What are smart objectives (and how to use them)

What are smart objectives (and how to use them)

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What are smart objectives (and how to use them)

  • B.A., English, St. Olaf College

The term “SMART goals” was coined by in 1954. Since then, SMART goals have become popular with business managers, educators and others because they work. The late management guru Peter F. Drucker developed the concept.


Drucker was a management consultant, professor and the author of 39 books. He influenced many top executives in his long career. Management by objectives was one of his primary business theories. Effectiveness, he said, is the foundation of business, and the way to achieve it is to gain agreement between management and employees on the business’s objectives.

In 2002, Drucker received the highest civilian honor in the U.S.—the Medal of Freedom. He died in 2005 at age 95. Instead of creating a Drucker legacy from his archives, Drucker’s family decided to look forward instead of backward, and they gathered distinguished business people to form The Drucker Institute.

“Their mandate,” states the institute’s website, “was to transform the archival repository into a social enterprise whose purpose is to strengthen society by igniting effective, responsible and joyful management.” Though Drucker was for years a successful business professor at Claremont Graduate University, the institute helped to show how his management ideas—including SMART goals—could be applied to other areas, such as public and adult education.

Goals for Success

If you have been to a business management class, you have likely have learned how to write goals and objectives in Drucker’s way: SMART. If you haven’t heard about Drucker, you are in for a treat that will help you achieve what you want and be more successful, whether you are a teacher trying to help your students achieve, an adult learner or a person who seeks to achieve your dreams.

SMART goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

Writing SMART Goals

Writing SMART goals for yourself or your students is a simple process if you understand the acronym and how to apply the steps it prescribed, as follows:

  1. “S” stands for specific. Make your goal or objective as specific as possible. Say exactly what you want to achieve in clear, concise words.
  2. “M” stands for measurable. Include a unit of measure in your goal. Be objective rather than subjective. When will your goal be achieved? How will you know it has been achieved?
  3. “A” stands for achievable. Be realistic. Ensure that your goal is feasible in terms of the resources available to you.
  4. “R” stands for realistic. Focus on the end results you desire rather than the activities necessary to get there. You want to grow personally, so reach for your goal—but be reasonable or you’ll set yourself up for disappointment.
  5. “T” stands for time-bound. Give yourself a deadline within a year. Include a timeframe such as a week, month or year, and include a specific date if possible.

Examples and Variations

A few examples of properly written SMART goals might be helpful here:

  • Research tuition reimbursement and enroll in a degree program before the next employee review period.
  • Complete a continuing education course in using spreadsheet software by June 1.

You will sometimes see SMART with two As—as in SMAART. In that case, the first A stands for attainable and the second for action-oriented. This is just another way to encourage you to write goals in a way that inspires you to actually make them happen. As with any good writing, craft your goal or objective in an active, rather than passive, voice. Use an action verb near the beginning of the sentence, and ensure that your goal is stated in terms you can actually attain. As you achieve each goal, you will be capable of more, and in that way, grow.

Personal development is often one of the first things to get deleted from the priority list when life gets hectic. Give your personal goals and objectives a fighting chance by writing them down. Make them SMART, and you’ll have a much better chance of attaining them.

Every small business owner dreams of success. But far fewer define the goals needed to achieve those dreams. The S.M.A.R.T goal-setting approach makes it easy to set realistic business goals and achieve them.

Read on to learn about the methodology and how it can benefit your business.

What are S.M.A.R.T. goals?

S.M.A.R.T goals refer to a goal-setting practice that helps you set clear and reasonable expectations to maximize your odds of achieving a goal. Each letter of the acronym identifies an essential component of effective goal-setting.

“S” – Specific

Business goals like “make more money” are rarely attained because the objective isn’t specific enough to be actionable. You need to identify the driver and the desired outcome of the goal.

The easiest way to do this is to ask yourself the five W’s:

  • What do you want to achieve?
  • Why do you want to achieve this?
  • Who is involved?
  • Where will this goal take the business?
  • When do you plan to accomplish it?

With this approach, you can swap the goal of “making more money” for the specific goal of “finding one new client by the end of the month.” This specific goal checks all the five W’s and makes for easy implementation.

“M” – Measurable

If your business is stagnating, it could be because the goals you are setting aren’t measurable or concrete. For example, let’s say you want to generate more social media leads.

How many more leads do you want to receive, from which social channels and by when? Collecting and monitoring hard data in numbers will keep you accountable for your progress toward the goal. This quantified approach to goal setting separates S.M.A.R.T goals from purely aspirational goals.

“A” – Attainable

Dreaming of turning your one-person venture into a six-figure business overnight? While it’s not utterly impossible, it’s also not attainable to most.

Attainable goals are those that can be achieved with the material, financial and human resources available to you.

Setting unattainable goals can demoralize business owners when they do not achieve them. But setting and achieving attainable goals can provide a confidence boost that can further motivate you. Once you achieve one goal, set the bar higher for the next one.

For example, your goal can be to have your one-person venture make a profit in its first year—even if that profit is $1. From there, you can scale it up to eventually make that six-figure business attainable.

“R” – Relevant

Not all goals that can be achieved or worth achieving. Certain goals aren’t relevant to your needs, your other goals, your skillset or current market realities. If any of these criteria apply, it may be wise to pause the goal for a more opportune time.

Case in point, an economic downturn marked by lower consumer spending may not be the ideal time to introduce an upscale product. Having this awareness of goal relevance will help you stay ahead of trends and stand out from competing businesses.

“T” – Timely

When setting S.M.A.R.T goals, give yourself a firm deadline for goal attainment. For instance, set a goal of doubling your email subscribers by the end of the year.

Always define a timeframe that is realistic for the scope of the effort. With a clear deadline, you can plan for a goal, make progress toward it and ultimately achieve it.

Why should you use S.M.A.R.T. goals?

You should use S.M.A.R.T. goals because they help clarify your priorities, allow you to focus and drive you forward.

Instead of obscure goals like “get rich,” a set of specific goals informs you what you need to do and why you need to do them. It forces you to manage your time better, too. There’s also the sense of accomplishment when you’re able to knock off multiple goals.

About the author

Manasa Reddigari has tackled topics ranging from computer software to home remodeling in her more-than-a-decade-long career as a writer and editor. During her stint as a scribe, she’s been featured by MileIQ, Trulia, and other leading digital properties. Connect with her on to find out what she’s been writing about lately.

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A comprehensive breakdown of the framework and the psychology behind achieving realistic goals – complete with SMART goal examples.

What are smart objectives (and how to use them)

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Meet Cameron. She’s a product manager at a mid-sized tech company, tasked with increasing usage of their mobile app.

She knows she’ll need all hands on deck to make this happen. But when she’s set team-wide goals like this in the past, things have quickly fallen off track.

Nobody has a clear understanding of what success looks like, progress isn’t closely monitored, and soon, that important objective slips to the back burner (before toppling off the stove entirely). This time around, Cameron plans to leverage SMART goals for setting an action plan and staying the course.

What are SMART goals?

SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) goals are established using a specific set of criteria that ensures your objectives are attainable within a certain time frame.

Writing a SMART goal entails working through each of those five components to build a measurable goal that encompasses exactly what needs to be accomplished and when, and how you’ll know when you’re successful. This approach eliminates generalities and guesswork, sets a clear timeline, and makes it that much easier to track progress and identify missed milestones.

How to write SMART goals

So how can this acronym help with goal setting? Let’s work through each component, using Cameron and her team as an example.

S: Specific

In order for a goal to be effective, it needs to be specific – don’t be afraid to dig into those nitty-gritty details.

A specific goal answers questions like:

  • What objective needs to be accomplished?
  • Who is responsible for it?
  • What steps will you take to achieve it?

Thinking through those prompts will help you set a realistic goal that lays out what you’re aiming for and gives that vital context. Here’s an example of a specific goal Cameron might come up with:

Grow monthly users of CompanyXYZ’s mobile app. This will be accomplished by optimizing our app store listing and creating targeted social media advertisements for various social platforms.

M: Measurable

Specificity is a solid start, but it’s missing something important: numbers. Quantifying your goals (that is, making sure they’re measurable) makes it that much easier to track progress and know when you’ve reached the finish line.

Cameron and her product team want to grow their mobile app users. By how much? If they get even one new signup, that’s technically positive growth – so does that mean they’re done? The same is true for their social media advertising. How many platforms will they advertise on?

To make this SMART goal even more impactful, Cameron should incorporate measurable, trackable benchmarks.

Grow monthly users of CompanyXYZ’s mobile app by 1,000 users per month. This will be accomplished by optimizing our app store listing and by creating targeted social media advertisements for four social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

A: Achievable

Goals should be realistic — not high pedestals from which you inevitably tumble. Achievability means ensuring that your goal is within reach (you’ll also sometimes see this letter representing “attainable”).

Put simply, this is the point in the process when you give yourself a serious reality check. Is the goal you’ve outlined attainable? Is it something your team could actually accomplish? It’s important to consider any limitations that might impede your goal.

This step is much easier when you’re the one actually establishing SMART objectives for your team. Things are a little different when you’re slapped with unachievable business goals from on high. In those cases, make sure those constraints are made explicitly clear — especially to those who are passing down the goal. Even if you can’t shift the end goal, at least you’re making your position (and any potential roadblocks) known up front.

In terms of being realistic herself, Cameron might look at her goal above and realize that, given her small team and their already full workload, maintaining advertisements on four different social platforms might be biting off more than they can chew. She doesn’t want to set them all up for disappointment, so she decides to scale back to the three social networks where she’s most likely to find new clients.

Grow monthly users of CompanyXYZ’s mobile app by 1,000 users per month. This will be accomplished by optimizing our app store listing and by creating targeted social media advertisements for three social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

What are smart objectives (and how to use them)

Which productivity hack will work best for you?

R: Relevant

Nobody sets goals for the fun of it. There should be a real benefit attached to reaching your chosen objective.

That’s what’s meant by “relevant” here. During this step, you evaluate why the goal matters to you and your organization. Once you identify that key benefit, incorporate it into your SMART goal so everybody has a grasp on the larger picture.

Cameron doesn’t want to increase mobile app usage for the sake of her own ego. She knows that the app is a huge driver of customer loyalty, and an uptick in their app usage could mean big things for her business’ long-term goals.

Grow monthly users of CompanyXYZ’s mobile app by 1,000 users per month. This will be accomplished by optimizing our app store listing and by creating targeted social media advertisements for three social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Because mobile users tend to use our product longer, the aim of growing our app usage is to ultimately increase profitability.

T: Time-bound

Good goals don’t stretch into infinity – they have a deadline. The final component of SMART goals is that they need to be time-bound (also referred to as “time-based” or “timely”).

This is another important piece of measuring success. You and your team need to be on the same page about when a goal has been reached.

Can Cameron increase app usage within the next decade and still count that as a success? Probably not. When will her team start posting those social media advertisements? Immediately? Next week? Next year?

Your SMART goals should have time-related parameters built in, so everybody knows how to stay on track within a designated time frame.

When Cameron incorporates those dates, her SMART goal is complete.

Grow monthly users of CompanyXYZ’s mobile app by 1,000 users per month within Q1 of 2021. This will be accomplished by optimizing our app store listing and by creating targeted social media advertisements to begin running in February 2021 on three social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Our mobile is our primary point of conversion for paid customer signups, so the aim of growing our app usage is to ultimately increase sales.

By George Ambler | minute read

What are smart objectives (and how to use them)

Setting effective objectives to guide your team and organisation is very important for a leader to get right. Badly formulated objectives will steer an organisation in the wrong direction. I found this ten step approach to setting SMART objectives from the National Primary and Care Trust:

  1. Sort out the difference between objectives and aims, goals and/or targets before you start. Aims and goals relate to your aspirations, objectives are your battle-plan. Set as many objectives as you need for success.
  2. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.
  3. Don’t try to use that order M-A/R-S-T is often the best way to write objectives.
  4. Measurable is the most important consideration. You will know that you’ve achieved your objective, because here is the evidence. I will know too! Make sure you state how you will record your success.
  5. Achievable is linked to measurable. Usually, there’s no point in starting a job you know you can’t finish, or one where you can’t tell if or when you’ve finished it. How can I decide if it’s achievable?
    • You know it is measurable.
    • Others have done it successfully (before you, or somewhere else.)
    • It’s theoretically possible (i.e. clearly not ‘not achievable’.)
    • You have the necessary resources, or at least a realistic chance of getting them.
    • You’ve assessed the limitations.
  6. If it’s achievable, it may not be realistic. If it isn’t realistic, it’s not achievable. You need to know:
    • Who’s going to do it?
    • Do they have (or can they get) the skills to do a good job?
    • Where’s the money coming from?
    • Who carries the can?

    Realistic is about human resources, time, money, opportunity.

  7. The main reason it’s achievable, but not realistic is that it’s not a high priority. Often something else needs to be done first, before you’ll succeed. If so, set up two (or more) objectives in priority order.
  8. The devil is in the specific detail. You will know your objective is specific enough if:
    • Everyone who’s involved knows that it includes them specifically.
    • Everyone involved can understand it.
    • Your objective is free from jargon.
    • You’ve defined all your terms.
    • You’ve used only appropriate language.
  9. Timely means setting deadlines. You must include one, otherwise your objective isn’t measurable. But your deadlines must be realistic, or the task isn’t achievable. T must be M, and R, and S without these your objective can’t be top-priority.
  10. It is worth this effort! You’ll know you’ve done your job well, and so will others.

George Ambler was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa. He has spend many hours reading and applying leadership practices in his life that has created significant personal growth and development.

What are smart objectives (and how to use them)

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What are smart objectives (and how to use them)

Chances are, you’ve come across the phrase “SMART goals” before while reading entrepreneurial content on the web. Search Google for “smart goals business” and you’ll get over 260 million results. The topic is of significant interest to a lot of people, judging from the sheer volume of relevant content on the subject.

But what exactly are SMART goals to begin with? What does that acronym stand for and should you be setting them for yourself and your business?

What makes a goal SMART?

The concept of SMART goals first turned up in an article by George T. Doran in the November 1981 issue of Management Review. Since that introduction, many business management experts have formulated the “SMART” acronym in various ways.

Here’s how Doran framed it originally:

S stands for Specific: The goal is detailed. It identifies the precise aspect of performance improved by the goal.

M stands for Measurable: There is a metric or some kind of measurement unit for the goal. This way, you’ll know exactly when you’ve reached that specific goal.

A stands for Assignable: You can assign that goal to someone on your team (or a group of people) who will then be responsible for meeting it. (Note that sometimes people call A “Actionable.” This means there are practical actions you can take to reach the goal. Some often call it “Attainable,” which is basically a synonym for “Realistic.”)

R stands for Realistic: While we all love wild success, SMART goals are those that can be realistically achieved, given time or financial constraints. (Note that in formulations where “A” stands for “Attainable,” R is often attributed to “Relevant.” That means that the goal will help your company fulfill its main purpose and mission.)

T stands for Time-Related (or Time-Bound): Your goal comes with a deadline that has a specific time-frame associated with it. By that target date, you expect to reach your goal.

Why are SMART goals so effective?

The power of goals in general lies in the way they create both an action plan for where we want to be, as well as an assessment tool for measuring progress towards those destinations. A good analogy is a road trip. If you’re headed to a city you’ve never traveled to before, your journey will be more efficient and effective if you have a detailed road map to guide your travel.

The same is true for achieving business objectives and goals. The more detailed, actionable, and measurable they are, the more easily you and your team will find it to achieve those goals.

For example, let’s say you’re building a mobile app. Consider what would happen if you set a vague goal, instead of a specific one. You’d likely find it difficult to know whether your app development was on track or making solid progress towards launch. You also might not know necessarily whether you’d met certain goals at all, even after you’d spent significant time and effort trying to get there.

If your goal isn’t realistic, you’ll likely experience a prolonged period of deep frustration, wondering why you’re not “there” yet. Had you set your sights on a more realistic business goal, you’d likely have made measurable, noticeable progress on which you could build for future company projects.

SMART goals help you zero in on goals that will bring the most visible and concrete results for your company. It’s often easy to get sidetracked by industry trends and buzzwords, without really considering the practical implications they hold for your business. SMART goal-setting cuts through the fog of confusion and drills down on the achievable results that will help you fulfill your vision for your company.

How do you set SMART objectives for your company?

SMART goals can be set for just about any area of your company’s operations, including the finance department, your marketing and sales teams, and even company managers and C-suite executives.

Are you ready to set SMART goals? Start by considering your big-vision dream for your business, then work backward to reverse-engineer that overarching vision. What would help you lead your team to achieve that vision?

Brainstorm several short-term goals that will help you reach your larger objective. Then, process each potential goal through the SMART paradigm. Make sure you can describe with specific details each of your goals and that each goal is relevant to your company’s overall mission. Determine how you’ll measure success and what metrics you’ll use.

Finally, set a deadline and assign the goal to the appropriate person or team. Monitor progress periodically and ask for regular briefings so you can help your team stay on track and reach the goal.

What are smart objectives (and how to use them)

What are smart objectives (and how to use them)

Every manager knows this: team members almost always start projects with enthusiasm.

At the other end of the journey, the home stretch of any assignment brings with it a sense of accomplishment. The team is pumped and morale is high, and all that energy helps them sprint past the finish line.

How can we leverage this momentum for everyday work? How do we keep team members motivated when they’re halfway through a complex project and the end is nowhere in sight?

We do this by working SMARTer, not harder. Today, we outline strategies for setting team targets guaranteed to set your people up for success.

When it comes to setting SMART goals.

Being specific is not enough, be specialized

“Are our goals specialized enough to achieve the desired ends and challenge my team?”

Without a clear sense of what it is that you want your team to achieve, it will be difficult to quantify ”success.” Consider setting goals that provide value not only to the organization but also to the team members working to achieve them. Clearly address the ‘what’ to be achieved, the ‘how’ and the ‘when’ for each goal.

We recommend addressing the ‘why’ too. Show that achieving these goals will bring value to the organization and ‘in what ways’ team members will grow from achieving them.

Which of the following goals is more likely to get the results we seek?

“Let’s hit the $20K earnings mark by June!”

“Let’s achieve $10K in new business from our remote sales teams in the U.K by the close of the first Fiscal quarter of 2019, through leads gained from targeted Facebook and Google ads with another $10K in referrals from our office staff here in the Mid Atlantic working the CRM! Also, we’re going to have a friendly competition between the Mid Atlantic team and the U.K. team: the team that reaches their $10K goal first gets to split a $2K bonus!”

The first goal is vague, stating our desire with no sense of direction. The second goal, however, provides more detail—how those financial goals will be achieved, by which teams, and through which channels. It also provides an incentive for team members to achieve the goal and promotes team creativity. The second goal is specific and specialized in such a way that both the organization and the team benefit from accomplishing it.

Be measurable to team members as well

“Can your success be quantified? What does it look like?”

How will you know if you’re headed in that direction? What does ‘done’ look like? Craft your goals to have a clearly-defined point of success that allows you to say, “We have accomplished this specific thing we set out to achieve.” Once you establish the end goal, determine what metrics will be used to measure success.

As a manager, you should also identify areas of opportunity for the growth of each team member, and connect that to their measurable goals. By making it measurable, you give them the opportunity to quantify their own improvement too—making SMART goals for teamwork and elevating each individual along the way.

Be attainable

“Is your team qualified to achieve the goals set? Do they need more resources?”

Determine what it will take to achieve success… and if that isn’t practical, then figure out how to modify your goals in such a way that the ends are attainable. Perhaps some talent needs to be outsourced so your core team can focus on their areas of expertise?

Be relevant

“How does the goal fit into the bigger picture of the organization’s mission?”

Ensure that each goal that is relevant to the greater mission of the organization. This helps team members stay grounded in their purpose and affirms the importance of their individual contributions.

Be time-based

“Can your goal be achieved in a realistic timeframe?”

Once you define a goal, split it into smaller milestones with their own deadlines. This stops team members from becoming overwhelmed by ambitious goals. It is less intimidating to focus on one small component of a project at a time. Your focus should be on establishing a sense of urgency without creating anxiety.

Make this work for you by building out OKRs and “chunking” tasks into individual initiatives that lend themselves toward the KR at hand. Use project management tools like Asana or Jira to track progress and establish fluid handoff processes. Utilize smart tools like ToDo’s or reminders to stay on deadline.

Done right, SMART goals motivate team members to come together and achieve a task important to the greater organization, while also ensuring that they have the resources needed to get the job done. However, setting your team up for success must come from a place of empowerment.

If you are a manager implementing SMART goals.

Make yourself available

Your team should feel that you are an integral part of their support system. Ensure communication lines are open, meet regularly with team members to evaluate their progress and make sure that they are headed in the right direction.

Be open to criticism

Solicit feedback from team members throughout the process. Success can only happen when everyone is comfortable communicating and dialogue is honest and open. As a manager, you should be willing to make adjustments based on your team’s feedback.

Apply the lessons learned

Once a goal is achieved, sit down with your team and discuss what worked, what didn’t, and what can be done differently the next time. Were milestones established at the right points throughout the process? Were enough additional resources pulled in to accomplish what team members could not? Think about how things might run more smoothly the second time around.

Focus on the process… not just the outcome

One trap managers fall into when setting goals using the SMART framework is giving too much attention to the end result. Yes, focusing on the outcome is important, but the process to achieve it should be qualitatively assessed with feedback from the team. A Machiavellian approach to crushing goals often leaves employees, well, crushed. That’s neither good for morale nor for fostering a healthy team culture. Knowing how to implement SMART goals—and enjoy the process—is the secret to a successful team.

Have you implemented SMART goals for your team? What lessons have you learned from your experience? Do you have any tips for new managers settings goals for their teams? Let us know.

What are smart objectives (and how to use them)

Good event planning means you know up front what you’re trying to accomplish. Therefore before you fall into the planning mode of your first or next training course or workshop, think about the goals and objectives you have to set up. Think of both – the strategic goals that affect the future development of your organization and the objectives of this particular event. Many organizers throw themselves into the planning process without reflecting on these issues. However, it can be a mistake. Defining goals and objectives correctly is like creating a map for success: it sets the paths that you can navigate, avoiding unnecessary impediments.

Strategy of your organization vs. event objectives

The first step in planning an event is to recall (or formulate, if you haven’t already done so) the strategic goal of the organization and confirm that the planned training course, workshop or conference fits into it. Effective planning means that you know in advance what you want to achieve not only in the prospect of this particular event but also in the long-term perspective of your organization. The event objective has to serve your main goal – otherwise, why organize an event?

Be precise determining the event objective

When organizing events, it is worth working with SMART goals. What does it mean? SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and limited in time. Think about whether your goals are realistic and achievable. Don’t determine them too many.

Regardless of the event you are making, make sure your event objective meets the SMART criteria:

  • S as Specific – choose the result you want to achieve (eg 50% of participants registered for the event by XX.XX.XXXX), leave no room for guesses or any interpretation
  • M as Measurable – indicate hard data that you can measure (eg until the day of YY.XX.XXXX 15 participants registered for the event, of which 10 paid registration). The goal must be formulated in such a way that it is possible to express in numerical values the degree of its implementation
  • A as Achievable – the goal must be realistically achievable. If you are a beginner in the event organization industry, don’t expect the level of attendance which your experienced rivals can boast. Although it is great to have ambitious dreams, too much unrealistic expectations may put you at risk of discouragement and loss of motivation
  • R as Relevant – the purpose of the event you organize must refer to the strategic goals of your organization. After all, you’re working hard on every following workshop, training course or conference precisely to build the organization’s success. If the objective of the training course or workshop doesn’t coincide with the company’s main strategic goals, it is worth considering whether it was correctly formulated
  • T as Time-bound – the event objective must take into account specific timeline defining the beginning and the end. When determining the time horizon limited by the starting and ending point, we can measure the degree of realization of our goal. It helps to prevent the situation when everyday tasks take priority over your long-term goals.

Ask yourself some questions:

  • Why do I organize such and not another event?
  • What knowledge should participants acquire in my training course, workshop or conference?
  • How do I want to convey this knowledge to them?
  • What resources will be needed (lecturers, educational materials, multimedia equipment)?
  • When should I start preparations for the event?
  • What are my milestones in the planning and organization process?
  • How exactly will I assess if the event has been successful?

Remember that clearly defined goals support your efficiency at every stage of planning and implementation of the event. They also help to avoid wasting resources, eliminating activities unrelated to previously set goals and objectives. In the next post, we write about how to formulate SMART goals in practice (and how NOT to do that) while planning conferences, training courses or workshops. We invite you to explore this text.

How many times have you heard the phrase “SMART goals” and failed to understand what it really means? We bet it happens all the time because project managers are often too busy to look for alternative solutions or learn new techniques.

Generally speaking, statistical reports show that only 3% of people actually use the SMART goal principle, but those who do it tend to achieve 10 times as much as people without goals. At the same time, more than 80% of managers say that their goals are limited in number, specific, and measurable.

That is not the right way to manage a business project, so let us show you what SMART objectives really are and explain how to write them for your projects.

SMART Goals Explained

We can say a lot of things about SMART goals, but let’s start with the obvious detail: What the heck SMART stands for here? It’s the acronym and it’s made of five words: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Jake Gardner, a project manager at, explains that the SMART technique is designed to point out the most important characteristics of every goal-setting process: “Instead of wandering in the dark, you should use these objectives to target and achieve concrete results.”

But let’s not leave it up to the acronym alone. Here’s what every word stands for:

  • Specific: The first thing you need to do is to set a highly specific goal. This basically means understanding what you want to do and who’s in charge of the task. You also need to figure out when, why, where, and how the project is supposed to run.
  • Measurable: Let’s imagine you are running a website and want to grow the number of visitors. It sounds like a reasonable goal, but it’s not exactly measurable. You should make it much more tangible simply by converting your awareness objectives into numbers. For instance, you can say that you want to grow the number of website visitors by 5% in the next quarter.
  • Attainable: You’ve seen the first couple of features, but don’t let it make you unrealistic. The point is to set attainable objectives that you and your team can really pull off. If you don’t do it like that, rest assured every project will be a failure.
  • Relevant: This one goes without saying, but sometimes it helps project managers to keep the focus and concentrate on tasks that really matter to their companies.
  • Time-bound: Of course, you cannot run a project forever. The only way to make it successful is by setting clear timeframes that your colleagues can follow and get the job done as expected.

How to Define SMART Project Objectives

The concept of SMART goals is easy to figure out, but it might be challenging to put ideas into practice and start working based on these principles. So, how do you define SMART objectives for a certain project?

It’s a difficult question because it depends on the size of the organization, the budget, and the business you’re in, but we can give you a few instructions that will surely work in 100% of cases. Here they go:

1. Narrow it down

A project goal cannot be truly SMART if you don’t narrow it down. This means you should focus on a small portion of the project and set clear deliverables based on a limited number of factors that really make the difference.

2. Prioritize

Do you know that almost 50% of team leaders say hitting project deadlines is their biggest problem? It happens because any given task can be analyzed from different points of view, but it’s not a good idea to delve too deep into the details. You should learn to prioritize instead because it’s a surefire way to get the job done on time and on budget.

3. Delegate tasks properly

Now that you’ve learned to focus on important features and prioritize business objectives, task delegation should not be a problem. Assign each member of the team with a clearly-defined scope of work and you won’t have a problem following the SMART methodology.

4. Examples of SMART Objectives

Setting SMART objectives sounds perfect in theory, but it looks even more impressive when you see real-life examples. Here are a few examples that can inspire you easily:

Our website content designer will make one infographic per week in the next quarter

This goal is specific because it defines all of the basic 5W+H questions (who, what, where, when, why, and how). It is easy to measure and also attainable, while the task itself is relevant to a given website and time-bound.

The marketing department must obtain 10 website backlinks in the following month

There’s another example of a SMART objective. As you can see, it not only follows SMART principles but also respects the instructions we discussed above. Namely, the task is very focused as it concentrates on backlinks, a feature that every website needs in order to become SEO friendlier and earn more visits.

Turn 10% of this month’s first-time customers into recurring clients

According to the famous Pareto principles, businesses make 80% of their profits from regular clients. This is exactly why one of your goals might be to turn first-time buyers into recurring customers. As you can see, we set a highly specific objective that requires little to no further explanations.

The Bottom Line

Do you want to get up early or get up at 5 AM? There’s a huge difference between the two decisions, so you ought to set precise plans for the day to come.

The same principle applies to project management but only on a large scale. This is what makes SMART goal-setting so critical and fundamental to the success of every business endeavor.

We made this post to help you figure out the true meaning of the concept of SMART objectives while explaining how to write them for your own projects. Do you think you can improve your project management skills with SMART goals? Let us know in the comments!

The following is a sponsored blog post:

Are you struggling to meet your financial goals like saving money or repairing your credit? If so, you may benefit from learning about SMART goal-setting objectives and how you can leverage them. SMART is actually an acronym that encompasses five important elements of goal setting. With this method, your goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based.

Specific: Specific goals are well-defined rather than vague. The more you can focus on a specific goal, the better you can imagine it and then ultimately achieve it. Here are some questions to ask yourself.

  • Who – Who needs to be a part of making this goal happen? If you are creating a family budget, everyone in your household should be involved.
  • What – Be very detailed about what you are trying to accomplish.
  • When – Come up with a specific time frame in which you want to reach your goal.
  • Which – Determine what you will need in order to achieve this goal. This will help determine if this a realistic goal or not.
  • Why – You need a strong why. Come up with why this goal is important to your life.

Measurable: How will you determine if you are on the path to meeting your goal? You need to know what metrics and data to use. If you are saving money over the next year, you need to set up markers. This could be saving a certain amount of money by a specific date. When you have a measurable goal, you can easily see you’re on the right track.

Achievable: This part is about figuring out what you need to do in order to achieve this goal. Do you need to change your spending habits or learn some new skills (i.e. how to create a budget)? Figure out what are the tools, skills or resources you will need to get to your end goal.

Realistic: Make sure your goal is something that you can realistically reach. You want to make sure your goal is in line with your current financial situation. Saving $50k in a year is not realistic if your monthly income is $3k a month.

Time-based: A time-based goal is a goal that can be accomplished on a reasonable timeline. Your goal should have a clear and defined end point. For example, I will save $500 by this November.

Completing a SMART objective worksheet like this one ( every time you have a goal in mind will help you fine-tune your goals so that they’re more realistic. Writing down your goals will also help you keep them front of mind.

Now that you’ve learned about SMART objectives, take some time to apply them your your financial situation. Set aside some time to brainstorm all the financial goals you’d like to achieve, including both short-term and long-term goals. Here is an example of a SMART financial goal:

S = Start an emergency fund.

M = Put $5000 into a savings account.

A = I will reach my $5,000 goal by saving $200 every month.

R = I can cancel my cable service, gym membership and eat at home to help me save this amount each month.

T = By saving $200 a month, I will save $5,000 in approximately 2 years and 1 month.

Your goal can be anything from saving for a new car or a vacation, paying off student loans, boosting your credit score, or setting aside money for retirement. Once you’ve decided on your top-priority goals, you’ll want to take the time to re-frame them, so they meet the SMART objective criteria.

Now that you’re crystal clear on your financial goals, you’ll want to share them with any family and friends who may be involved in helping you achieve them. Then, you’ll want to carefully track your progress toward meeting your goals, so you know when you’re on track and when you need to adjust your approach. Before you know it, you’ll be achieving each one and increasing your confidence in the process!