Setting goals can give you a plan, helping you define and say out loud what you want. The problem with most goal-setting, though, is that they are often the end game. It’s what you want to accomplish, but without a concrete action plan, you’ll probably never achieve them.
That’s where SMART goals can help. SMART goals can help you clearly define the goals you want to accomplish and figure out exactly what you need to do to get there.
What Does SMART Mean?
SMART is an acronym that helps you set better goals for yourself by ensuring each one is:
- Time-bound (or time-sensitive)
Whether personal or professional, setting goals using this framework helps ensure your goals are realistic and achievable in a set amount of time. It also helps you define and measure your success toward achieving that goal.
How to Create SMART Goals
When you create SMART goals, you’re creating a clear action plan that defines what you need to do and by when. Each part of the goals supports the others, resulting in a unified and cohesive strategy that helps you achieve your goals.
The first thing a SMART goal is is specific.
A goal that is broad and vague is difficult to accomplish. But a goal that’s specific, clear, and concrete is not. For example, your goal might be to land a new job, but that’s very general. Instead, develop a SMART goal that gives you a roadmap to landing a new job.
Ask yourself a few questions about your general goal to help you make it specific.
- What do I want to accomplish?
- Why does this goal matter to me?
- What do I have to do to achieve the goal?
So, if your goal is to land a new job, ask yourself why you want a new job:
- Are you bored in your current role?
- Do you want to move up a level but can’t at your current company?
- How will a new job fit into your overall career plan?
- What do you want from a new job?
With those in mind, you might create a SMART goal that looks like this:
- I will become a [job title] at [name of company or industry] and work a hybrid schedule.
With the specifics in place, decide how to measure your progress toward the goal.
For example, using the above goal, you could include a measurement of applying to no less than five new jobs per month. This specific, concrete metric defines what you have to do to make progress toward landing a new job.
But a measurable goal does more than help you define progress. It also keeps you accountable!
If your goal includes applying to five jobs per month, but by the 29th, you’ve only applied to one job, step back and figure out why you didn’t apply to five jobs that month. Were you unable to find jobs and companies that were a good fit for you? Is it the end of the year, and there isn’t much hiring going on? Analyze what happened and adjust your plans to account for factors within your control, and don’t stress about what you can’t control.
The other half of this, though, is that measuring your progress toward the goal helps keep you accountable. If you say you’re applying to five jobs per month, and it’s the 29th, but you’ve only applied to one position because you didn’t spend enough time searching, you can hold yourself accountable for not meeting the goal.
While aiming high and stretching yourself is important, any goal you set needs to be realistically achievable. For example, while you may want to run a Fortune 500 company one day, it’s unlikely that day will be the one right after you graduate college.
To set an achievable goal, ask yourself how realistic it is, given your current circumstances. If, for example, you want to get a promotion, but that job requires a certain kind of education (like a certification or even a degree), your SMART goal of getting the promotion may not be achievable right now. Instead, you may need to focus your goal on going back to school or enrolling in some classes.
Whatever goals you set need to be relevant to you and relevant to other goals you may be working toward. This is the answer to the “why.” Why are you setting this goal, and what will it help you accomplish?
For example, if you’re trying to change careers, you may think you have to return to school and get a new degree. But that may not be the case. Ask yourself if obtaining a degree is relevant and achievable. If not, there may be other ways to accomplish your goal (like focusing on your transferable skills.)
Finally, SMART goals are time-bound (or time-sensitive). Essentially, you’re setting a due date to help motivate you to stay on target.
The due date can be daily, weekly, or monthly (even yearly if it’s appropriate). Then on the due date, evaluate where you are, where you need to go, and what you have to do to get there!
SMART Goal Examples
That’s how you set SMART goals. But what do they look like in action? Here are a few examples of SMART goals.
SMART Goal for a Job Seeker
- Specific: I’m going to get a job as a senior account manager for a leading consumer goods company.
- Measurable: I will apply to no less than five appropriate roles per month.
- Achievable: As an account manager, I already have the skills to become a senior account manager but cannot at my current company.
- Relevant: This is the next logical step in my career and will help me move into director-level roles.
- Time-Bound: I will apply to at least one open position each week to ensure I apply to five openings per month.
SMART Goal for Growing Leads
- Specific: I will find better leads to ensure we close more sales and have less churn.
- Measurable: The sales team will increase sales by 5%.
- Achievable: We spend too much time selling to people that ultimately aren’t served by the product. I will better vet leads before sending them to the sales team to better match clients with the product.
- Relevant: Growth in sales will help reduce churn and improve the bottom line.
- Time-Bound: After three months, I will review my progress and adjust my strategy as necessary.
Clear Goals With a Plan
SMART goals are more than clear. They help you define the steps you need to accomplish your goals and set clear metrics that can motivate you and keep you on target toward achieving them.
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