When it comes to progressing in your career and personal life, goals matter. They’re a proven tool that provides the steps and timeline needed to check things off so you can succeed. But, not all goals are created equal. Research has shown that recording your goals, committing to take action steps, and creating a support network increases your chances of successfully achieving them. This is part of the SMART goals process. To help you out and save you time, we’ve created a handy SMART goals template. Plus, you’ll find some direction and examples on how to succeed with SMART goals.
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What Are SMART Goals?
SMART goals are statements of goals or results you’re working to achieve. They’re specific, well-defined, trackable, and time-sensitive and are written in a clear, measurable way. SMART goals indicate exactly what you plan to accomplish, how you’re going to get there, and by when you plan to do it. This is where the letters of the “SMART” acronym come into play.
The Specific part of a SMART goal means identifying exactly what you want to achieve, how you plan to do that and who will be involved as clearly and specifically as you can. Use simple, direct, and understandable words that make it easy to see your progress at any point.
The Measurable SMART goal aspect captures how you’ll know that you’ve progressed in your goal and how much you still have left to achieve. It’s a data or measurement unit as well as an assessment of how well you’re doing. You’ll usually know this by identifying milestones you want to see on your journey to reaching your ultimate goal.
The Achievable SMART goal component refers to how tangible your goal is, how realistic it will be to achieve, and if you have the needed resources and skills. You can figure this out using reasonable time frames for completing specific steps or milestones and of the overall goal itself. Consider if you can likely accomplish the goal now or if it makes sense to set a longer-term horizon with multiple steps or phases to prepare. And don’t forget to account for the tools or skills you’ll need to achieve your goal and what you’ll need to do to acquire them if they’re lacking.
This aspect of a SMART goal addresses how much your goal aligns with who you are, your values, and your larger career and life goals. It also indicates why the result is so important. You’ll need to identify why you want to pursue the goal and how it will help you achieve bigger things.
The Time-Bound element of SMART goals is the amount of time you’ll take to plan out and accomplish your goal. This helps you determine the time frame for each step along the way to achievement. You can use specific dates or a general time frame, whichever makes the most sense for your specific goal. Having a clear timeline will help focus you on meeting each milestone or step and progressing on a regular basis. And, if anything changes, you can always readjust the timeline to whatever makes sense in the future.
Why Write SMART Goals?
SMART goals go beyond simple goal-setting exercises. When you simply say, “I want to be the best at X”, you’re most likely setting yourself up to fail since the goal is so vague and doesn’t have a clear direction. SMART goals, on the other hand, push and challenge you, guide you in the right direction, and hold you accountable so you can achieve your goal when you want to. When you use this specific approach to planning and setting out to achieve your goals, you’re able to:
- Get very specific about what you want, why, when you want it, and how you’ll get it.
- Be reminded on an ongoing basis about where you’re at and where you should be along your journey to achieving your goal.
- Easily see what you need to accomplish each step of your goal (such as training or education, preparation or research, technology, financial resources, or time).
Once you can see and do these things with your goal-setting process, you’re more likely to see results. Jell is a great tool your entire team can use to help with their SMART goals and OKRs (objectives and key results). Whether it’s planning, setting, tracking, or achieving them, Jell helps everyone stay on track.
What Makes SMART Goals Achievable?
We all have trouble achieving goals at times, especially those big, life-altering ones. But, the good news about SMART goals is they’re achievable by their very nature. This is because you’re being specific, identifying how to measure them, ensuring they’re actually attainable and relevant, and committing to a time frame. Plus, when you ensure your goals align with your values and who you are, you’ll be much more motivated and likely to achieve them. And even if you achieved a goal that didn’t reflect you at your core, chances are you wouldn’t be happy.
SMART goals are even more achievable when you:
Make them fun but challenging.
Don’t forget to inject a little inspiration, humour, and interest into your goals so they don’t just feel like a ton of work. If you’re bored or overwhelmed, your chances of success will go down and what’s the point of that? At the same time, you also don’t want to repeat something you know you’ve done before unless there’s a real purpose. Work and life are more exciting when we’re challenged, and when we achieve a challenge, the reward feels that much better.
When you say your goals aloud to positive people who you trust, they become more solidified and, in a way, you might feel more accountable to fulfill them. Everyone benefits from encouraging words, plus it’s always easier to quit when it’s just you. What’s even better is working with someone who has a similar goal and updating each other on your progress to stay on track.
Create an action plan and schedule with steps and deadlines.
Stay on top of this by regularly monitoring your progress and consider committing yourself to one action per day, no matter how big or small.
Reward yourself and take breaks.
You’re only human, after all, and we all have our limits. We also like to be rewarded from time to time. Indulge in something you’ve had your mind on or take an afternoon off just for you.
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How to Write SMART Goals
If you follow these steps when writing your SMART goals, you’ll be on your way to success in no time.
Your goal should include the five “w” questions of who, what, when, where, and why. You need to know who will be involved in helping you achieve your goal, what exactly you’re setting out to accomplish, and an approximate time frame of when you’d like to do that. You also need to define any events or locations that apply and where any roadblocks or challenges might come up. Finally, be sure you fully understand your reason behind setting the goal in the first place.
Make it Measurable
Jot down the metrics you’ll use along the way to know if you’ve actually met your goal. Doing this makes the goal more tangible since it lets you check its progress. If you’re working on a project that will take, say seven months to wrap up, set a few milestones that list the tasks you plan to finish at certain points. Milestones not only help you stay on track but also greatly help in accomplishing the overall SMART goal. Your metric can be either quantitative (e.g. dollars saved or earned, time reduced, or units produced) or qualitative (e.g. positive feedback from clients or team members).
Set Yourself Up to Achieve
If your goal isn’t important to you, chances are you won’t be set up to achieve it, or at least well. You need some inspiration or motivation, or the process may not be positive enough to see through. Once you’ve determined that, think about how you can make your goal as easy to achieve as possible, whether that’s acquiring a new skill or product, shifting your mindset slightly, soliciting help, or something else. You need to know what it will take to get what you need to accomplish your goal.
Ensure Your Goal is Relevant
There’s no sense in going through the process and effort of setting and working on SMART goals if they don’t have some relevance to your team’s or organization’s broader goals. If, for instance, you’re interested in launching a new product line, it should be aligned to your employer’s overall goals for its offerings. These types of conversations are critical to have upfront so that you don’t spin your wheels on something that just isn’t realistic in your specific situation.
Set That Clock
Also related to making that goal achievable, you want to set realistic time frames around each of its steps or components. If you don’t, you risk getting off track, feeling overwhelmed, or simply postponing the work and letting your momentum disappear. Note the overall deadline along with what can be accomplished along the way and by when. This will keep you accountable and create some urgency, which will increase your likelihood of success.
Examples of SMART Goals
The great thing about SMART goals is that they can fit into any aspect of your work or personal life. Check out some SMART goal examples, below.
SMART Goal Example #1
I want to land three new clients that will spend at least $2,500 per month for the next three months. To achieve this, each month I’ll meet with 15 new prospects and distribute 15 new proposals.
Specific: This SMART goal specifically states how many clients I want to secure and how much money I’d like them to spend.
Measurable: The work required to achieve this goal is measurable in meeting with 20 new prospects per month to create sales leads.
Achievable: Depending on my company’s sales and revenue each month, this goal is likely achievable. Maybe they’re already bringing in one or two new clients every month.
Relevant: Bringing in new clients and more revenue seems like a very relevant and worthwhile goal.
Time-Bound: What I need to do each month and how long the overall goal should be accomplished are clearly stated.
SMART Goal Example #2
I want to finish my CPA designation, become a CPA, and make partner at my firm within five years from now.
Specific: The job titles and designation I want are clearly stated.
Measurable: I’ll know I’ve achieved this goal when I have my CPA designation.
Achievable: I’ve outlined each step within a realistic time frame that considers planning, studying, and work experience.
Relevant: Since I’m an accountant and the goal has to do with advancing in this field, it’s relevant.
Time-Bound: I’ve given myself five years to complete this goal.