to make his client’s website generate more traffic ultimately.
Specific and measurable goes hand in hand. If your goal is not measurable, it will be challenging to determine where you started, where you are now, and where you need to go. Once you set a measurable goal, you can better determine how much effort, time, and resources you need to invest to reach that particular goal.
Example of a Measurable Goal. If Shawn simply decides to “increase the visitors” to his client’s website without being measurable, he might not be able to achieve much success. Setting a measurable goal of 1000 visitors will allow him to track the progress and consistently use those goals as stepping stones for bigger goals like 2000 visitors, 3000 visitors, and so on.
It will also lead to more concrete results on a limited budget instead of wasting the client’s money “measuring” whether the efforts are truly successful.
Just like your goals need to be specific rather than vague, they also need to be realistic rather than idealistic. Setting an achievable goal in the current constraints is the only way to make consistent progress without overwhelming yourself.
There is also an element of control that contributes to making a goal achievable. If you’re the one setting the goals, you might find it easier to set achievable goals for yourself. However, if you’re in a position where goals are being assigned to you, you might not always have the freedom to make those goals achievable or realistic.
For example, your manager might ask you to create a detailed 30-page report by the end of the day. However, knowing yourself, you might find it hard to achieve this goal. In such cases, it is better to convey your concerns and communicate to save yourself from being overwhelmed and overworked, ultimately impacting the quality.
Example of an Achievable Goal. Let’s say that Shawn becomes overly ambitious and aims to reach 1 million organic visitors to his client’s relatively new website by the end of the month. However, the website needs a lot of work to reach that traffic.
As a result, Shawn will work extremely hard and exhaust himself, and he still won’t be able to achieve this unrealistic goal. In contrast, if Shawn focuses only on reaching 1000 visitors by the month’s end, it would be much easier and practical given the current status of his client’s website.
Sometimes things that are “nice to do” might seem “irrelevant” when trying to achieve a bigger goal. Therefore, it is critical to set goals that are highly relevant to your end goal.
You’ll need to carefully analyze everything you think you should do and see how many of those things genuinely push you toward your goal.
You’ll also need to prioritize goals by determining which milestones will be more significant in achieving success.
Example of a Relevant Goal. The low-quality content on the client’s website is the main factor for its poor search engine ranking. However, instead of updating and improving the content, Shawn focuses on technical aspects like site speed and navigation.
Even though these factors play a massive role in SEO, they are not the problem in his client’s website. This is why this goal is irrelevant and won’t bring any substantial improvement to the client’s search engine rankings.
The last element of SMART goals is to be time-specific. This helps you become accountable and streamline progress and growth.
Firstly, you should determine whether your goal is long-term or short-term. If it is long-term, you should develop a timeline accordingly by breaking it into smaller tasks achievable in small chunks of time.
You should also leave some room for sudden changes or unexpected obstacles in your timeline.
Example of a Time-bound Goal. In Shawn’s example, a time-bound goal would be to reach 1000 visitors on a client’s website in one month. Doing this will enable Shawn to keep the client happy with the progress while also being able to move closer and closer to the primary goal.
SMART goals can make a seemingly impossible goal achievable. They work well in personal and professional spheres.
Organizations routinely ask their teams to implement a SMART approach for better management, accountability, and distribution of resources.
SMART goals also help separate the essential from the non-essential by encouraging teams to only focus on what’s relevant. Ultimately, this piece aims to help you set up SMART goals with ease and precision.
Tell us in the comments your experience with SMART goals in your personal or professional endeavors!