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I’m guilty of setting poor goals. Either they’re overly ambitious or I haven’t prepared myself to succeed. I’ve always wondered why I never accomplished the goals I set out for myself, but then I saw some SMART goals examples, and it all made sense.
Goal setting isn’t something we should do randomly or without an action plan. Take it from someone who knows! Setting goals requires plenty of thought and purpose.
That’s where the SMART goal-setting method comes in handy. It helps us lay the groundwork to reach our personal and business goals or aid our professional development.
While the SMART goal method requires effort, this framework will help you achieve your goals. Find out how to write SMART goals, see examples, and discover where this method came from.
What are SMART goals?
SMART goals follow a specific framework to achieve goals. You can use this method for any type of goal — personal, professional, financial, and more. You can also use the SMART goal framework for short-term and long-term goals.
SMART is an acronym that stands for:
- Specific: The goal you set should be specific, and you shouldn’t be able to misinterpret or confuse it
- Measurable: The goal should allow you to track your progress
- Attainable: The goal needs to be realistic
- Relevant: A relevant goal relates to your values, dreams, and ambitions
- Time-bound: There needs to be a target date for completion, such as four months or one year
Put this together, and you’re left with a detailed goal-setting plan that keeps you focused and headed in the right direction.
Using the SMART goal framework helps to direct your actions so that they all contribute to reaching your goals. As you implement this framework, it may highlight where you could run into challenges. That allows you to plan and chart a detailed course prepared for obstacles.
Developing an action plan that works for you can be difficult. At BetterUp, our coaches can guide you in your goal-setting process and set goals that will best benefit your future.
Where do SMART goals come from?
Goal-setting theories and studies have been around for quite some time.
But we have George T. Doran to thank for the SMART goal framework. Building on existing goal-setting theory, he published his findings in 1981. Since then, they’ve been studied and implemented. Doran originally talked about SMART goals from a business perspective.
When he came up with the framework, many U.S. businesses weren’t effectively setting goals. Nor were they creating a successful planning process. Doran used his framework to discuss business goals like how to increase sales and set benchmarks.
Doran wrote his framework to ensure that managers had a solid template for creating meaningful, detailed objectives for their goals.
Fast-forward to the present, and it’s common to use the SMART goal-setting method for achieving all manner of life goals.
10 examples of SMART goals
You may be wondering what some SMART goal examples are, so let’s take a look at what these types of goals look like on paper. Keep in mind, you can use this method for professional and personal goals. Take note of these examples of work goals, SMART goals for leadership, and personal development:
1. SMART goal for running a marathon
- Specific: I’d like to start training every day to run a marathon.
- Measurable: I will use my Apple Watch to track my training progress as my mileage increases.
- Attainable: I’ve already run a half-marathon this year, so I have a solid base-fitness level.
- Relevant: I value my health and wellness, and this goal will help me sustain that.
- Time-bound: The marathon is a year away, so I need to be ready by then.
2. SMART goal for writing a book
- Specific: I’d like to write a novel.
- Measurable: I want to write at least 2,000 words a day for three months.
- Attainable: I’m retired now, so I have more time to dedicate to this project.
- Relevant: Reading and writing have always been a passion of mine.
- Time-bound: I’ll start writing in the first week of July and finish my first draft by December.
3. SMART goal for building a better relationship
- Specific: I want to build a better relationship with my father.
- Measurable: I’ll talk to him twice a week over the phone and meet up for breakfast on Sundays.
- Attainable: We live close to each other, and I recently improved my work-life balance.
- Relevant: I want to strengthen our bond and understand my family members more, starting with him.
- Time-bound: I’ll implement this plan until the end of the month and then set new goals for the end of the year.
4. SMART goal example for work
- Specific: I will start a side business selling flowers.
- Measurable: I’ll spend at least two hours a day planning and marketing my business.
- Attainable: I used to sell vegetables from my garden, so now I’ll use my expertise to switch to flowers.
- Relevant: I love growing flowers and sharing them with other people, and it would earn me extra money.
- Time-bound: I’ll start working on my marketing plans and growing my flowers to be ready for sale by July 1st.
5. SMART goal example for increasing sales
- Specific: I will learn new sales techniques to increase sales at work.
- Measurable: My goal is to double my sales in four months.
- Attainable: I’ve been a sales associate for two years now. I know the basics, and I’m ready to learn more.
- Relevant: I want to feel more confident at my job and learn new skills.
- Time-bound: Tomorrow, I’ll start doing a LinkedIn training course on sales tactics and implement them on Monday at work. I have four months to see results.
6. SMART goal for becoming a better leader at work
- Specific: I will ensure that my team members can count on me as a strong leader.
- Measurable: My goal is to survey my team members now and in three months to see how supported they feel.
- Attainable: I’ve been in this position for six months now, and I have previous management experience at my prior job.
- Relevant: As our company grows, I want to make sure that I’m supporting my team so they can learn and grow too.
- Time-bound: I will become a better leader by the end of this quarter before the company takes on new projects and hire more staff.
7. SMART goal for establishing better communication at work
- Specific: I will help my team feel like they can communicate effectively and freely since we work virtually.
- Measurable: I’ll use more Slack channels to communicate with team members to encourage communication and see how often they use them.
- Attainable: All of us are tech-savvy and understand that communication skills are important for a team, so I’d like to strengthen those abilities.
- Relevant: I was just told that our work will remain virtual for the future, so we need to get better at communicating entirely online with one another.
- Time-bound: I will send Slack invites to everyone tomorrow morning, and in a month, I’ll ask everyone how they feel about their communication abilities in our meeting.
8. SMART goal for improving emotional regulation
- Specific: I will gain a better sense of control over my emotions and feel calmer.
- Measurable: I’ll write in my journal every night, and every Friday, I’ll review my feelings and thoughts from the week.
- Attainable: I’ve always had a good sense of self-awareness, but now I want to better control my emotions.
- Relevant: I’ve started seeing a therapist, and I have other goals that relate to my well-being, so this is one of them.
- Time-bound: By the time I start school again in September, which is three months away, I want to feel in control of my emotions.
9. SMART goal for waking up earlier
- Specific: I want to wake up earlier each morning to have more time for my morning routine.
- Measurable: I’ll start setting my alarm clock for 7:30 AM this week, and each week set it earlier by 30 minutes. Plus, I’ll write on my calendar the time when I actually woke up to measure progress.
- Attainable: My schedule allows me to go to bed at a decent time each night, so waking up earlier won’t take many hours of rest.
- Relevant: My morning routines are filled with social media, and I feel rushed trying to get to work each day, so waking up early would help me feel calmer.
- Time-bound: In four weeks, I want to wake up two hours earlier than when I usually wake up now.
10. SMART goal of learning French
- Specific: I want to learn how to have conversations in French to communicate with my in-laws better.
- Measurable: I’ll use apps like Duolingo that will hold me accountable to work on my French daily and track my progress.
- Attainable: I speak three languages now, so I’ve always felt confident picking up new ones.
- Relevant: I feel like I can’t communicate with my in-laws very well now since they only speak French, and I’d like to strengthen our relationship.
- Time-bound: I want to be able to hold a conversation in French in six months, which is when my relatives come to visit me next.
How to use SMART goals to improve in your career
Setting relevant, SMART goals can further your career development. When you learn how to set goals and work to achieve them, you’re putting time and effort into our careers. SMART goals help you address your job responsibilities.
They can be about improving, increasing, developing, or reducing things you do at work. By setting these types of goals, you’re showing that you care about finding purpose in your work, and putting in time and energy to do so.
SMART goal setting is an effective tool to use when setting short-term and long-term goals. Align your goals with your targeted career direction. Let’s say you’re starting at a company as an entry-level employee.
If you have a goal of becoming part of management one day, you need to set detailed goals to get there. You’ll have to learn all about the leadership skills you need, what earns a promotion, and how many steps there are in the employee ladder.
Goals that help you visualize precisely where you want to be help you get there — especially when you’re unsure how to begin working to achieve them. Specific goals chart a worthwhile action plan. Your SMART goals will show what kind of hard work and effort you need to achieve your goals.
8 extra tips for using SMART goals
Some people struggle with sensible goal setting, and that’s OK. Take comfort in knowing this is a skill you can grow. The first goal you set might not be detailed or may not be easy to measure. Even a goal that doesn’t meet all the SMART goal criteria is still a learning opportunity.
Each time you set a goal, you’ll know what practices worked best for you and which ones to avoid.
Here are eight tips for using the SMART goal-setting framework:
- If your professional goals are too big, break them into smaller, short-term, achievable goals to keep you moving forward
- Incorporate rewards as you reach milestones for any goal
- Welcome a different approach for different goals, like work goals, personal goals, or health goals
- Always start with the “why” for your goals, as in, “Why are you setting this goal?”
- Be realistic with your goal setting and make sure they fit your abilities and values
- Keep a calendar, either virtual or physical, to track time and measure progress
- Don’t be afraid to adjust or reset your action plan if you find things aren’t working out
- Acknowledge setbacks, but don’t dwell on them
For the future: Should all goals be measurable?
Now, you understand the origins of the SMART goal template, and why this framework is so useful.
After all, measuring your goals gives you an easy, clear path to achieving them.
Without a measurable goal, it’s hard to gauge progress. And, if you can’t tell if you’re on the right track, you won’t know if and when you need to adjust your goals. Measurable goals also help you manage your energy.
They can show you when you’re tired and need a break or when your motivation is spiking. At the end of the day, your SMART goal examples support your future self.
But remember: all progress is progress. If you’re struggling to measure something abstract, like working to be kinder to those around you, that’s normal. Regularly check in with yourself to see if you feel like you’ve grown, and be proud of yourself for trying.
Find someone who can help you manage your energy and ensure that your goals are measurable. BetterUp can help you take the time to think through an action plan that works best for you as you set your SMART goals.