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SMART goals: what they are and how to use them

Work smarter, not harder. 

SMART goals were invented in 1981 by George T. Doran, a consultant, in a paper titled, “: “There’s a SMART Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives.” But what are they, and how do you use them?

SMART goals allow you to clarify what you’re trying to achieve, manage your time efficiently, make the most of your resources, and increase the likelihood of actually achieving the goals you set for yourself and your team. 

Let’s explore SMART goals and why they are important to your business. 

What are SMART goals?

To put it simply, SMART goals are a tool used to set realistic objectives and help businesses improve their chances of achieving a goal.  

Whether it’s a new product launch or a seasonal promotion, SMART goals help you set a track and stay on it until the end. 

Let’s take a look at each SMART goal a little more closely.  

Specific 

We’re willing to bet you’ve heard this before: who, what, when, where, and why? 

When it comes to setting goals, you can never be too specific about what you’re trying to achieve, who you need to do it, what skills/resources do you require, where is the work going to take place, and most importantly, why are you doing it? 

Measurable 

When setting yourself any goal, it’s important to think about how you’re going to measure that goal. How will you track your progress? How will you make adjustments? And how will you measure whether your goal was achieved or whether it failed? You need to consider what metrics you will use to measure success and make sure these metrics aren’t biased. If you want progress and growth, you need to be honest with yourself. 

Achievable 

Achievability is all about not setting the bar too high. Conversely, it’s equally important to not set the bar too low. Anyone can tick off goal after goal if they’re too easy. 

Ask yourself some questions: Is the goal realistic? Do you have the skills/resources to do it? Will the results justify the effort?

Sometimes achieving a goal might require you to do some personal development and learn some new skills. Alternatively, you may need to outsource some work or make a new hire. If you don’t have the skills to achieve a goal, think about what you need to do to develop or obtain them. 

Relevant 

Why this goal? Why now? How does it fit within your overall marketing strategy? 

It’s time to think about how this specific goal fits within the ecosystem of your entire business. If your goal is to successfully launch a new product, your goal needs to be homogenous with your overall business goals.

Time-based 

Closely related to achievability, time-based goals are all about being realistic with the timeframe in which you’re trying to achieve a goal. Not only does setting unrealistic time frames make it more likely that you won’t achieve your goals, it also places unnecessary dress on yourself and your whole team. SMART goals should be used to help you keep your team motivated and inspired. 

Try and be as specific and honest as possible when setting a time frame. This goes both ways, by the way. You need to be honest with your team about your expectations and your team needs to be honest about whether or not they think those expectations are achievable.

If a goal is going to take six months to achieve, try breaking down the schedule and setting shorter goals and milestones that you’d like to achieve. Small wins go a long way to keeping energy alie and spirits high. 

Why you should write SMART goals

Writing SMART goals shouldn’t be a scary or overwhelming experience. The whole system of writing SMART goals is designed to alleviate stress and help you see the bigger picture more clearly. 

The key to writing SMART goals is positivity and being as realistic as possible. You’re trying to develop a strategy to achieve something that you actually want to achieve. Occasionally, writing SMART goals might actually help you see that a goal isn’t worthwhile. 

Ready to start writing your own goals? Download our free SMART Goals Template. 

SMART goals: what they are and how to use them