SMART Goals - For Better Results In Business

By Sean Stevenson – Latest Revision January 12th, 2021

What Are SMART Goals?

Using SMART goals is a user-friendly way to plan for the future.  It takes all of the guesswork out of time management and lets you use your personal resources more effectively.  You can set realistic objectives that will allow you to shape your life or business, step-by-step, without any hassle.

SMART goals represent an ideal way to lay out plans and priorities.

Do you ever sense that you could be accomplishing more?  Many people spend years, even decades, rushing from one excess to the other.  They never achieve their goals, much less improve their skills.

If you want to achieve more and fulfill your dreams, you’ll need a simple yet comprehensive plan.  Namely, you could make use of SMART goals!

In this article:

  • I will define what SMART goals are, including the different categories
  • I will explain how to use SMART goals effectively and manage outcomes
  • We will explore the advantages and disadvantages of this business method
  • Finally, we will also discover how you can use them to achieve your personal and business goals far more quickly than you would otherwise

Defining SMART Goals

What exactly are “SMART goals?” 

Put simply, SMART is an acronym that describes a concept of engaged planning.  Each of its criteria are typically attributed to Peter Drucker, who created the Management by Objectives concept.

The most common use of the SMART goals acronym is:

  • Specific (exact, definite, unique)
  • Measurable (amount, quantitative, calculable)
  • Achievable (feasible, attainable)
  • Relevant (suitable, pertinent, important)
  • Time-bound (dated, term, allotment)

The acronym has also been updated to include Evaluated and Reviewed (or, SMARTER goals).  These additions can be used to assess the results of SMART goals in greater detail. 

However, for most people, the simplified variant SMART goals is adequate.

"If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy and inspires your hopes."

-Andrew Carnegie

Using SMART Goals

Using SMART goals is a way to both draft and motivate attainable achievements.  For the purpose of business or personal goals, you can create as many goals as you would like.  These can then be added onto as you progress towards your milestone. 

The key to using SMART goals effectively is by understanding their innate meaning.  Any realistic and timely mission should address each of the SMART goal categories.  Let us expand on the definitions so you can learn how to develop, create, and complete your own SMART goals:

1. Specific

The “S” represents setting specific and concise goals to center your focus around.  Using your efforts to attain something specific helps propel you forward.  In this way, you will better understand what you are trying to achieve, and why it will be important to your objective.  This has the added benefit of helping to keep you motivated.

When creating the specific part of your goal, try to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who exactly is involved?
  • What exactly am I trying to accomplish?
  • Where will this take place?
  • When will this happen?  
  • Why is this goal so important to my mission?
  • Which resources will I need to complete this task?
  • How much effort will this take?

Example

Consider if you were the head of quality for a large branch within a corporate organization.  A specific SMART goal for you would be, “I want to better understand our process, so that I can improve the quality of our existing products.  This will allow me to excel in my position and further improve my career prospects in turn.”

To establish a specific goal using the SMART goals method, you would first have to explore the exact nature of what it was you were seeking to accomplish.  Considering the resources, time, effort, and involvement required, would be an excellent start to this end.

Understanding if the specific goal is relevant to your overall mission, is also something to strongly revise.

Pro Tip:  Note that in setting specific goals, always address what the goal is and why it is important to you.  This will help you explore your plans fully in each category.

2. Measurable

The “M” represents ensuring your goal is measurable.  Measurable goals are necessary in order to track your progress.  Further, they will help make sure you stay motivated. 

In terms of quantifying our own successes, we can begin to see areas where we excel.  A measurable goal will always help you understand where your strengths and weaknesses are.  This is imperative in identifying how to best act on completing your objectives.  Always aim to leverage your strengths to their fullest effect.

When creating the measurable part of your goal, question the following:

  • How will I measure the progress being made towards my goal?
  • How much or how many?  What measurable aspects are there that relate to my objective?

Example

A goal to improve quality might be measured against a standardized system.  This will allow for the tracking of overall product quality during a specific period of time. 

From the data obtained internally, progress or failure can be measured accurately.  In either case, new methods and ideas can be brought forward to further improve the existing process. 

Each new solution introduced can be measured over time to ensure its effectiveness.  This will create a “sink or swim” concept, where only the best ideas can survive.

3. Achievable

Any SMART goal needs to be feasible and realistic so that it can be considered achievable.  Setting the bar too high is a recipe for frustration and failure.  However, setting the bar too low can create a precedent for lowered expectations and weakened performance. 

Try to set achievable goals that are challenging, yet still within reach.  By setting goals in this way, you may discover new methods or overlooked resources that can help you accomplish more than you originally thought possible.

When creating the achievable portion of your goal, question the following:

  • Is this goal realistic? 
  • Are there resources (financial or otherwise) that are available to bring it to fruition?
  • How can this objective be accomplished most effectively within the proposed framework?
  • Is the goal being set too ambitious?  Are there ways to simplify it so that real progress can be made?

Example

From a quality standpoint, it may be impossible to implement a new process or procedure if there are no resources to support such a change.  Asking yourself if the quality objectives you have set are realistic is key to setting an achievable SMART goal. 

If the time investment is too great, or if you are still inexperienced in your role, then you may have to re-evaluate your objective. 

If you cannot afford the necessities to complete your objective, try lowering the bar to set a more attainable goal.  You can always revisit your loftier ideas when you have more resources available in the future.

4. Relevant

As its name implies, the relevant portion of SMART goals is about ensuring that your objectives make sense for your mission.  If your organization needs something specific to progress, that would be something relevant to consider pursuing. 

Try to maintain control over your goals in any event.  Use them to lead yourself or others to a better outcome.  Drive productivity forward but remember that your own responsibilities come first. 

A relevant goal should be 100% answerable to the following:

  • Am I the best person to drive this goal forward?
  • Does this goal amplify my existing efforts?
  • Is this the best time to pursue such an objective?
  • Will the impact of this goal be worthwhile?
  • Is it economical and responsible?

Example

A mission to improve quality is a goal that many organizations undertake.  However, there are times when resources are stretched thin, and it may not be practical to undergo radical changes. 

In any event, you must also ensure that you are the most qualified and relevant individual to help alter a productive process.  There is also the consideration of time factors involved, what customers may be affected, and even how a workplace culture might react. 

All relevant factors must be considered carefully, to ensure the effort and time is worth the costs involved.

5. Time-Bound

Deadlines are important for any SMART goal.  Time-bound objectives help ensure accountability and motivation as progress is made. 

As you work towards your goal, a time-bound structure helps to keep you focused.  Alternative tasks won’t get in the way when you have made a demonstrable commitment to your SMART goal. 

A Time-Bound goal will always involves the following categories:

  • What deadline for completion can I set that will make sense considering my personal schedule?
  • When will the project need to be completed by?
  • What will my situation look like a week from now?  A month?  A year?  How can I set milestones to keep myself motivated?
  • What can I do right now to get started?
  • How can I best organize my time so that I will have the biggest impact on my SMART goal?

Example

Improving the quality of entire product lines can require a great deal of research and time invested.  Additional education, training, and even experience, may also be valid concerns.  Your organization may also have more pressing issues that must first be dealt with first. 

In short, to fully appreciate a time-bound SMART goal, you must recognize that projects often take much longer than expected. 

You may have to accomplish many smaller objectives first, before moving on to the larger goal itself.  This alone can prove time-consuming.  After completing the smaller tasks, you will still have to carefully delegate the proper amounts of time to effectively accomplish the larger mission you have started. 

Pro Tip:  A great way to help the “time-bound” effect, and keep you personally accountable to your SMART goal, is to keep a journal of progress you have made.  This can be reviewed and updated constantly to refresh your memory. 

It will serve to help keep you aware of work that has yet to be completed, allowing you to better prioritize your efforts.  You can also keep track of lessons learned and resources that can be explored at a later date.

All of this in tandem will effectively amplify your efforts, even as you move forward towards completing your goals.

Advantages and Disadvantages

The SMART Goal system is highly effective at establishing a clear focus. Using measurable elements will reinforce the motivations behind each objective as you pursue them to completion. 

Achieving goals is also never easier when using the well-defined categories.  They will help keep you appraised of progress and on-track with your deadlines. 

Perhaps most importantly, the system can be used anywhere and is free.  So long as you can keep a journal, or even a simple whiteboard filled with the relevant details, you will be setting yourself up for future success.  There are no specialized tools required, just a will to set goals and make it happen.

The only drawback is that there are many and varied interpretations of what represents an effective SMART Goal.  This has a tendency to create some confusion about its purpose or effectiveness.  Some also state that there are far better systems that exist for long term planning.  This may be true in certain circumstances.  However, SMART goals remains entirely effective for most people and businesses today.

"Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success."

-Pablo Picasso

Key Takeaways

SMART Goals represent a highly effective planning tool.  It is well-established within many circles for use in both business and in everyday life. 

Using this system will allow you to better prepare yourself for achieving attainable goals.  This is crucial to saving you both time and energy, which are things we can never get back once used.

While there are certainly variations of the acronym SMART itself, the essential meaning is generally similar in nature:  Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Whenever using the SMART goals system, ensure that you are setting a concise goal that can be easily understood.  It must also be measurable, so that you can track progress and make changes if necessary. 

Always make certain that your goal is achievable.  You don’t want to create impossible tasks that will only discourage further effort.  It should be relevant for what the aim of your mission or organization stands for. 

Lastly, it must be time-bound.  Without time-sensitive deadlines, there can be no accountability or motivation to keep you moving forward.

Keep all of these elements in mind when using SMART goals, and you will be well on your way to achieving your own success.

Applying This To Business Ventures or Everyday Life - Conclusion

Whether you wish to start a business yourself, learn to be more productive at work, or develop good habits at home, the SMART goal system can be of invaluable help to you. 

Often, we let these things slide, because we have too many distractions in our lives.  This can become a habit, putting us further behind in our own development and negatively impacting our lives.

Instead of letting things overwhelm you, take time to sit down and set your own SMART goals.  This will have an immediate effect of focusing your mind on what matters most to you.  You will also find that you can adjust your current plans or even develop entirely new ones with ease. 

All too often, our ideas seem vague and unconvincing.  They exist in our minds more as ideals rather than as actionable content that we can pursue. 

By crafting your own SMART goals framework, you will be creating the conditions that will allow you to thrive. 

Take charge of your own vision and destiny.  Your dreams are precious things, not to be wasted by inaction or uncertainty. 

Ask yourself if you looked back on today, years from now.  Would it have been worth it to create your own SMART goals so that you can accomplish your dreams and live a better life?

I would most definitely -unquestionably- say yes.

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