Have you ever felt that no matter how hard you work, you’re still falling short of reaching your objectives? Whether it’s running your first marathon or starting a small business, it takes more than good intentions to turn a vision into action. Only when you know exactly what you’re going after, how you’ll get there and why it matters - can you be more efficient about making your goals achievable.
Setting SMART goals can ensure that your goals are clear and reachable ones. After all, by knowing precisely what you need in order to complete each step toward your goal, you’ll increase your chances of staying on task and realistically attaining the desired result.
Whether you’re training to get ready for a big race or creating an eCommerce website for your new business venture, here’s everything you need to know about what SMART goals are, how to write and execute them, plus some of the best practices.
What are the 5 SMART goals?
The SMART acronym stands for “specific,” “measurable,” “attainable,” “relevant,” and “time-bound.” Setting SMART goals can help you develop professional growth. It consists of breaking down big ambitions into a plan of smaller ones.
Each SMART goal should incorporate all five criteria, in order to create clear and tangible objectives (and allowing you to go beyond motivational quotes alone) which you can achieve over a certain period of time. Think of it as a series of vital questions you’ll need to answer before getting started:
01. What do you specifically want to accomplish?
Be specific about what your goal is. Objectives that are too broad or vague are less motivating, and therefore harder to accomplish in the long run. When framing your goal, try to answer the five “W” questions: Who, what, where, when and why.
Who is involved in your goal?
What do you want to achieve with your goal?
Where will the goal be attained?
When do you want to accomplish your goal?
Why do you want to reach this goal?
02. How are you going to measure your goal?
Your goal must be measurable so that you can determine your progress along the way and know if you’re on the right track. Setting milestones can make your goal trackable and help keep you in check. Each step in your plan will provide an opportunity to evaluate whether you’re moving toward your goal, or need to redirect yourself back on course.
03. Is your goal achievable?
Set goals that you can realistically achieve to keep you motivated and on task. Be as honest as possible with yourself about your ability to actually get them done.
To make your goal attainable, be clear on how you will accomplish it, and if the goal is not currently within reach, what skills or steps are required so that you’ll get there. Think about what you need around yourself to achieve your dreams, such as types of resources.
04. When do you want to achieve your goal?
Ask yourself why achieving your goal matters to you. Is it worthwhile to try it at this exact time or does it align with your current needs? Among other ambitious dreams waiting up the pipeline, you’ve selected this particular goal to take on because it resonates with your needs or desires at this moment. Make sure you understand what sets this one goal apart.
05. How much time do you need to meet your goal?
Every goal needs to be time-bound to provide a sense of urgency, keep you motivated and help you prioritize to meet it. But your timeframe should also be realistic so that you’ll be able to make your deadline, meaning it should neither be too far away nor too close from the moment you’ve set your goal. If your timeframe spans over too long, then your efforts might begin to dwindle down. If it’s not enough time, then you'll most likely become frustrated and want to give up.
What are SMART goal examples?
Goal #1: Starting a business
Let’s say your goal is starting a business. A SMART way of setting this objective would be to sell your jewelry within six months after completing business courses and gaining the knowledge you’ll need to do so.
Specific - Your goal of opening an online store is well-defined by your ability to answer the five “W”s. As a skilled jewelry maker, you want to achieve selling your crafts to customers through opening a business.
Achievable - You're basically already a small business owner with an inventory of jewelry that you sell to your friends and family. By taking business courses, conducting market research and building your own brand and professional website, you'll attain the skills and tools you need to succeed as a business owner.
Relevant - You’re planning on selling your own creations which is your passion and also readily available to you. You’ve also reached a point where you can explore new and exciting opportunities for your career and life.
Time-bound - You’ve set a deadline to achieve your goal of entrepreneurship in six months, the time it takes to acquire the tools you need before starting your business.
Goal #2: Boost web traffic
After successfully launching your online store, you want to boost your online traffic by the end of the year.
Specific - Your goal is to gain more potential customers by increasing traffic to your website.
Measurable - You’re hoping to increase your web traffic by 50%. To measure if the amount of visitors to your site is growing, you can track its progress using any number of website analytic tools.
Achievable - There are many proven methods to drive traffic to your online store. In addition, being able to track and manage your business online means that you can evaluate the successes or failures of your entire operation in-depth, from increased revenue to the number of visitors on your site.
Relevant - An extra boost of traffic could lead to more sales on your site, which is your main objective as a business owner.
Time-bound - You’ve given yourself until the end of the year to try and test different ways to improve your web traffic.
Best practices for setting SMART goals
Individuals and businesses are likely to set themselves up for failure if their goals are too broad or unrealistic. Instead, goals need to be SMART - specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely - to increase your chances of achieving them and giving you a sense of motivation to succeed.
Use clear language: Don’t use vague language such as “I want to always be a winner.” This can leave a lot of room for interpretation and cause you to lose your focus. The more specific you are, the better you’ll be at planning the steps you’ll need to take to get to your goal and how you’ll meet each one.
Quantify your goals: Add milestones along the way. Once you pass a milestone, it should push you to move forward to the next one, leading you closer to your desired results.
Let time be on your side: Give yourself sufficient time to meet your ambitions. For example, it is impossible for anyone to compete in a marathon without having practiced or completed training months in advance. There’s even a registration deadline to race.
Stay focused: When making a SMART goal for your business, don’t lose sight of what benefits your company. Your goal should be providing extra support, not competing against your own business’ interests.