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Fundamentals of Smart Goals: Definitions and Examples

Last updated by Utkarsh Sahu on Apr 01, 2024 at 01:09 PM | Reading time: 16 minutes

“The moment you put a deadline on your dream, it becomes a goal.” – Stephen Kellogg.

Edgar and Samuel both knew that as project managers, they were responsible to set goals for their individual teams. After careful discussion, idea integration, and planning, they both went on to create posters highlighting their goals.

Edgar’s goals revolved around the development of a well-functioning application that actually works, whereas Samuel aimed to break the internet with a revolutionary app.

Whose goal do you think is more practical?

The correct answer would be Edgar. Although Samuel’s goal may appear inspirational, it lacks practicality. On the contrary, Edgar’s goal seems more achievable and relevant.

Every child is taught to dream big. However, what one often seems to forget is that a dream without a deadline is simply a waste of time.

Instead of dreaming your life away, try setting SMART goals where your ideas get to see the face of reality. Proper planning, focus, and effort can help in achieving your goals without any hindrance.

Keep reading to understand precisely what are SMART goals.

- What are Smart goals?

- Why Smart goals are Important?

- The origins of SMART goal

- How popular is SMART?

- Why one should use SMART goals?

- How to use SMART goals

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

- How to write smart goal-

  • In worksheet
  • SMART Goals with Project Management in Smartsheet

- Merits and demerits of SMART goals

- Do's and don’ts of Smart goals

- Mistakes to avoid in SMART Goals

- Best SMART goals examples

What are SMART goals?

Your superior comes up to you and asks you to think of a SMART goal. How will you respond? Before replying “I will think of something,” you will first have to comprehend the meaning behind his statement.

A smart goal isn’t the integration of your ideas but the process of developing a thought into a planned objective for the team.

There are five SMART goals acronyms, whose meanings have been provided below.

S – Specific (It means an objective that is significant, simple yet sensible)

M – Measurable (This refers to a goal which is motivating and reproducible)

A – Achievable (An objective cannot be indecisive; you need to agree with it and plan to fulfill it)

R – Relevant (Your goal needs to be reasonable, resourced, realistic, and of course, result-based)

T – Time-bound (Setting a timeline for your goal is going to be your greatest motivation)

Following these simple steps is what will make your idea a SMART goal.

So, don’t dream big, and instead, aim for what’s path-breaking yet humanely possible.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish” – Antoine de Saint – Exupery.

Why are SMART goals important?

Try answering this question: Why do you think goals need clarity? It is a goal; you can simply run towards achieving it, right?

You see, running behind a goal with no plan or clarity is like aiming to cross the deepest ocean with your oxygen cylinder running low. It is more of a dream than a goal. That is why, with a SMART goal, you can increase your possibilities of achieving a certain objective.

By chalking out a plan and setting a deadline for the same, you are able to motivate your analytical ability to focus on achieving your goals.

The origins of SMART goals

In November 1981, George T. Doran, a consultant, came up with a concept in his paper. “There is a SMART way to write management goals and objectives.”

He explained the concept of what do SMART goals stand for and how too many objectives can often be more confusing than constructive.

That is why he tried to convey that offices need to be SMART if they wish to reach the zenith of success and beyond.

Besides mentioning the requirements for these SMART goals, he also clarified that every objective may not fulfill these five criteria.

It is like setting a goal for yourself that is time-bound. However, you need not form a committee to agree upon it!

How popular is a SMART goal?

What makes a goal SMART?

A clear framework and structure are what you need in this regard. A key aspect of SMART goals is to be able to define them as you go.

One of the reasons why SMART goals became popular was their simplified implementation. You do not require integrated knowledge or experience to understand this concept. The only hurdle is actually sticking to your SMART goals.

It is like saying that you will wake up early tomorrow and go for a run. But you know quite well that your tomorrow is always lost in transit.

Why should one use a SMART goal?

After successfully developing an application with proper functionalities, Edgar’s team arranged a meeting to discuss additions that they could introduce to this application that will make it an absolute hit.”

Edgar here seems to be a believer of practicality, as he makes simple goals that are achievable, agreeable, time-bound, relevant, and specific.

This concept is what SMART goals stand for. By speculating SMART goals definitions, you will comprehend how it is the journey of transforming a goal into an objective by asking simple questions, such as when, how, what, and who.

Application of the five SMART goals acronyms will help you realize which objective can be defined as realistic, and which is nothing but a distant dream.

Remember that dreaming is for kids. As someone who can be classified as a professional, you will need to set your goals in a way that they are attainable and agreeably challenging at the same time.

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you,” – Fred DeVito.


Things that are NOT a part of SMART goals

  • Your far-fetched dreams
  • Having the word “someday” linked to it
  • Your “wants” in life
  • The goal that you will start working for “tomorrow”

How to use SMART goals?

To chalk out a proper plan of action, you need to first figure out precisely what attributes transform a meaningless goal into a proper objective. Adequate knowledge of the five SMART goals acronyms will allow you to develop an objective that is actually doable, and more importantly, relevant to your organization.

As someone setting goals, it is your responsibility to ensure that the team remains motivated at all times.

  • Specific

Clarity and specification are an absolute necessity when setting goals. You will need a specified objective to know where to focus your efforts.

Answers to the following crucial questions may allow you to come up with an ideal objective.

What is it that you wish to accomplish with this goal?

What makes your goal unavoidable?

Who would you like to involve in your goal?

What involves your goal?

Where is your goal headed?

  • Measurable

Do you know what increases motivation when working to achieve a pre-set goal?

It is, after all, keeping a track of your progress. Blindly aiming for an objective that is simply unattainable is a waste of time and energy.

Try conducting a proper survey of your progress every week or month to track your achievement before the deadline approaches. Try asking yourself questions in the lines of “How much more?”, “How far have you come?”, “How much longer should you wait?, and “How will you get there?”

  • Achievable

Aiming to fulfill a goal that is endless and unattainable is not at all professional. It is certainly not something that corporate giants, like Apple and Samsung, look for in their employees.

It is the same as Samuel setting his goal of creating an application that will break the internet. Without developing the application, Samuel will be unable to predict its popularity, making his goal too uncertain and far off.

How will I achieve my goals?

Is my goal realistic?

Keep reading if you have these lingering questions in your mind.

  • Relevant

Setting challenging goals is definitely intriguing. However, make sure it is not too far-fetched to be your achievable objective. It is mandatory that you establish complete control over your goals before you start planning to fulfill them. You will need to tick ‘yes’ against the following questions to ascertain if your goal is relevant or not.

Is it worth the time?

Are these goals even relevant to the company’s vision?

Is my timing right?

Can I practically accomplish this goal?

Can my goal make any positive difference to the current work environment or process flow?

  • Time-bound

A deadline is a must. As simple as that.

“Dreaming your way to success” is a phrase that no one has probably ever heard of. You need to set a time frame, wherein you’ll pursue the goal till you finally decide to move on if it isn’t practical.

When setting SMART goals, you will need to be persistent about the time required to achieve your objective.

Ask yourself simple questions to figure out how to set this time frame for your specific goal.

How long will I take?

How much can I achieve in six months?

How far can I go in six weeks?

What is it that I can do now?

“High expectations are the key to everything.” – Sam Walton

How to write a SMART goal?

One of the key focuses is to set a goal that is achievable and practical. Impossible objectives are too high a hurdle for an organization aiming to develop at an accelerated rate. It increases the chances of risks, for they are pushing themselves for something that has no practical backing.

So, what is it that makes objectives “SMART goals”?

A SMART goal speculates your set objective to see whether aiming towards it is realistic or too far-fetched.

By using the template styles mentioned here, setting a SMART goal should be a piece of cake.

In Worksheet

While using a SMART goals Worksheet to construct your objective, you will have to follow a format. You need to write your initial goal at the beginning of the sheet. Now, on the basis of the definition of SMART, you must speculate your purpose by asking these five questions.

  • Specific – What is your reason for accomplishing this goal? Who do you want to include? When do you want to start? What makes this a goal?
  • Measurable – How much progress are you making every day?
  • Achievable – Do you possess the skills and knowledge to accomplish this goal?
  • Relevant – Does this goal align with your overall workplace objectives?
  • Time-bound – What is the deadline? Is it realistic?


Samuel, understanding where he went wrong the first time, decided to construct SMART goals for the application development process.

Initial Goal: Developing an application

Specific: The objective is to create an application that will be useful in simplifying the process flow. To develop the application, I will require the assistance of my teams. Further consultation may be necessary with other teams. If possible, I would like to begin immediately for my aim is to make this application completely streamlined.  

Measurable: Progress is quite slow

Achievable: Although I do have skilled software engineers in my team, I will require the assistance of a data analytics expert to ensure the success of my goal.

Relevant: Developing this application will further enhance my abilities besides helping the organization-wide process flow.

Time Bound: The time required to develop this application may go beyond the set deadline.

Review: This goal may be too impractical as per the current scenario and requirements.

SMART goals with project management in Smartsheet

Although using a Worksheet to speculate your goal is an effective method, you need a proper tool that will help you to track, analyze, manage, and automate the completion of your objective.

By using tools such as the Smartsheet, you can easily include schedules and resources to achieve your objective. This SMART goal setting worksheet offers real-time objective trackers that allow you to comprehend the impact of your goal.


If Samuel were to use the SMARTsheet to speculate his goal, this is the result that he can expect.

Overall Status - Red

Total in Progress – 23 (This will be based on the number of tasks he has implemented)

Total completion – 8 (With a goal this huge, he has only been able to accomplish 8 tasks out of 23)

Total at risk – 10 (The amount of risks his goal faces is quite high)

Performance metrics – This will provide him with an overall idea of how well he is progressing with his objective.

The entire estimation allows Samuel to comprehend that things aren't looking too well for his team.

And knowing is always better than anticipating.

Merits and demerits of SMART goals


  • SMART goals offer direction and aren't too vague.      
  • Incorporation of plans becomes easy with SMART goals.      
  • You will be able to identify your current targets with ease.
  • Get a proper visualization of how you can be successful.
  • Complete each pre-set goal within the deadline.


  • You will get addicted to achieving. Hence, occasional failures might become unbearable.
  • You might face confusion in identifying your next goal.        
  • The process is too ambitious.
  • Long-term goals cannot be taken into consideration.

Dos and don'ts of SMART goals


  • Use active and motivational words to make your goal more believable and encouraging.
  • Make sure your goal holds some meaning for the organization.        
  • Other than realistic, it should also be ambitious.        
  • Ensure that your goal helps in scaling up your career.        
  • Be specific and detailed about what it is that you want.


  • You cannot be vague about your objective.        
  • Remember, there is a huge difference between goals and dreams.        
  • Failure isn't the end of the world. So, if you fall, get back up again.        
  • Instead of using the word "want," try utilizing "need."
  • Huge goals are usually unattainable; so, start by taking small steps.

Mistakes to avoid in SMART goals

  • If you aren’t specific about what you want to achieve with your goals, all endeavors are likely to go in vain.
  • Far-fetched goals are like that dream that never came true. Hence, try being a bit more realistic.        
  • Aiming for the “long term” does not always work. Stick to short-term goals; they are much easier to attain.
  • Do not start working on the goal unless you have set a deadline.

Best SMART goals examples

Listed below are some SMART goals examples for work that will help you to comprehend the concept.

Example 1:

Your goal is to develop software.

  1. Specific – The software will make employee management and organizational process flow far more enhanced.
  2. Measurable – I am making significant progress every week.
  3. Achievable – With proper resources in place, I should be able to achieve my target soon.
  4. Relevant – Succeeding in this endeavor will significantly further my career as a software developer.
  5. Time-bound – The target is to finish the process of development within the next six months.

Example 2:

You need to crack your interview at Samsung.

  1. Specific – By cracking this interview, I will get to open my career path for new prospects.
  2. Measurable – The telephonic interview and my follow-up email were well-received.
  3. Achievable – I need to ace the upcoming face-to-face interview.
  4. Relevant – In the meantime, I’ll brush up my coding skills and have a word with my friend, an ex-Samsung employee, for some advice.
  5. Time-bound – I am expecting an offer in a week or two after the final interview.

You, as a person, are thus able to get a clear vision of what you want and what is actually possible to achieve.

Hence, with SMART goals, you can actually see your ideas reaching fruition and take your career up a notch.


Utkarsh Sahu

Director, Category Management @ Interview Kickstart || IIM Bangalore || NITW.

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