The most popular way to set goals is to use the SMART framework — and for good reason: it’s effective for virtually every business. With the SMART system, you set goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. Let’s take a look at what exactly that means.
The first criterion means your goal needs to be precise. This will allow you to clearly outline what steps you need to take to reach the goal.
To check if a goal is specific, see if you can answer the six Ws:
• What exactly do you want to achieve?
• Why is this goal important to you?
• Who will play a part in helping you achieve this goal?
• Where will actions related to this goal take place?
• Which resources will you need?
• When will you start and finish?
It’s impossible to know if you’re on track — or even if you’ve already reached your goal — unless you have a way of measuring your progress. The goal needs to include a particular numerical value that you want to achieve and you should have access to the data and metrics that will allow you to quantify your progress.
The “A” in “SMART” is sometimes called attainable, sometimes achievable. No matter what you call this criterion, it means that it must be possible for you to reach the goal. This usually means having access to the necessary resources, such as finances, time, and the right skill set.
“R” can stand for relevant or realistic. In either case, it means your goal shouldn’t be too ambitious — as this is demotivating for your team — and it should be worth your time. If there’s another goals you could be focusing on that would be easier to achieve, better matches your overall business goals or values, and would lead to bigger benefits for your business, you should consider why you are considering pursuing this goal at all.
You may also find the “T” in “SMART” identified as time bound, time based, or even time sensitive. All these come down to the same thing: you need an end date for your goal within a reasonable timeframe. You need to give your goal a sense of urgency, as goals that are too long term end up forgotten until it’s too late. However, if you set your goal with a particularly tight deadline, you’ll end up stressing your team and decreasing your chances of success. The best SMART goals of all include action you can take now, results you want to see in a few weeks from now, and a final achievement around six months later.
Simply knowing what SMART stands for is not enough to ensure you set effective goals for your business. Download our SMART goals template for extra support. This asset will walk you through the steps to take to set your goals, help you figure out how to manage your time, and make sure you focus on the right thing each day.