Setting and achieving goals is critical for the success of every organization. Though most companies are more than capable of setting goals, whether or not those goals are realistic and reachable is a different story.
Disorganized and impractical goals can lead to several negative situations, including employee demotivation and stakeholder disappointment. This is why as a productive professional or a manager of any kind of process, you first need to know how to write SMART goals — goals that are specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, and time-related.
In this article, we will be taking a deeper dive into what SMART goals are and the best method for creating them. We even provide a free SMART goal template for you at the end!
What Are SMART Goals?
SMART is an acronym, and each letter has a specific meaning attached to it. One of the most common readings goes like this:
- S: Specific
- M: Measurable
- A: Assignable
- R: Realistic
- T: Time-related
By using the SMART framework, you will be able to create goals that are impactful and easily understandable. Making goals within the SMART framework also ensures you can track progress and measure how close or far you are to achieving them, which is a vital part of goal-reaching.
If you’re just getting started with SMART goals and you need some help with the writing process or the formatting, don’t forget that Madak is offering a free template to guide you in the right direction!
What Do the Letters in SMART Stand For?
SMART goals can be used for anything and everything, and many people use them outside of the professional world as well. In order to clarify how the framework is put into action, let’s go through what each letter in the acronym means using two goals as examples: “I want to get more fit,” and “I want to audit and update the business’s Instagram account.”
Making specific goals is the first step toward making them achievable. People often tend to confuse goals and dreams, and we set unrealistic expectations for ourselves (or for our businesses). For example, “I want to get more fit” is unclear, as fitness means different things to different people and there are different benchmarks or KPIs people might use to judge progress.
One person’s specific fitness goal might be “I want to run 5 miles without stopping,” while someone else’s may be “I want to do a pullup,” or “I want to improve stamina so I can enjoy weekend hikes,” etc. Getting specific with your goal will allow you to stay focused and set you up properly for the next step — measuring.
An example of a specific goal in the business world might be auditing and updating your Instagram account by the end of the month to ensure up-to-date info and brand representation.
When you have a measurable goal, you can easily track it. That’s why you usually have to attach a number to your goal. For example, if you want to run 5 miles without stopping by the end of the year, you can set smaller benchmarks to work toward to ensure you’re making progress.
This not only helps you stay on schedule while working toward your goal, but it also allows you to celebrate smaller achievements along the way, which is good for maintaining discipline and motivation.
The example above of auditing and updating your Instagram account by the end of the month can also be broken down into more measurable chunks (i.e. are a certain number of posts audited by the end of each week?).
Whatever the goal is, you need to know who will be responsible for achieving it. Obviously, for any personal goals, you will usually be the assignee.
In the case of the Instagram account audit example, the creator of the goal needs to decide who will be in charge of completing it. It may be yourself, a team member, or a group of people. The point is that each goal has to have someone acting upon it at all times.
If you come to the conclusion that either no one can do that particular task or no one has the time, then you will need to re-evaluate the priority of other goals or look for outside help.
Having realistic goals ensures you aren’t wasting your effort. You have a limited amount of time and resources, and it would be a shame if you or your organization worked toward something only to realize it isn’t doable.
If we again look at our ‘get fit’ example, an unrealistic goal for a busy professional might be “I would like to run 5 miles every day before work.” Something more realistic might look like “I would like to run at least two miles after work every day and 5 miles or more on Saturdays.”
Turning to the Instagram account audit example, the time frame could be the difference between a realistic goal and an unrealistic goal. For example, if you wanted to complete the audit of 600 posts in a few days (unrealistic) instead of one month (realistic).
You always need to have a time frame for your goal; otherwise, you might postpone achieving it forever. Having a time frame will push you to be consistent and to do everything needed to get to the end goal in time. If you want to run 5 miles, it’s important to set a time frame in which this should happen so you can set smaller goals along the way.
Similarly, projects often get postponed in a business setting unless there is an understood urgency behind the task. Of course, this is the reason deadlines exist!
SMART goals are used by individuals and businesses alike to set realistic and trackable goals. Setting goals as a manager or business owner can feel overwhelming because there are so many things that need to get done. Bringing some organization and structure into your goal setting will help you track progress and performance and keep the whole team focused.
This framework is also great for setting personal goals, so don’t be afraid to get SMART about changing your life if you want to make a transformation!
If you want some extra guidance, use this free template to make your goal-setting process that much easier.