SMART is a mnemonic acronym that helps guide goals and objectives in different areas such as project management, personal development, and employee performance management. The acronym SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Based.
A goal can be defined as an idea of the future or the desired result that an individual, group, or business envision, plan and commit to achieving. Goals and objectives are part of every aspect of business and life and help provide direction, focus, clarity, and motivation. A SMART goal is a tool used to help guide goal setting and incorporates key criteria that help one focus their effort towards realizing a set goal and increases their chances of doing so.
George T Doran first introduced the SMART goal in a published paper in the year 1981. In the document, he introduces SMART goals as a tool for creating criteria to improve the chances of succeeding in accomplishing goals. The concept was widely accepted, and later on, Professor Robert S. Rubin of Saint Louis university wrote about SMART in an article. In the article, he states that the definition of the SMART acronym might need to be updated to reflect the importance of Efficiency and Feedback in goal realization. His idea is also accepted; however, some authors opted to expand the SMART acronym to SMARTER to include more focus areas where E stood for Evaluated and R for Reviewed.
Why Should You Use Smart Goals?
We all dream of things that we would like to do or achieve in our lives. Whether it is self-actualization, esteem needs, love or psychological needs, etc., we have to set goals to achieve them. Unfortunately, people often fail to realize their goals as they set vague, ambiguous, or unrealistic goals. To significantly increase your chances of realizing your goals, one should always consider using the SMART goal technique whenever setting up a goal.
SMART goals help establish boundaries and define the steps that one has to take and the resources needed to achieve a goal and also establishes progress indicators that help track the progress made towards goal realization along the way.
For a clear and better understanding of the SMART goals, consider the following examples:
- Paul would like to change his career from business correspondence to a Human Resource manager.
- Kelvin has identified his goals, and he knows that he wants to become a customer representative, but he is unsure of where to begin.
- Mike wants to become a taxi driver but doesn’t know the ins and outs of the taxi industry.
In all three cases, the individuals can easily realize their goals by using the SMART goal technique. By setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals, they will be able to have clarity, remain focused, and motivated towards achieving their goals without the need for special training or specialist tools. They will also be able to set up an action plan and establish the support needed to realize their goals.
How to Use SMART
More often than not, businesses and individuals set themselves up for failure by setting general, vague, poorly framed, unrealistic, or aggressive goals. While it may make sense to create ambiguous goals or long-term goals that span out over decades, what differentiates the SMART goal technique from other techniques is its laser-focused specificity. A SMART goal defines itself and sets clear what achieving means. Here is how to properly use the SMART goal technique:
S = specific
When setting a goal, the goal should be clear, specific, and to the point. Otherwise, creating time to focus and effort to achieve them may be hard as one may not be fully motivated. In addition, the achievability of a goal should be well defined to make one feel challenged but should not be ambiguous, vague, and unrealistic.
Some of the things that one should consider when creating a Specific SMART goal include; the parties that will be involved in achieving the goal, the specific goal that they would like to achieve, what the goal will achieve, when the goal will be achieved and why they would like to achieve such a goal.
By keeping in mind all this information when designing a SMART goal, one can achieve the object of specificity of the goal.
M = measurable
When setting a goal under the SMART goal technique, it is important to set detailed, measurable milestones to keep track of the progress and stay focused in order to achieve it. Assessing the progress of a goal helps one to not only meet their deadlines but also helps one make changes geared towards achieving such goals.
It is important to quantify the progress of a goal and know if the measures put in place are working towards its realization or not. While figuring out a goal is smart, knowing the path to take to achieve them is better. Therefore, to easily quantify their goal, knowing how many/much the goal is going to achieve and the success and failure determinants is very important.
A = achievable
For a goal to be easily realized, it has to be realistic and achievable. The goal has to be practical enough, and one should be able to ascertain whether or not they are equipped to achieve their SMART goals.
To ascertain whether a goal is achievable to not, one should be able to determine how the goal will be achieved, have the resources required to realize the goal-the resources must be practical enough, have the financial capability to finance the goal, and have an in-depth knowledge of the goal by studying what others have been able to do to achieve the results.
By having all this information in mind when designing a SMART goal, one will be able to know what they are getting into and how well equipped they are to achieve their goals.
R = relevant
When setting a SMART goal, it is important to consider whether or not it is relevant. The goal set should align with the values and long-term objectives. Setting a new goal is good, but it has to be an extension of an already existing vision- i.e., something one already believes they can accomplish. When setting a goal, one should also ask themselves why such goals are important to them and how achieving them will contribute towards their long-term goals. A relevant SMART goal should be;
- realistic and within reach
- easy to commit to
- realistically achievable with the current resources and timelines
- set at the right time
If the goal has all these qualities, then the goal is realistically achievable and can easily be realized.
T = time-based
A SMART goal must be time-bound. This means that the goal has to have a timeline for when it should be realized. A goal with time constraints creates a sense of urgency and motivates one to achieve them. Therefore, when setting a SMART goal, one should ask themselves when they would like to accomplish the goal and have deadlines for when specific milestones should be met.
SMART Goal Examples
Mentioned below are a few examples of SMART goals:
- Paul is a Junior Developer and would like to become a Senior Mobile Apps developer. For him to realize his goal, their SMART goal will be:
Specific: Gain the skills and experience required for the senor mobile apps position
Measurable: Complete 60% of the mobile apps development course within three months. Be able to write a complete development code and complete the remaining 40% of the course within three months
Achievable: Set aside $450 for the course to help boost my skills
Relevant: Completing the course will add to my qualification for the position. The course will be part-time and will not cut into my normal working hours
Time-bound: Complete the course within six months and take a senor mobile apps development exam to be awarded an approval certificate
2. Jane wants to improve her performance in class. An example of her SMART goal would be:
Specific: I failed in biology and physics at my last performance review. Improving my performance will require that I put dedicate more time to the two units and practice by using more past papers.
Measurable: By the time of my next review, I should be able to answer most of the questions. I should also be able to answer all the questions from my previous review with ease.
Achievable: Improving my performance in biology and physics is instrumental in moving forward in my career and receiving a better performance review. I can dedicate my free time in the evening to study biology and physics early in the morning.
Relevant: Biology and physics make up 60% of my job. As I move up, I will need to spend 80% of my time working with microbial enzymes, meaning I must strive to bring my grades up.
Time-bound: In 4 weeks, I should be able to answer all the questions from my previous reviews.
NOTE: The pressure to realize goals using the SMART goal technique is open to interpretation to different people, and the urgency or rigidity of the process is usually construed differently.
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Goals are an important part of an individual/business growth. To achieve them, they must have a clear and defined order and follow the SMART goal technique to increase the chances of its realization. The SMART goal technique also provides a sense of direction and helps one get organized and focused towards their goals.