You know those New Year’s resolutions you set at the end of every year?
The ones that last for about a week before you remember that running is hard and head back to the couch?
The reason for that isn’t always because you lack willpower, but rather that you aren’t setting your goals effectively.
If you want to achieve all your lofty dreams, you need to learn how to set better goals. And that’s as true in business as it is in your personal life.
Continuing to set regular goals without making them realistic or knowing how to accomplish them won’t get you anywhere.
This article will teach you how to set SMART goals — a framework for goal-setting that is exactly what you need to set goals that are achievable for yourself and your team.
What is a SMART goal?
If you want to make progress in any area of your life, setting goals is an important step along that journey.
That’s because there’s a strong link between goal setting and higher levels of achievement. Those who write down their goals are 33% more likely to achieve them.
Of course, that’s just as true in business as it is in your personal life.
Goals give us a focus to work toward. They motivate us and show us what’s most important to us.
Most importantly, they give us a sense of direction. Without goals, it’s hard to know what smaller steps you should be taking day-to-day to achieve them.
But how can you tell a good goal from a bad one?
Setting a goal like, “I will lose weight” or “My business will earn a million dollars” is way too vague. Goals framed like this are unlikely to produce any meaningful results.When people make vague goals, they’re usually setting themselves up for failure. Goals that are unrealistic or too generalized are unlikely to produce results. Using the SMART framework can help you set goals that are more likely to result in success.
The SMART acronym stands for:
You can probably guess the meaning behind each part of the acronym. But for now, all you need to know is that a high-quality goal should include all 5 of these requirements.
That way, you’ll end up with a goal that gives you something specific to aim for. Plus, it’ll have an actual timeline for when you will achieve it.
When is SMART goal setting applicable?
If you need to do some goal setting, then it’s hard to think of a situation where the SMART framework wouldn’t provide a benefit.
However, setting SMART goals is arguably most effective in business and the workplace.
Effective goal-setting motivates employees. So if you’re looking to create a more productive and effective workplace, SMART goals are a good place to start.
You can create SMART goals at an organization, team, or individual level. The SMART criteria will work equally well no matter how big or small your goal is.
Getting employees to set their own SMART goals is also a great way to empower them. It gets them involved and allows them to shape their own careers.
If an employee has done their own goal setting, then there should be no surprises when the time for their annual performance evaluation rolls around.
Each team member should be involved in setting smart goals for each objective they need to achieve. That way, they’ve got a clear idea of what they should be working towards all year.
The SMART goal template
Up until now, we’ve only gone over what the letters of the SMART acronym stand for. Now it’s time to explore each letter in more depth.
You need to understand and incorporate all 5 aspects of the SMART goal formula to achieve results.
For example, there’s no point making a goal that’s specific but not attainable. Or attainable but not measurable.
Here are the 5 SMART goal criteria that you need to take into account, and what each one means.
S – Specific
A specific goal is one without any ambiguity.
Saying that you want your business to make more money isn’t very specific. A goal that you want to double your sales within the next 12 months is much more specific.
Without some specificity in your goal, it’s hard to know exactly what you should be aiming for. So ask yourself exactly what the result is that you’re looking for. Try to get it in as much detail as possible.
Goals tend to also be more effective if you’re specific about what you do want. As opposed to what you want to avoid.
So try to make your goals focused around a positive outcome. Instead of something that you’re trying to avoid. Plus, saying “I want to avoid going bankrupt” isn’t a very ambitious goal anyway.
M – Measurable
Now that your goal has some specificity to it, you need to also incorporate some way to measure it. It needs to be quantifiable.
We most often measure things in amounts or percentages. So if your goal is lacking any kind of numbers, you most likely haven’t made it measurable enough.
To measure something, you’ll also need some kind of start and end point. If your goal is to double your sales within the next year, then you need to know what your sales are now. You also need to pick a specific date range to measure between.
It might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people overlook this. Measuring your goal inaccurately can be just as bad as not measuring it at all.
Measuring your goal allows you to see what kind of progress you’re making at regular intervals. You don’t have to wait until your end date to see how you’ve measured up. In fact, that’s a really bad idea.
Check the numbers associated with your goal regularly. You may need to decide partway through that you need to adjust your strategy if you’re going to achieve your goal.
Tracking your progress can also help keep you motivated along the way.
Just don’t get too obsessed with measuring your goals. A common trap people fall into is checking their analytics more than actually taking the steps that will move their goal forward.
Measure in moderation.
A – Attainable
If you like to set big goals and shoot for the moon, that’s admirable. It shows that you’ve got a lot of initiative and motivation behind what you’re doing. But you also need an attainable goal.
You might fancy yourself as the next Jeff Bezos and want to have a company that earns billions of dollars per year. But how attainable is that?
You’ve got to be realistic and set goals that you actually have a strong chance of attaining.
Aiming to 2x or even 10x your sales may very well be attainable if you’re a small, fast-growing company. Setting a goal to 50x or 100x your sales in the next year is less attainable.
You might simply not have the processes in place that will allow you to scale that quickly.
Setting unattainable goals and then falling short can make you feel stressed, frustrated, and discouraged.
We also aren’t saying to set extremely easy goals with a 100% chance of success, either. You want to set goals that will stretch you a bit. Just not to your breaking point.
One decade-long study found that 90% of the time, goals that are challenging — but not too challenging — lead to the highest performance. Comparatively, performance was worse for easy or generic goals.
Try to find the right balance. You want something that will be achievable, but only with significant work and effort.
If you’re struggling, try breaking larger goals down into a series of smaller ones. Setting small, realistic goals can be better than setting one big one.
Lastly, try to make sure that the goals you set are completely within your control.
You could set a goal to get 1,000 new followers per month on your Youtube channel. But this is largely outside of your control. You don’t have much influence over the Youtube algorithm or who ends up watching your video.
Instead, a better and more attainable goal to set is that you’ll upload a video every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This is completely attainable and fully within your control, without any reliance on luck or happenstance.
R – Relevant
A relevant goal is one that actually makes sense for you or your business to pursue.
You should be setting goals because they’re relevant and meaningful to you. Not because you think it’s what you should do, or because someone else says you should.
For example, a local plumbing company might set a goal of getting a certain number of Twitter followers. Maybe they post funny memes or controversial statements that grow their audience.
But is that really a relevant thing to pursue? Will it actually convert into additional customers or sales?
If you aren’t careful, it’s easy to set goals that aren’t really relevant to your business and waste a lot of time on them.
Part of what makes a goal relevant is also that it inspires you. If you don’t truly care about achieving a particular goal, you probably aren’t going to have the motivation to actually put in the work.
T – Timely
When you made a measurable goal, you added a way to make sure that your end result meets your expectations. But without associating some timeframe with it, a measurement doesn’t mean much.
So you want to have 10,000 people signed up for your email list. But do you want to achieve that within the next 6 months, year, or decade?
Making your goal time-bound gives you a deadline to work toward.
Like the other measurement aspects of your goal, the amount of time you give yourself to achieve it is important. You want to choose a timeframe that is realistically achievable. But you also want it to not be excessive.
Goals need some degree of timeliness to motivate you to work toward them. Otherwise, they won’t be a priority and will always end up on the backburner.
Once you reach the time-based endpoint of your goal, that should be a trigger to reflect on your goal and see how you did. Evaluate what worked and what didn’t. At that point, you may want to set a new and even more ambitious goal.
How do you create a SMART goal?
Now that you know the different aspects that make up a SMART goal, it’s time to create some of your own.
It’s worth really devoting some time to refining your goals down. It’s better to spend the time setting a great goal in the beginning. As opposed to spending your time later on working toward a misinformed goal.
As Jim Rohn said, “Goal-setting is powerful because it provides focus. It shapes our dreams. It gives us the ability to hone in on the exact actions we need to perform to achieve everything we desire in life.”
The first time that you set your own SMART goals, you’ll probably want to set aside at least 30 minutes for the exercise.
That can sound like a lot. But you want to really take some time to figure out what your objectives are. Then you need to make sure that your goal meets each letter of the SMART criteria.
If you’re taking the time to create a SMART goal, be sure to have it written down so that you can refer back to it. If you see your goal written down somewhere every day, you’re more likely to take action.
SMART goal examples
In this section, we’re going to go over some real-world examples of SMART goals from a variety of different scenarios.
That way, you’ll know what a good SMART goal looks like, and how to avoid common mistakes.
SMART goal example 1: increasing blog visitors
“At the end of this quarter, we will see a 10% increase in unique visitors to our blog compared to last quarter.
We will accomplish this by increasing our weekly posting frequency from 3 posts per week to 5.”
S – An increase in blog visitors is specific.
M – A 10% increase is a measurable difference. So is our number of blog posts per week.
A – Posting 2 extra blog posts per week is likely attainable for most companies.
R – The goal is relevant, assuming we run a web-based company and the increased traffic to our blog is generating more sales leads.
T – Our goal is timely because it’s comparing data from this quarter to last quarter.
SMART goal example 2: reduce office supply costs
“By the end of this year, we will achieve a reduction in monthly office supply costs of 5%.
We will accomplish this by getting quotes from 5 new suppliers, and attempting to renegotiate supply rates with our current supplier.
We will also form a committee of 3 employees (Ben, Susan, and Tega) to identify wasteful usage.”
S – Our goal specifically relates to office supply costs.
M – We will measure based on total office expenses via invoices that we receive.
A – A 5% cost reduction seems attainable.
R – Reducing expenses is relevant to any business.
T – We will compare our supply costs from the end of last year to the end of this year.
SMART goal example 3: starting a new business
“Within the next month, I’m going to set up a Shopify page to sell painted bottle caps.
I will create an inventory of 50 painted bottle caps within the next 8 weeks.
I will reach out to 5 potential customers per day to generate sales via word-of-mouth.”
S – The goal is specific about the type of business and how it will be achieved.
M – The amount of time, inventory, and leads can be measured.
A – This goal seems achievable in someone’s spare time.
R – Relevant, assuming the business creator has a passion for making hand-painted bottle caps.
T – Specific timeframe given for creating an inventory and setting up an online shop.
How monday.com’s project templates can help accomplish your SMART goals
monday.com’s project templates can help you to implement SMART goal tracking in your business.
The Advanced Single Project template allows you to manage complex projects with ease.
You can track your budget, manage risk, and allocate resources easily — all in one place. Plus, monday.com integrates with all of your team’s existing tools.
What are some benefits of using this template?
Manage your project from start to finish. Due dates, milestones, and tasks are all kept in one central place.
You can keep track of the timeframe of your SMART goals, manage each goal’s priority, track its progress, and even make comments and leave notes, so everyone involved is on the same page.
Monitor your overall project. High-level overviews and real-time information helps keep your goals measured. You can identify any issues early and prevent delays.
You can quickly switch views to see progress as a Gantt chart, bar chart, or other visual display.
Plus, you can sync it to a monday.com dashboard to monitor KPIs and stay on top of risks that could make it hard for you to achieve your goals.
Stay on time and on budget. Successfully execute your goal within the budget and timeframe that you set for yourself.
Set automatic notifications to keep you in the loop of progress and costs over time, so you always stay on track.
Start using SMART goals today
Now you know what SMART goals are and how to set them. It’s time to start using them in your own life/business.
Get started with monday.com in just a few simple steps. You can start more effectively managing your workflow and goals with one of our easy-to-use and customizable templates right away.