The SMART model is a well-established tool that you can use to plan and achieve your goals. While there are a number of interpretations of the acronym’s meaning, the most common one is that goals should be:
S – Specific (or Significant).
M – Measurable (or Meaningful).
A – Aligned (or Attainable, Action-Oriented, Achievable, etc.).
R – Realistic (or Relevant, Rewarding).
T – Time-bound (or Timed, Trackable).
How to Use SMART
Here is our guide on the kind of questions to ask yourself, in order to turn your regular goal into a SMART goal and maximize your chance of achieving it.
Your goal should be clear and specific, otherwise you won’t be able to focus your efforts or feel truly motivated to achieve it. When drafting your goal, try to answer the five “W” questions:
- What do I want to accomplish?
- Why is this goal important?
- Who is involved?
- Where is it located?
- Which resources or limits are involved?
It’s important to have measurable goals, so that you can track your progress and stay motivated. Assessing progress helps you to stay focused, meet your deadlines, and feel the excitement of getting closer to achieving your goal.
A measurable goal should address questions such as:
- How much is enough?
- How many?
- How often?
- How will I know when I reach my target?
- How will I know I am on track?
- What milestones can I put in place?
This step is about ensuring that your goal is aligned with your core values, as well as with other relevant goals that you have. If you are working towards two different goals which conflict with each other, you will certainly run into problems. If a goal is not really aligned with your priorities and core values, you are likely to procrastinate or self-sabotage, failing to reach the goal because you don’t truly feel aligned with it. Goals can change over time, so check in regularly on whether the goals you have set are still aligned for you.
An aligned goal can answer “yes” to these questions:
- Does this seem worthwhile and valuable to me?
- Is this the right time for focusing on this goal?
- Does this match my other efforts/needs/goals?
- Am I the right person to be tackling this goal?
To get a better picture of your core values, explore the following questions in your journal:
– Who are five people that you really admire?
- What do you perceive to be the core values of these people?
- What do you notice about the core values you have identified? Are there any recurrent themes?
- What might this tell you about your own core values?
Your goal also needs to be realistic and attainable to be successful. In other words, it’s fine to stretch your abilities but it still needs to remain possible. When you set a realistic goal, you may be able to identify previously overlooked opportunities or resources that can bring you closer to it.
An achievable goal will usually answer questions such as:
- How can I accomplish this goal? What are the possible strategies available to me?
- How realistic is the goal, based on other constraints, such as financial factors?
- Do I have the skills, tools and resources to achieve this goal – or am I able to find them?
Every goal needs a target date, so that you have a deadline to focus on and something to work toward. This part of the SMART goal criteria helps to prevent everyday tasks from taking priority over your longer-term goals. You might also set important milestones along the path and include these in your goal.
A time-bound goal will usually answer these questions:
- When do I want to achieve this goal by?
- What is an important milestone along the way?
- Where do I want to be six months from now?
- What needs to happen six weeks from now?
Think about a goal that you have for yourself. Check your goal against the SMART criteria above and write a new version of your goal that includes all of these success factors.
Check out this video (4 mins) which gives a clear overview of SMART goals, to further your understanding of the tool. You will notice that the video uses different terms in their acronym of SMART goals. Take this opportunity to reflect on which terms are most useful for you in goal setting: