Many organizations struggle with goal-setting and therefore encounter obstacles on their way to success. Research published in Phoenix Business Journal indicates that only half of companies even attempt to develop aligned goals, and only about 6% regularly revisit their goals and progress.
When I founded Ancient Nutrition with my partner Jordan Rubin, we wanted to drive impact and fulfill our goals. For this reason, we created a SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-sensitive) goal to plant 10 million superfood trees over the course of 10 years. We chose this specific goal because it aligned with the company’s core values: to help people and the planet heal and improve their health.
Without proper goals in place, it’s easy to procrastinate, overlook details, fall behind, and even pursue goals that are a waste of time. Because of this, we made sure that each measurable task related to our collective goal was delegated to one person who would concentrate their efforts on getting the job done. Additionally, we made it a part of our company culture to give all of our employees the opportunity to visit our farm and plant trees.
In this article, learn how leaders and organizations can set SMART goals to support their professional business plans and drive meaningful impact in their fields.
- SMART goals make seemingly daunting or long-term goals achievable by breaking them down into smaller, bite-sized steps.
- A SMART goal must be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-sensitive.
- Research shows that challenging but precise goals, especially if they’re written down, lead to success about 90% of the time.
- Goal-setting begins with the end in mind while shining a light on tasks that are most important to spend time and resources on.
- Establishing goals with SMART attributes ensures that leaders constantly set and monitor their targets, allowing their vision to become a reality.
What Is a SMART Goal?
SMART is an acronym that stands for goals that are:
- S: Specific
- M: Measurable
- A: Achievable
- R: Realistic
- T: Time-sensitive
Let’s look closer at each component of SMART goals:
- Specific: SMART goals address “who, what, where, when, why, and how.” They include information about the people who are involved, what exactly they will do, deadlines, locations (if applicable), and any other important information, such as why the goal is being set. For instance, a SMART goal example might be: to hire a team of 10 to open two new locations in the U.S. by the end of 2023. This is different than saying, “try to open new locations in the next few years.”
- Measurable: For a goal to be SMART, it must include smaller steps and metrics that can be taken toward achieving the bigger goal. Milestones, which represent smaller tasks, are intended to be completed over time. These steps need to be tracked and measured to gauge progress and improve the company’s or individual’s self-awareness about where they stand.
- Achievable: SMART goals are realistic and actionable, rather than “dreams” or unrealistic sources of inspiration. The goal must be one that can actually come to fruition with the right plan, skills, people, and tools in place. If these things support the goal, special training, money, or equipment is included in the plan.
- Relevant: A SMART goal serves an individual’s or company’s mission and main objectives. If the goal doesn’t support the company’s purpose or align with its values, it shouldn’t be pursued.
- Time-sensitive: The goal must be completed within a certain time frame, or at least include steps that are intended to be taken by certain dates. Goal-setting with concrete dates in mind keeps individuals and teams accountable and on track, so they know when they’re falling behind. Tying into the goal of being measurable, there should be milestones that are intended to be hit along the way on certain dates, such as at the halfway point to the final goal.
The man responsible for creating SMART goals is George T. Doran, a former consultant and director of corporate planning who designed the SMART goals template in 1981. His objective was to use a specific goal-setting framework to function as a roadmap that would boost companies’ productivity and chances of success.
Benefits of SMART Goals
SMART goals are an important part of an individual’s professional development plan. Below are the primary ways in which individuals, organizations, and businesses benefit from setting SMART goals:
- Fine-tunes the team’s overall strategy: Goal-setting combined with an action plan helps identify weaknesses and areas with room for improvement. By boosting self-awareness, the team can draw upon their strengths and find support for their challenges.
- Creates a sense of urgency: When deadlines are established to complete important tasks, this minimizes procrastination. Schedules keep everyone on the same page and prioritize essential tasks first, avoiding wasted time.
- Makes responsibilities clear: By assigning team members to certain tasks, everyone is clear on their role and held accountable. This organizes the team and reduces misunderstandings or blame. Sharing progress with the team and discussing big goals together also boosts everyone’s commitment to getting the job done.
- Creates momentum: Each time milestones are hit, the team’s morale and motivation increase. An upward spiral is created in which progress leads to confidence and even more progress.
5 Examples of SMART Goals
Below are five SMART goals examples that display what SMART goals look like in practice:
Goal #1: “Expand my bakery business by opening up two new locations in the next year.”
- Specific: Our first location has been successful and now we’re ready to expand. I want to open two new locations this year within a 30-minute drive of my home. This will require getting a loan, finding and leasing locations, building the bakeries, hiring more staff, and marketing the businesses.
- Measurable: I plan to first get a loan for $30,000 in the next month. Then I need to lease the new locations within the next six months and hire five new employees within the next nine months.
- Achievable: I’ve proven I can operate one location, so I believe I can use the same business model to operate the next two as long as I hire more staff.
- Relevant: I will be able to serve more customers by having more locations and improve prices by buying materials in bulk.
- Time-sensitive: My first milestone must be hit within the next 30 days. Then I need to find locations within the next six months and begin hiring staff.
Goal #2: “Improve my business’s website in the next two months to make it more mobile-friendly.”
- Specific: Our business needs to improve our mobile website because many of our customers order our products from their phones. We will hire one developer to update our mobile site within the next 60 days. This will require finding a software developer, working together to design the site, then testing the site before launching it.
- Measurable: By the end of this month, we will have hired one developer and agreed to their payment. We should see the first draft of designs within the next 30 days, then a final version within the next 60 days.
- Achievable: Based on our past experience, this goal is realistic, given the low complexity of our website and our budget.
- Relevant: Our updated mobile site will help improve how our customers engage with our company and order products.
- Time-sensitive: My first milestone must be hit within the next 30 days. Then revisions need to be made within the following 30 days to stay on track.
Goal #3: “Improve my health and fitness abilities by exercising 3x/week for the next 6+ months.”
- Specific: My health and confidence are suffering because I’ve been sedentary lately. I will improve my overall well-being and body composition by going to the gym at least three times per week for the next six months or longer. I will need to join a gym, buy new sneakers, and find one hour in my day to go to the gym. I will start this challenge in the next week.
- Measurable: I plan to join a gym within the next three days and go to the gym within the next seven days. Each week, I will track my progress by writing down all of the times I went to the gym, aiming for at least three sessions. I will do this for at least six months.
- Achievable: I’ve exercised consistently in the past and proven I can stick to this schedule if I make the time and effort.
- Relevant: By prioritizing exercise, I will improve my energy, self-esteem, and overall health by committing to this challenge.
- Time-sensitive: My first milestone must be hit within the next three days. Then I need to start my gym sessions within the next week.
Goal #4: “Pay off my debt by saving $200/month for the next year.”
- Specific: I have accumulated credit card debt that I’ve failed to pay down, causing me to waste money on interest. Instead of spending extra money on wasteful items like clothes and meals out, I will allocate $200 per month to reduce my debt. Each month for the next year or longer I will pay $200 toward my credit card debt.
- Measurable: I plan to make my first payment within the next month and continue to pay each month for the next year. I will make a payment on the first of each month, helping to track my progress.
- Achievable: I’ve proven I can stick to a budget and save money by tracking my spending. If I buy fewer clothes and eat out less, I will save money to pay my debt.
- Relevant: I will avoid wasting money on credit card interest each month by getting rid of debt. This will help me to become financially stable and more secure.
- Time-sensitive: My first milestone must be hit within the next 30 days. Then I need to continue paying $200 on the first of every month for the next year.
Goal #5: “Expand my professional network by attending three networking events each quarter for the next year.”
- Specific: I work in sales, which means that my professional success depends a lot on my network and relationships. I want to expand my network by being more social and meeting more colleagues and customers in person. I’ll network myself by attending three events every quarter for the next year. Events can include workshops, seminars, happy hours, or job fairs.
- Measurable: I plan to attend my first event next year. I will sign up for this first event tomorrow and then look for other events within the next ten days. Once per month, on the 15th, I will check in to make sure I’m seeking out events, signing up ahead of time, and actually attending them.
- Achievable: I’ve prioritized networking more in the past when I put the effort in. I know I can expand my network by giving social and professional events more attention.
- Relevant: I will be able to meet new people in my field, learn tips, and develop beneficial relationships by expanding my network.
- Time-sensitive: My first milestone must be hit within the next day, then I will need to keep the momentum going over the next ten days. Every quarter for three months, I will attend three events. I will continue this for the next year before re-evaluating.
Create Your Own SMART Goals Now
Now that you know why setting goals is critical for putting great ideas into practice, let’s look at how to begin SMART goal-setting.
To outline your own SMART goals, utilize the process and tips below:
- Ask yourself this question first: Why are you setting the goal in the first place? Make sure the goal aligns with your mission and values. Does it need to be tweaked to do this?
- Is the goal detailed and precise enough? What information can you add (who, what, where, when, why, how) to make it more concrete with less room for misinterpretation?
- Who is involved in achieving this goal? Does anyone need to be hired? Determine who will be responsible for each task.
- How will you measure your progress? What are the exact ways you’ll gather data and analyze if you’re meeting your mini goals? Where will you write all of your data down so you can keep track?
- Where will each task take place? What are the exact locations where the goal is carried out?
- When will the project be kicked off and when is it completed by? What date marks the halfway point? Are there any other milestone dates that should be determined?
- What does success look like if you reach the goal? How do you know that you’ve hit the mark and succeeded?
SMART goals help to clarify what you or your company is aiming for and how exactly you plan to do it. They remove ambiguity, procrastination, and excuses. Follow this SMART goals template to execute actionable and specific goals:
- Specific: Name who is involved, what the goal entails exactly, and where, how, and when it will be completed.
- Measurable: Decide how and when you will measure progress and where data is stored.
- Achievable: Make sure the goal is realistic. Purchase any training or materials that are needed to make it happen.
- Relevant: Only choose goals that support your main objectives and bigger purpose.
- Time-sensitive: Decide when the goal’s deadline is and the dates by which you will complete important milestones.
Want to learn more about goal-setting and why it’s an essential practice for achieving personal and professional success? Check out this article: “Goal-Setting: 4 Keys to Increase Success as a Leader.”
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