How To Set SMART Goals

Learn a time-tested process for setting goals you can accomplish.

If you go through life without setting goals, you’re likely to constantly drift from activity to activity without achieving much of anything. Setting a goal gives you a direction and a purpose. Selecting a goal might seem like a simple act, but researchers have found that if you spend more time carefully defining your goal upfront, you have a much higher chance of succeeding. The expression “SMART goals” has been used for many years in the field of corporate management to set and measure business objectives. It turns out, these time-tested principles can help us achieve our personal goals as well!

In this post, I’ll explain the acronym SMART and how to use it.  I will also give a personal example of how  I recently used these concepts to help me with a goal I was struggling with… writing regular blog posts for my coaching business.

For goal setting, “SMART” means:

1. Specific

Your goal should be stated as specifically as possible. This will help you be clear on what you need to do, and how to know when you’ve succeeded.

When I created a website for my coaching business, my web developer encouraged me to set aside time regularly to make new blog posts for my site. This felt like a daunting task for me, but I knew she was right, and that it was important to keep my website current and fresh. I considered that “blog posts” could mean different things. Easy posts could include sharing a quote, reposting someone else’s article, or recommending a book for my clients, etc. The tougher posts for me would be writing completely new content that I created, but this was the most important type of post, because they allowed my clients to get to know me. So, I set a goal to regularly write and post my own articles for my blog on a regular basis.

2. Measurable

Your goal should be measurable by an outside observer, who could clearly determine if the goal was accomplished or not.

When setting my blog-writing goal, I aimed to write and post a new blog article on my website each calendar month. This could easily be observed (and measured) by anyone viewing my website.

3. Achievable

Make sure your goal includes details on how you will achieve the overall goal. What do you need to clarify or consider to make sure you can do it?

I knew that I would not be able to write a new blog post from scratch in a day or two, so I decided to consider some “baby steps” that I thought would help me along. I committed to setting aside two hours every Monday afternoon to work on my blog post for that month. With this time scheduled on my calendar, it was much more likely to happen, and it made my monthly goal feel achievable.

4. Reasonable

Consider if this goal is reasonable for you to achieve at this time, taking in to account everything else going on in your life. Be honest with yourself about your other commitments. If the goal is not truly reasonable, circle back to step one and adjust the goal accordingly.

At first, I considered setting a goal that I would write one new blog post each week, but I knew this would be very difficult for me to achieve. So, instead I set my goal at “one new blog post per month” (with the understanding that I could always do more if I felt so inclined!). This felt reasonable to me, considering my other time commitments.  

5. Time-Oriented

Timing is very important, so it should be included in your goal setting. Daily life gets in the way. Long-term goals are easy to put off if you haven’t given yourself a deadline for each of the steps along the way. Also, consider what actions you will take if you miss a deadline, in order to get yourself back on track.

While my web developer just suggested I “regularly write new blog posts”, I wondered what “regularly” really means? To be more clear on timing for myself, I vowed to post a new article on my blog each month, no later than the last day of that month. I reflected on this and promised myself there would be NO wiggle room here. If I didn’t have a new post ready on the last day of the month, I’d have to commit that day to preparing something I felt worthy of posting that day.

Understanding this SMART goal framework can help you set attainable goals and achieve them in a timely manner. Using this framework has helped me set a manageable schedule for writing my monthly blog posts and has prevented me from procrastinating on them until the last minute. Practice setting  SMART goals for yourself. I can’t wait to see where it takes you!

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About Julie Gates

I am a certified life coach who specializes in personal growth. My unique background in positive psychology, public health and clinical medicine supports me in helping my clients thrive and flourish through life’s changes.