The Essential Guide to Writing SMART Goals

When attempt­ing to max­imise pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, improve per­for­mance and deliv­er busi­ness val­ue, the place to start is get­ting your employ­ees to set clear SMART objec­tives. Objec­tives serve as a way to keep employ­ees on course and work­ing toward an over­ar­ch­ing com­pa­ny goal. They pro­vide focus, direc­tion, set expec­ta­tions and also pro­vide moti­va­tion for your work­force. Employ­ees can only achieve and exceed expec­ta­tions when they know exact­ly what is expect­ed of them. What’s more, when employ­ees are con­fi­dent of what is expect­ed of them, they won’t waste busi­ness time or ener­gy wor­ry­ing — allow­ing them to make most of their time and skills.

What are SMART goals?

See how Smartsheet can help you deliver on SMART goals

S – Specific

When setting a goal, be specific about what you want to accomplish. Think about this as the mission statement for your goal. This isn’t a detailed list of how you’re going to meet a goal, but it should include an answer to the popular ‘w’ questions:

  • Who – Consider who needs to be involved to achieve the goal (this is especially important when you’re working on a group project).
  • What – Think about exactly what you are trying to accomplish and don’t be afraid to get very detailed.
  • When – You’ll get more specific about this question under the “time-bound” section of defining SMART goals, but you should at least set a time frame.
  • Where – This question may not always apply, especially if you’re setting personal goals, but if there’s a location or relevant event, identify it here.
  • Which – Determine any related obstacles or requirements. This question can be beneficial in deciding if your goal is realistic. For example, if the goal is to open a baking business, but you’ve never baked anything before, that might be an issue. As a result, you may refine the specifics of the goal to be “Learn how to bake in order to open a baking business.”
  • Why – What is the reason for the goal? When it comes to using this method for employees, the answer will likely be along the lines of company advancement or career development.

M – Measurable

What metrics are you going to use to determine if you meet the goal? This makes a goal more tangible because it provides a way to measure progress. If it’s a project that’s going to take a few months to complete, then set some milestones by considering specific tasks to accomplish.

A – Achievable

This focuses on how important a goal is to you and what you can do to make it attainable and may require developing new skills and changing attitudes. The goal is meant to inspire motivation, not discouragement. Think about how to accomplish the goal and if you have the tools/skills needed. If you don’t currently possess those tools/skills, consider what it would take to attain them.

R – Relevant

Relevance refers focusing on something that makes sense with the broader business goals. For example, if the goal is to launch a new product, it should be something that’s in alignment with the overall business objectives. Your team may be able to launch a new consumer product, but if your company is a B2B that is not expanding into the consumer market, then the goal wouldn’t be relevant.

T – Time-Bound

Anyone can set goals, but if it lacks realistic timing, chances are you’re not going to succeed. Providing a target date for deliverables is imperative. Ask specific questions about the goal deadline and what can be accomplished within that time period. If the goal will take three months to complete, it’s useful to define what should be achieved half-way through the process. Providing time constraints also creates a sense of urgency.

The Easiest Way to Write SMART Goals

When it comes to writing SMART goals, be prepared to ask yourself and other team members a lot of questions. The answers will help fine-tune your strategy, ensuring the goals are something that’s actually attainable. While you should be as realistic as possible, it’s important to approach writing SMART goals with a positive attitude. After all, this is something that you want to achieve.

This doesn’t have to be a daunting experience; in fact, it should be quite illuminating. Later in the article, we demonstrate how to write SMART goals for two typical business scenarios: completing a project and improving personal performance. Below, we’ve included an easy-to-use SMART goals template in Word, along with a template to help you plan and manage your goals in Smartsheet.

SMART Goals Worksheet Template

Why Should You Use SMART Goals?

SMART goals ensure that you’re not setting lofty or unfocused objectives that will likely result in failure. If your goals meet all 5 SMART criteria points (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound), you’re instantly giving yourself a head start in meeting those goals because they are well thought out, tangible objectives with a clear success plan. An objective that doesn’t account for SMART criteria is more of a wish or aspiration, rather than a realistic goal.

Write Down Your Goals

The answers to all of these questions will help you set SMART goals. You don’t want to just generate ideas or concepts. You want to use those ideas and concepts as a launching pad to dig deeper and create specific and measurable business objectives that will benefit both you and the business.

S : Specific

You don’t want to create a vague goal that leaves room for varying interpretations. Consider the “W” questions when crafting a specific goal– Who, What, When, Where, and Why. Once you identify answers to these “W” questions, you’ll have a clear, specific, and actionable goal.

M : Measurable

What are the metrics for success? Make sure your goal is quantifiable so that you can easily track your progress and set achievement milestones. For example, increasing sales lead conversions by 10% compared to prior year is much more measurable than simply setting a goal of converting leads.

A : Achievable

Are there any other teams that are integral to the success of your goal? If your goal is collaborative in nature, do you have the resources needed? Do you have the skills and the bandwidth to fully accomplish this objective? These are all key questions you must ask yourself when crafting an Achievable goal. Depending on the answers, you may need to edit or fine tune your goal so that it is indeed attainable.

R : Relevant

If you answer ‘Yes’ to both of these, then congrats! You’ve crafted a goal that is Relevant. If the answer is “No,” then rework your goal. Start by reviewing your company and/or department goals for the year. Then, revisit your goal through the lens of these overarching company objectives and make the necessary adjustments to align your goal with those objectives.

T : Time-Bound

When crafting a SMART goal, it’s extremely important to have a target date for completion in order to create a sense of urgency. Keep in mind what you can realistically accomplish by the target date and list out the key deliverables.

What are Some Examples of SMART Goals?

1) Weak Goal Example: I will secure new business.

  • Specific: I’m going to fine tune my sales pitch in order to secure contracts with new clients.
  • Measurable: The goal is to increase my new business sales by 10% compared to the prior fiscal year.
  • Achievable: My sales assistant has conducted market research and identified over 250 qualified leads. Our sales strategy team has also released new sales material geared specifically to introducing the business to new clients and offering exclusive sign-up bonus deals.
  • Relevant: One of the key overall business objectives this year is to grow our new business sales revenue.
  • Time-bound: I’m aiming to increase my year over year new business sales by 5% within the next 6 months, so that I’m pacing towards 10% (or higher) in increased new business sales by year end.

SMART Goal: By using an improved sales pitch on only vetted & qualified leads, I will secure new business. I aim to increase my new business sales by 10% compared to last fiscal year, with a midpoint check-in to ensure I’ve reached at least a 5% increase within the first 6 months.

2) Weak Goal Example: I will be a good manager and motivate my team.

  • Specific: I’m going to attend training courses offered by the company to sharpen my Management skills and learn how to better motivate my direct reports.
  • Measurable: The goal is to take 5 courses related to Management and motivational skills. Once courses are completed and learnings are implemented, I expect to see a lift in team productivity. Specifically, my team missed a couple key publishing deadlines last year. This year, my team will meet all quarterly deadlines.
  • Achievable: My company offers an extensive course catalogue on our internal training site. I’m able to browse and select the most relevant courses. I’ve identified 10 potential courses that are geared towards honing key skills for Managers and motivating teams.
  • Relevant: One of the key overall business objectives this year is to increase productivity in the workplace. Through effectively managing and motivating my team, I aim to increase my team’s productivity levels.
  • Time-bound: I’m aiming to complete all of my Management training classes within the next 4 months, so I have the remainder of the year to implement my learnings. I will also set mid-way milestone check-in dates prior to each quarterly publishing deadline to ensure we’re pacing to deliver.

SMART Goal: I will take 5 training courses in the next 4 months to help boost my Management and motivational skills. By implementing my learnings, my team’s productivity levels will increase resulting in our team hitting all 4 quarterly publishing deadlines this year.

3) Weak Goal Example: I will complete the redesign of our company app.

  • Specific: Our company app interface has not been updated since its’ launch in 2010. We’ve received complaints that the User Interface is not aesthetically pleasing or user-friendly. With the help of our software team, I’m going to redesign and relaunch our app.
  • Measurable: The goal is to increase app downloads by 50% compared to last year. A secondary goal is to increase our app rating from 2 stars to 4 stars or above.
  • Achievable: I have a dedicated resource lead in each department that is integral to successfully redesigning and relaunching the app. My role is to project manage and ensure each team member is hitting required deadlines and contributing quality content. I have previous project management experience that will help me navigate this critical project.
  • Relevant: One of the key overall business objectives this year is to improve the user experience on our app and improve our app download rates.
  • Time-bound: I’m aiming to have the internal test app environment live within the next 5 months. This will allow enough time for each department to provide feedback. Final version for all department sign off will be ready by the end of Q3 for an early Q4 launch, just in time for the Holidays.

SMART Goal: With the help of key department stakeholders, I will redesign and relaunch our company app by the beginning of Q4. This new and improved app will result in a 50% increase in downloads compared to prior year and a 4-star or above user rating.


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