How to Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals

S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym that’s often used in the corporate world (where I spent over 20 years) for business project management.  But you can use it too!  It has a number of slightly different variations:

S = specific, significant, stretching

M = measurable, meaningful, motivational

A = achievable, agreed upon, attainable, acceptable, appropriate, action-oriented

R = relevant, realistic, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented

T = time-specific, timely, tangible, trackable, timed, time-bound, time-based

Whenever you make a personal resolution, or plan a project, take a moment to consider whether your goals are S.M.A.R.T. Goals.  Instead of saying to yourself, “I want to lose weight,” which is an incredibly vague goal, try setting a S.M.A.R.T goal as follows:

(I have chosen the acronym words that I like the best.  Feel free to use the words that make the most sense to you.)

SPECIFIC:  Is your goal, and proposed methods for achieving it, clearly defined and unambiguous?  If not, how will you know when you have achieved it?

S.M.A.R.T. Example:  My goal is to lose 10 pounds in 10 weeks.  In order to do this, I will prepare and eat healthy meals at home, take my lunch to work, and walk on my treadmill for 30 minutes, 5 times per week. 

MEASURABLE:  Can your goal be measured?  If not, how will you know whether you are making progress toward its successful completion?  Not only that, but it’s tough to stay motivated to complete your goals when there are no milestones to indicate your progress.  Planned rewards also help.

S.M.A.R.T. Example:  I will weigh in once a week and track my weight loss on my calendar.  When I have lost the first 5 pounds I will treat myself to a massage.  When I have reached my goal of 10 pounds, I will treat myself to a new outfit.

ACHIEVABLE:  Does your goal have an outcome that is realistic given your current situation, resources, and available time?  The best goals require you to stretch a bit to achieve them, but they aren’t extreme.  Goals that are set too high or too low become meaningless, and you will naturally come to ignore them.

S.M.A.R.T. Example:  One pound per week is a reasonable weight loss goal.  I may even be able to reach it sooner than ten weeks!  To create time for making my lunch and walking on my treadmill I will get up 45 minutes earlier each morning.

RELEVANT:  Does your goal support your major life objectives?  Major life objectives, unlike specific goals, do not change frequently.  They are your fundamental priorities in life.

S.M.A.R.T. Example: Losing weight will support my life objective of maintaining my health by lowering my high blood pressure.  I will also feel and look better!

TIME-SPECIFIC:  Does your goal have a starting point, an ending point, and a fixed duration?  Commitment to deadlines helps you to focus your efforts on completion of the goal on or before the due date.  Goals without deadlines or schedules for completion tend to be overtaken by the day-to-day crises that invariably arise.

S.M.A.R.T. Example:   I will start on Saturday and weigh myself once a week, on Saturdays.  If I lose one pound per week I will be able to meet my goal by the end of 10 weeks (choose a specific date and write it on your calendar). 

Don’t procrastinate, just do it. You’ll be glad you did! Your plan for reaching your S.M.A.R.T. goals doesn’t have to be perfect, and you can fine-tune it as you go along.

And remember…it’s never too late to start

Copyright 2008-2011 by Hazel Thornton, Organized For Life.
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  1. Merrie on August 8, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    I found your post this week as I searched the web for a reminder to the acronym S.M.A.R.T. goals. I love your added descriptive words like Significant, Stretching, Meaningful, and Trackable. Yes, the basic descriptive words are important to applying the concept, but when I think of the goals as being “significant and stretching” I’m more prone to set the right goals…ones worth reaching. Timely is important, but “trackable” makes me think about charting and recording those measurable steps to getting to the end. Thank you…you have certainly motivated me to set my new S.M.A.R.T. goals.

    • Hazel Thornton on August 8, 2014 at 6:18 pm

      Hi Merrie, you just made my day with this comment. I JUST TODAY attended a luncheon where someone else mentioned S.M.A.R.T. Goals (it’s not like I invented them) and, as usual, they offered only one word per letter of the acronym. I though, “Am I just making it complicated by suggesting additional words?” And I came home to your comment, validating that different have more meaning to different people. THANK YOU!

  2. Jane Severance on June 19, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    So I have today off after working really hard all week long. I am exhausted physically and emotionally. Emotionally – I work with three young men who, though I actually like, want to play music that I think is racist and violent against women all day long. (Yes, I’ve ordered noise cancelling earphones – thank you Hazel! (from her post ’12 Things I’ve tried so you don’t have to’) and yes, I make them let me choose the music for part of the day.) Physically because you know what work is like.
    My house is dirty and unorganized and all I want is to sit on the couch and watch Grey’s Anatomy. But… after rereading this post I realized while I didn’t have the energy to do everything on my list, I could make my cleaning goal an hour. Just an hour. That’s all. Thank you, Hazel. Your advice and coaching has saved me so many times over the years.

    • Hazel Thornton on June 20, 2015 at 3:56 pm

      Yes. Just an hour. Or even 15 minutes. A little a day goes a long ways towards managing clutter. Thank you for the unsolicited testimonial, Jane!

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