SMART Goals: How to Determine And Set Goals You Can Achieve

As a busy professional, you likely have a long list of tasks and responsibilities to attend to on a daily basis in both your personal and professional life. But have you taken the time to set specific goals?

Goals help you identify what you want to accomplish and provide a roadmap to achieve it. That’s why it’s important to set them in a way that is both challenging and realistic.

Whether you’re aiming to boost your productivity at work or improve your own personal wellbeing, goals will help you stay on track and achieve success in all areas of your life.

In this article, we’ll explore how to set achievable goals that can help you succeed in your endeavors. By the end, you’ll have a better understanding of how to create goals that are achievable, measurable, and aligned with your values and aspirations.

So, let’s dive in and learn what SMART goals look like and how to set achievable goals that will set you up for success.

What are SMART Goals?

SMART Goals are a widely recognized tool used for setting objectives in project management, personal development, and various other fields. The term SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Ensuring that important goals are always aligned with these five characteristics can help individuals and organizations create more focused, efficient, and successful strategies.

1. Specific goals are well-defined and clear.

2. Measurable goals allow you to track progress and achievement, quantitatively or qualitatively.

3. Achievable goals are realistic and within the capabilities of the person or organization.

4. Relevant goals align with broader objectives and values.

Time-bound goals have a deadline or timeframe to be accomplished.

SMART Goals are particularly beneficial in project management, career development, and personal life. In project management, they help in breaking down complex objectives into smaller, manageable tasks. For individuals, SMART Goals can be applied in career growth, personal development, and day-to-day tasks to attain a more structured and result-oriented approach.

1. Project Management Example

In project management, SMART goals are essential for ensuring that projects are completed efficiently and effectively. For example, a project manager for a software development project might have a goal to “Implement a new feature that improves user experience.” Applying SMART criteria, this could be refined to “Develop and integrate a user-friendly navigation menu into the application, resulting in a 20% reduction in customer complaints, within the next three months.” This goal is now Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

2. Career Development Example

In career development, setting SMART goals can lead to meaningful progress. Consider a marketing professional whose general goal is “Get promoted.” Applying SMART criteria, this goal could become “Increase the success of marketing campaigns by 15% and complete a leadership training course within the next year to be eligible for a promotion to Marketing Manager.” This refines the goal, making it more focused and aligned with the SMART criteria.

3. Personal Life Example

In personal life, SMART goals can be used to achieve various objectives. For instance, someone might have a goal to “Get in shape.” A SMART goal version would be “Lose 10 pounds and reduce waist measurement by two inches by following a workout plan and eating a balanced diet for the next six months.” This goal is now clear, has a measurable outcome, is realistic, is relevant to the person’s wellbeing, and has a set timeframe.

4. Academic Achievement Example (optional)

Students can also use SMART goals to enhance their academic performance. For example, a student who wants to “Improve grades” could set a SMART goal like “Raise my average grade in mathematics from a B to an A by attending all classes, participating actively, and dedicating at least two hours daily for practice and study over the semester.” This gives a clear path for the student to follow and allows them to monitor their progress.

Why Is It Important to Set Achievable Goals?

Setting goals is important because it provides direction, purpose, and clarity to your actions. When you set clear goals, you know what you want to achieve and can focus your efforts on making it happen. Setting achievable goals provides direction, focus, and motivation, but research has shown that setting unattainable goals can lead to disappointment and loss of self-confidence. 

It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day tasks and lose sight of what’s truly important – and that’s where goal setting comes in. By defining your goals and creating a plan to manage and achieve them, you can stay focused, motivated, and on track.

But goal setting isn’t just about achieving a specific outcome. It’s also about professionl growth and development. Setting goals can increase motivation, improve self-confidence, increase productivity, bring greater happiness, reduce stress, and improve health.

What Are Examples Of Achievable Goal Setting?

A goal can be any specific objective that you want to achieve within a defined timeframe. It could be personal or professional. Setting goals the right way helps you measure your progress, identify challenges, and make necessary adjustments. 

Achievable goals are realistic, attainable, and could be defined as objectives that you can reasonably expect to accomplish given your current resources, capabilities, and constraints. They are not overly ambitious or impossible to reach, but instead strike a balance between pushing yourself and setting realistic expectations. Achievable goals should follow the SMART criteria, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Examples of achievable business goals:

  1. Increase annual revenue by 10% within the next fiscal year through targeted marketing campaigns, strategic partnerships, and product expansion.
  2. Improve employee retention by 15% over the next 12 months by implementing a comprehensive employee engagement program, offering professional development opportunities, and enhancing benefits packages.
  3. Boost customer satisfaction scores by 20% within six months by improving customer support responsiveness, streamlining the purchasing process, and conducting regular customer feedback surveys.
  4. Reduce production costs by 5% over the next quarter by optimizing the supply chain, implementing lean manufacturing practices, and investing in energy-efficient equipment.
  5. Launch a new product or service within the next nine months, by conducting market research, developing a minimum viable product (MVP), and executing a go-to-market strategy.
  6. Expand market reach by entering two new geographical markets in the next 18 months through a combination of organic growth and strategic acquisitions.
  7. Increase social media engagement by 30% within six months by creating and sharing relevant, high-quality content, implementing a consistent posting schedule, and actively engaging with followers.
  8. Improve workplace safety by reducing workplace accidents by 25% over the next year, through ongoing safety training, regular audits, and a focus on hazard identification and mitigation.
  9. Optimize the company’s website conversion rate by 10% within the next quarter by running A/B tests on key pages, improving user experience, and refining calls-to-action.
  10. Enhance the company’s sustainability efforts by reducing its carbon footprint by 20% over the next two years, through initiatives such as adopting renewable energy sources, reducing waste, and promoting eco-friendly practices among employees.

What Is The SMART Goal Setting Framework

The SMART goal setting framework is a widely accepted approach to setting achievable goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Setting goals based on the SMART criteria is an effective way to ensure that the objectives you establish are clear, achievable, and aligned with your broader priorities. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

How To Set SMART Goals

Specific goals are clear and unambiguous, whereas Measurable goals have a clear way of tracking progress. Attainable goals are realistic and achievable with the resources you have available, while Relevant goals are important to you and your overall goals. Time-bound goals have a deadline by which you want to achieve them. 

1. Specific

Setting a clear and specific goal is essential to achieving success in both your personal and professional life. Your goal should answer the questions of what you want to achieve, why it’s important, and how you plan to accomplish it.

A specific goal provides direction and focus, helping you stay on track and motivated even when faced with obstacles. By defining your goal clearly, you can break it down into smaller, manageable steps that will help you make progress towards achieving it. With a clear and specific goal in mind, you’ll be better equipped to stay focused and motivated on the path towards success.

2. Measurable

Your goal should be measurable. Measurable goals provide a clear sense of direction and allow you to track your progress along the way. By setting specific milestones and benchmarks, you can measure your progress and determine whether you are moving in the right direction.

Setting measurable goals will help you and your team stay motivated and focused, as it gives you a sense of accomplishment when you achieve each milestone. Measurable goals also provide an opportunity to adjust your approach if you’re not making progress as expected, allowing you to stay on track and continue making progress towards achieving your goal.

3. Attainable

When setting goals, it’s important to strike a balance between challenging yourself and setting realistic expectations. An attainable goal will inspire you to take action and push yourself to achieve more, but an unattainable goal can quickly lead to discouragement and demotivation.

It’s important to be honest with yourself about your capabilities and limitations when setting goals and to adjust your expectations accordingly. An attainable goal is one that requires effort and hard work but is still within your reach. It will allow you to maintain your motivation and drive to succeed. By setting attainable goals, you can stay focused and motivated on the path to success.

4. Relevant

A relevant goal is one that aligns with your values, priorities, and overall vision for your life. By setting goals that are relevant to your life and interests, you’ll have a sense of purpose and meaning behind your efforts. This will help you stay motivated and focused, even when faced with challenges or setbacks.

When your goals are aligned with your values and priorities, you’re more likely to remain committed to them and achieve success in the long term. Setting relevant goals can help you create a more fulfilling and meaningful life.

5. Time-bound

Your goal should have a deadline. A time-bound goal gives you a clear endpoint to work towards, which helps you stay focused and motivated. When you have a deadline in place, you’re more likely to prioritize your tasks and avoid procrastination, which can be a major barrier to achieving your goals. A time-bound goal allows you to measure your incremental progress towards that goal which allows you to make adjustments along the way in a more structured and efficient manner.

When you set a deadline for a goal, you can prioritize tasks, monitor your progress, and adjust your strategies as needed to ensure you stay on track. Time-bound goals also allow you to break down larger objectives into smaller, more manageable tasks or milestones, which can make the overall goal feel less daunting and more achievable.

Tips for Setting Achievable Goals

While the SMART framework provides a solid foundation for setting goals, it’s the little tips and tricks that can make the difference between achieving success and falling short. It’s common to experience setbacks and obstacles along the way, which can make it easy to get discouraged and give up. That’s why it’s essential to keep yourself motivated and focused on your goals.

In the list below, we’re sharing actionable strategies to help you stay on track and reach your desired outcomes. By implementing these tips, you’ll be better equipped to achieve your goals and reach success.

1. Break down your goals into smaller steps

Large goals can be overwhelming, and it is easy to get discouraged and give up when progress seems slow. Breaking down big goals into smaller tasks makes the goal seem less daunting and more achievable. This way, you can track your progress more easily and celebrate the small successes along the way. When you see that you’re making progress, you’ll be more likely to stay committed and feel motivated to keep going. Focusing on smaller steps will keep you motivated and avoid feeling overwhelmed, ultimately leading to success in achieving your goals.

2. Set deadlines for each step

Setting deadlines for each task helps you stay on track and avoid procrastination. Without deadlines, it is easy to lose focus and become distracted, leading to a lack of progress. When setting deadlines, it is important to be realistic and ensure that you have enough time to complete the task. Rushing to meet unrealistic deadlines can cause unnecessary stress and reduce the quality of the work, but setting a deadline that is too far in the future can also lead to procrastination. A good way to set realistic deadlines is to break down your tasks into smaller steps and estimate how much time each step will take. This way, you can plan your deadlines accordingly and work towards achieving your goals.

3. Track your progress and make adjustments as needed

Regularly tracking your progress will help you identify what is working and what is not. It will also help you make necessary adjustments to achieve your goal. Still, things don’t always go according to plan, so it’s essential to be flexible and willing to make changes as needed. Revising your plan helps you to stay on track and ensures that you are working towards achieving your desired outcome.

4. Reward yourself for your accomplishments

It’s essential to reward yourself for reaching your goals, no matter how small they are. Celebrating your achievements will help you stay motivated and focused on your next goal. When deciding on a reward, make sure it aligns with your values and doesn’t sabotage your efforts. Also, make sure the reward is commensurate with the effort you put in. Celebrating your success will not only keep you motivated and provide a sense of accomplishment, but it will also help you cultivate a positive attitude towards goal-setting and achievement.

Benefits of Setting Achievable Goals

Setting achievable goals can have a significant impact on your life. It’s a process that involves creating a plan and taking action towards achieving something you want. It gives you the power to control your actions and outcomes. It’s not just about having a destination in mind; it’s about the journey of getting there.

And the benefits of setting achievable goals are numerous! Goal setting can positively impact your mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. By setting and working towards achievable goals, you can improve your overall quality of life and unlock your full potential.

Here is a list of the benefits you will get from setting achievable goals:

1. Increased motivation

When you have goals, you have something to work towards. You create a roadmap for yourself, which helps you stay focused and driven.

Having a clear set of goals can give you a sense of direction, purpose, and motivation to take action. Without goals, it can be challenging to stay motivated and make progress. When you start to see progress towards your goal, it can also provide a boost of motivation to keep going and make even more progress.

2. Improved self-confidence

When you set achievable goals and follow through with them, you prove to yourself that you have the capability to accomplish what you set out to do. This builds your self-confidence and helps you trust your abilities, allowing you to take on even bigger challenges. The sense of accomplishment that comes with achieving your goals can also help you feel more positive and motivated in other areas of your life, leading to a more fulfilling and satisfying life overall.

3. Increased productivity

Setting specific and achievable goals will make it more likely for you to take action towards them and stay focused on the task at hand. This sense of purpose and direction can also help you prioritize your time and energy more effectively, leading to greater efficiency and output. With increased productivity comes a greater sense of satisfaction, as you see the progress you’re making towards your goals. This positive feedback loop can further motivate you to stay on track and continue pushing yourself towards your full potential.

4. Greater happiness

Working towards achievable goals can lead to greater happiness, as it gives your life direction and purpose. When you have a clear sense of purpose, you’re more likely to feel fulfilled and satisfied with your life. You’ll wake up each day with a sense of enthusiasm and purpose, knowing that you have something worthwhile to work towards. This can also improve your overall mood and sense of well-being, as you feel more engaged and fulfilled in your daily activities. Whether it’s a personal or professional goal, achieving it can give you a sense of accomplishment and pride, which can contribute to greater happiness in your life.

5. Reduced stress

The process of setting achievable goals allows you to take a step-by-step approach towards achieving your desired outcome. By breaking down your goals into smaller, manageable steps, you can create a plan that is less daunting and more achievable. This can help you feel more in control and reduce stress, as you can focus on each step along the way rather than becoming overwhelmed by the larger goal. Having a plan in place helps to reduce uncertainty and ambiguity, which can also contribute to feelings of stress and anxiety.

6. Improved health

Setting achievable goals can positively impact your health. When you have a clear goal in mind, it becomes easier to make healthy choices that align with that goal and take care of yourself. Achieving your goal can also boost your mental health by increasing your sense of accomplishment, reducing stress, and improving your overall mood. The sense of control and agency that comes from setting and achieving goals can lead to a greater sense of well-being and satisfaction in life. 

Common Mistakes People Make When Goal Setting

Setting goals is not always easy, and it’s common for people to make mistakes along the way. These errors can often hinder progress, reduce motivation, and lead to unfulfilled aspirations. If you make an error along the way, try to correct yourself as soon as possible so that you can get back on track to achieve your goals. Be kind to yourself and remember that you’re still learning the goal setting process.

To set yourself up for success, don’t fall into the trap of making the common goal-setting mistakes below.

1. Not setting specific goals

One common mistake people make when setting goals is not being specific enough. You likely have a lot on your plate, and it can be easy to set vague or general goals in the hopes of simplifying the process, but this can actually hinder your progress and waste your valuable time. Vague or general goals make it difficult to create a plan and measure progress. Goals should be specific and measurable, so that you know exactly what you want to achieve and how you will measure your progress.

2. Not setting realistic goals

It can be tempting to set ambitious goals that push you to the limit, but it’s important to set goals that are realistic and achievable within your current circumstances. If you set goals that are too far out of reach, you may become discouraged and lose motivation. Consider your resources, time constraints, and other obligations before setting your goals. This will help you create a plan that is feasible and manageable, increasing your chances of success and preventing burnout. Remember, it’s better to achieve smaller, realistic goals than to constantly fall short of larger, unrealistic ones.

3. Not breaking down your goals into smaller steps

Large goals can be daunting. If you’re not breaking them down into smaller steps, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and lose motivation. By breaking your goals down into achievable tasks, you’ll not only make them more manageable, but you’ll also be able to measure your progress and stay motivated. This approach can also help you prioritize your tasks and focus on what’s most important, ensuring that you’re making progress towards your larger goals.

4. Not having a plan of action

In the midst of a busy schedule, it can be tempting to dive straight into working towards your goals without taking the time to create a plan of action. But without a clear plan in place, it’s easy to lose focus and get sidetracked by other priorities. By taking the time to create a plan of action, you’ll be able to break down your goals into manageable steps and allocate the time and resources needed to achieve them. This will not only help you stay on track but also ensure that you’re making progress towards your goals in the most efficient way possible.

5. Not reviewing your goals regularly

It can be easy to set goals and forget about them amidst the day-to-day demands of work and life, but reviewing your goals regularly is necessary to ensure that you’re still on track to achieve them. Schedule time on your calendar to review your goals and progress, and make adjustments as necessary. Your goals should be flexible and adaptable. As you make progress, you may need to adjust your goals or your plan of action. This can help you stay focused, motivated, and, ultimately, more successful.

Conclusion

Goal setting is an important process that helps you to identify and work towards achieving your desired outcomes. It enables you to break down big aspirations into manageable tasks that you can work on step-by-step. It can also provide a sense of direction and focus that can help you stay motivated and committed to your goals, even when you face obstacles or setbacks.

By using the SMART goal setting framework and following the tips outlined in this article, you can set goals that are challenging, realistic, and achievable. Keeping clear, measurable objectives allows you to prioritize your actions, and achieving these goals can provide a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that can motivate you to set even bigger goals in the future.

Related Articles

Why Top Startups Choose Persona To Recruit Talent
Show All Business articles

Sign up to receive regular insights on talent