How To Use The SMART Goal Format To Set Achievable Goals

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Let the Smart Goal Format Guide Your Goal Setting!

Looking to make a change in your life? Setting goals is a great way to do that. We’ve already covered why it is important to set goals in life, school, work, and even sports. Now, we want to show you how to set effective goals that will help you achieve the things that you desire in life.

This is where “SMART” goals come in. While the definition of SMART goals is easy enough, actually setting them – and achieving them – is another story!

We’ll walk you through examples of SMART goals and provide you with a template that you can use as a smart goal generator! Whether you’re a student looking to set goals for grades or a business founder looking to get your work and revenues on track, here is our post about setting SMART goals!

What is a SMART goal?

napkin beside red coffee mug on wooden table with smart goals written down
A good way to remember the acronym!

If you’re already on this post, chances are you have an idea of what a SMART goal is. If you don’t, not to worry! We’re here to help guide you through. A SMART goal is a goal that is made with specific parameters in mind.

These parameters can be remembered by the each of the letters in the word “smart”. S, M, A, R, and T stand for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-based. Below, we’ll dive into each of the letters and discuss step for step how to set goals with these guidelines in mind!

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S – Specific

When setting goals, you need to make sure they are specific. This is how you please the “S” in SMART! What we mean is – goals have to have parameters that can be followed. For example, let’s give the example of getting more physical activity through hiking. Now, hiking has many benefits so it’s a great idea to start if you want to get fit, get outside more, whatever!

However, saying “I want to hike more” lacks details. How far do you want to hike? How many times a week? Where might you go hiking? It’s important to set out these guidelines at the start of the process so that you have details guiding you.

The same might be true for goals in business. Saying “I want to make more money” isn’t a very strong goal. You still need to answer: how much, how fast, and how are you planning to do it? Defining these parameters can help you set goals that have criteria to meet.

Do remember that you can be too specific and set a goal that is too narrow-minded. This can make it unattainable or unrealistic.  It’s important to find a balance of a goal that is specific enough to keep you focussed but broad enough to not hinder your progress!

A better goal for hiking would be “I want to hike 3 miles twice a week at the trail system near my house” and a better business goal might be “I want to make $500 in revenue this quarter through product sales alone”. For each goal, we now know things like how much, how often, how far, etc.

Thinking about these often also means that you’ve thought about how you plan on doing it. Some of these specific details (like time, distance, and amount) can be measured and that’s a perfect introduction to the next letter in the SMART principle.

M – Measurable

You’re more likely to be able to achieve your goals if you know what or how much you’re working towards. Having a goal that is measurable and that you can evaluate will help with that! Let’s go back to our previous example of wanting to hike more or make more money.

Saying “I want to hike 3 miles” or “I want to earn $500” provides a concrete number to aim for. This means that when you’re researching information on how to achieve your goal and gathering the information to help you along the way, you’ll be able to relate your findings to your desired outcome of achieving those numbers.

Making measurable goals that you can actually do is important as well. Just because you might say “I want to make $50,000” or “I want to hike 100 miles” does not mean that you’re actually able to attain that goal yet… which brings us nicely into the next letter in the SMART principle!

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A – Attainable

notebook and measuring tape on pink table with clock on blue background smart goal format
Can you ACTUALLY reach the goal? Think about it!

When setting goals, you need to also make sure that they are attainable. Are you actually able to make $500 in product sales? How about $20? Can you really hike 3 miles, or is 1 mile a better starting goal? The amounts that you set and the timelines you give yourself have to actually be doable for you. This is what attainable means.

Attainability changes from person to person so you can take advice from others but ultimately you need to know you and your skills, your body, or your business – and your drive to get the job done!

If you’re unsure where to set the benchmark for your goals, perhaps break the goals down into smaller goals instead. That way, you can try to achieve them and learn from the experiences as you grow and strive for more. You’ll know what’s attainable if you start somewhere and test your abilities.

For example, hiking 3 miles twice a week is much more attainable than all of a sudden having the goal to run a marathon in a month. This isn’t to say that it’s not possible for you, but is it possible and realistic for you? This brings us to the next step…

R – Realistic

It’s very important to set goals that are realistic for you, your skills, your resources, and your life. Becoming a marathon runner might be a noble pursuit, but if you don’t even have the proper running shoes for training or you currently work full-time, you may find it difficult to get in the training required! Realistic goals are also relevant goals for you.

If you want more business sales but you don’t have a working product – is that a realistic goal that you’ve set for yourself? In that case, you need to reevaluate your goals or projects and aim for something that comes before the goal of earning $500 in product sales… like having something to sell!

Lots of people strive to become a better writer but don’t enjoy writing or have the time. This makes for a nice goal to set – but ultimately it’s unrealistic… and that’s okay! Not all goals are meant for everyone.

Setting a realistic goal will ensure that you at least have a chance at success given what you are able to do at the time you set the goal. Speaking of time, that brings us to the last of the SMART principles!

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T – Time-based

man holding clock in front of face
Remember the time you have to achieve the goal!

Tim is very important in goal setting. Whatever you do, make sure you set out a time for yourself to complete the task or goal. This goes back to basic measurability. If you know how long you have to complete something, or how often you want to do something, you’ll be better able to formulate a plan or a timeline to do the steps you need to do to achieve the goal. 

Back to our examples – is hiking twice a week a good timeline to start? Is earning $500 in sales in one quarter too little time to grow your business? These are the questions you need to ask yourself about your goals.

Remember, time is important to get right. Too much time and you don’t provide enough drive or motivation. Too little time to complete the task goal and you risk failing because you were unrealistic and set an unattainable goal. See where we’re going with this? The principles are very interconnected! But now you know them all and work on applying them to your goals!

And there you have it – a breakdown of how to set SMART goals! In the end, goals are going to be different for everyone. It’s important to set good goals that are right for just you. Using the SMART criteria can help you achieve just that.

What do you think? Do you already set SMART goals or is this the first time you’ve heard of the concept? Get in touch and let us know what you think – we’d love to hear about your progress!

As always, Stay Curious,

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