How to Write SMART Goals (With Examples)

Attempting to reach your goals without a strategy is a disaster in the making. It is not possible to just decide you want to achieve something one day.

Whether personal, business, or career, you must approach your goals with a game plan. That’s where setting SMART goals comes into play.

What are SMART goals? Why is it important? How do you write SMART goals, and what are some examples? In this article, these questions will be answered to increase your chances of reaching success.

What are SMART Goals?

In 1981, George T. Doran introduced SMART goals in his paper, “There’s a SMART Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives.” The SMART criteria aimed to boost the chances of achieving goals.

SMART is an abbreviation for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-based

Goals that follow the SMART criteria can help you determine exactly what you want to accomplish. When your goals are less ambiguous, you are setting the foundation to measure success efficiently.

From creating benchmarks to setting deadlines, SMART goals ensure you stay focused on your goal and aren’t distracted by the usual humdrum.

Furthermore, based on Locke’s goal-setting theory, specific and clear goals are directly related to task performance. Since one of the SMART criteria is “specific,” you have a powerful tool to pursue your ideal results with an overwhelming victory.

Why Are SMART Goals Important?

Goals give us something to strive for in life. When it comes to setting goals and achieving them, SMART goals are your best friend.

Successful people and businesses widely use this goal-setting framework because it’s an effective way to plan and attain success.

For example, instead of simply setting a goal of “improving English vocabulary,” a SMART goal would be to “learn 10 new words each day.”

Using SMART goals allows you to accomplish your objectives with a clear vision. You have a better roadmap of the direction you need to go. Hence, when you have a step-by-step plan, you are more likely to get your desired results.

Plus, writing SMART goals is more likely to get you out of the procrastination mindset and ensure you aren’t stuck in a rut.

smart goals infographic

How to Write SMART Goals

When establishing goals, consider making them follow the SMART criteria:

1. Make Your Goals Specific

The most important aspect of SMART goals is that they must be specific. That means defining what success will look like for you.

For instance, say you want to lose weight. While this is a brilliant goal, it isn’t specific enough.

Why? Because there are plenty of better ways to narrow down this goal, such as “adding fruits and vegetables to your diet” or “going out to the gym.” You get the idea.

Ambiguity is your enemy, so get into the nitty gritty to keep your path to success crystal clear. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to get more specific with your goals:

  • Why is this goal important to me?
  • What am I trying to accomplish?
  • Will I need to request support?
  • What expected obstacles will I face?
  • What are all the different ways I can achieve this?

2. Make Your Goals Measurable

To achieve goals, start keeping track of your progress. This can take the form of milestones to measure how close you are to meeting a goal. And if it seems like you’re off-course, you can identify spots to make readjustments.

Goals that aren’t measurable tend to be arduous. You lose motivation because you can’t see how much progress you’ve made. This feeling is frustrating since it’s as though you’ve been standing in the same spot forever.

Continuing with the example of losing weight, you want to create mini-goals to know exactly how successful you are.

So no matter what type of goal you pursue, set measurable targets. It will help motivate and energize you while keeping your eyes on the winning prize.

Some important questions to have are:

  • How do I know when I’m making progress?
  • What target numbers do I want to set and achieve?
  • How should I measure success?
  • What different ways can I track progress?

3. Make Your Goals Attainable

Your goal should be reasonable and fall within your capabilities. Striving for the impossible will be an unnecessary use of time and energy. To properly manage your resources, you want to stick to attainable goals.

Naturally, your goals shouldn’t be easy either. You simply want to make sure they are possible, given your skills and abilities.

Carrying over the previous example, if you don’t commit to getting a gym membership, going out for a run, or changing to a healthy diet, it would be a pleasant surprise if you can actually lose weight.

Goals require dedication and actionable steps, which may be impossible for many people. Here are a few questions to figure out how achievable your goals are:

  • Do I have the skills needed to reach this goal?
  • Am I committed to sacrificing resources for my objective?
  • Is the goal a balance between easy and difficult?

4. Make Your Goals Relevant

It wouldn’t make sense to chase goals that don’t align with your core values. Every endeavor should bring you a step closer to your ultimate goal in life.

Remember that time is valuable, and wasting your mental bandwidth on things that don’t support a better life isn’t ideal.

Recognize that successfully reaching goals can be a powerful source of motivation. It can encourage you to set out for even more ambitious goals. Then, you’ll be able to set the right priorities and take action.

So before doing anything, make sure your goal is one you care about. Here are a few questions to ask:

  • Does this goal align with my overall objectives?
  • Why is it important to set this goal now?
  • Is this something I even desire?

5. Make Your Goals Time-Based

Having a deadline will create a feeling of urgency to move forward with your goals. When you have a deadline, it becomes easier to track your goal progress and adjust your strategy if your target milestones aren’t being achieved.

If you tend to procrastinate, then having a time frame is crucial. Without it, you risk falling behind schedule, which leaves room for frustration when things aren’t going as planned.

These are questions you must ask yourself to determine the right deadline for your goals:

  • Is my deadline realistic?
  • When do I need to get this goal done?
  • Will this end date conflict with my current schedule?

Examples of SMART Goals

Here are three examples of turning weak goals into SMART goals:

  1. Improve public speaking
  2. Secure a dream job
  3. Get better grades in school

1. Improve Public Speaking

public speaking

Weak goal example: I want to get better at public speaking.

SMART goal example:

  • Specific: I didn’t do as well as I hoped in my most recent work presentation. Improving my public speaking skills requires better body language with the correct posture and facial expressions. So I’ll practice mastering my body language to prepare for future presentations.
  • Measurable: When my next work presentation comes next month, I must deliver my message and engage the audience effectively. I should be making eye contact, speaking with a clear, confident voice, and standing up straight without overwhelming anxiety.
  • Attainable: I’ve had dozens of presentations in the past, and I’ve always practiced recording myself speaking before a presentation. Although I’m good at speaking, I can be better.
  • Relevant: I want to advance my career, which requires impressive communication skills. Learning to be better at public speaking will help me land a leadership position at work.
  • Time-based: In a month, I should be more proficient at better body language by researching and watching 20 presentation videos of successful people I admire.

2. Secure a Dream Job

Weak goal example: I want to get a better job.

SMART goal example:

  • Specific: I will become a software engineer for big tech companies like Microsoft or Google. To do so, I will search for jobs I’m qualified for on numerous job boards. I’d like to list all the companies I am interested in applying for.
  • Measurable: I will aim for 5 job applications every week. I should also update my resume and cover letter so that my technical experiences reflect my current skills.
  • Attainable: I’ve been setting aside time to enroll in online courses to learn more about software design and its real-world applications. I’m also watching coding tutorials every week to sharpen my technical knowledge.
  • Relevant: I’m passionate about working at a large tech company where I can enjoy a career in software engineering. I will expand my skill set and put myself in a challenging environment where I can thrive and grow. 
  • Time-based: I should have applied to 20 relevant job applications within a month by sending 5 job applications every week.

3. Get Better Grades in School

Weak goal example: Get good grades in school.

SMART goal example:

  • Specific: I received a low score on my most recent test in college. Getting higher grades requires a better study routine and sticking to it. I will improve my study habits when my next test comes in two weeks.
  • Measurable: By the end of two weeks, I should have 10 points higher on my next test than the previous one. I should also be more focused while studying and completing assignments.
  • Attainable: Improving my study habits is key to getting more work done in less time. This is an important skill for any future endeavors. I am committed to mastering study techniques that can help me learn leaps and bounds.
  • Relevant: Studying is needed to do well on tests and exams and hence, improve my grades. I will graduate college with flying colors and increase my prospects of securing my dream job.
  • Time-based: In two weeks, I should have a better study routine that muffles out 80% of distractions instead of the current 40% of distractions.

Final Thoughts

SMART goals are excellent because they can add clarity to what objectives you want to achieve. They hold you accountable so that you push yourself to reach your full potential.

By taking advantage of the SMART framework, you can increase your chances of setting and reaching goals, no matter how small or big.

Whether you are searching for your dream job or enrolled in school, SMART goals are vital to crafting your objectives using a strategic lens. If you’ve been eager to accomplish your hopes and dreams, don’t wait now.

Photo of author

Rei Shen

Rei is the founder of Success in Depth. Based in Washington, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. He brings years of experience in goal setting to empower readers to reach their aspirations.