Get SMART: Goal-Setting Guidelines To Get Things Done

If you’re anything like me, and addicted to articles on productivity and efficiency, then you’ve probably read a ton of goal-setting ideas. I remember in college, my roommate and I set goals for ourselves each week – some were totally doable, while others were the crazy, “attain perfection” kind of goals. We finally decided that all of our obstacles (laziness, procrastination) could be solved by concentrating on one word: diligence. So we made a big banner to hang over our desks in our dorm room that said “DILLIGENT.” When someone pointed out our typo, the sign looked more like this:


Our plan for optimum productivity and life excellence (with our cool sign hanging over our dorm desks) “felt” like motivation, but I can’t tell you what we actually got done that semester outside of our normal (mandatory) classwork. There was no clarity in our goal-setting and we eventually lost touch with most of our goals.

I wish back then we had known about SMART goal-setting. A SMART goal is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. The theory was written by management scholar George Duran for managers and executives a little over 30 years ago. This framework has been used countless times to formulate goals and objectives. Goal-setting at work is especially important in avoiding costly mistakes.

When you have a goal in front of you, it’s worth it to take a few moments to plan your goals in the smartest way possible. If you find your goal can’t meet this criteria, it may mean that you need to shift your timeline, priorities, or make a better plan for the future.

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself (or a colleague) to evaluate SMART goals:

S – Specific

What needs to get done?
Who’s doing it? Why? When?
Can you clearly explain it to another person?

M – Measurable

How much? How many? How often?
What will be the milestones (perhaps small measurements) along the way?
How will you be tracking your results?

A – Attainable

Can you manage the tasks at hand to achieve the goal?
Do you believe you will accomplish this goal?
If this is a group goal, is your group on board?
Is this realistic?

R – Relevant

Does this goal have relevance to what you want to achieve in the short-term (either individually or organizationally)? Long-term?
How is this important to what you ultimately want to achieve?

T – Time-bound

What’s your time frame for achieving this goal?
What’s the deadline?
When is this taking place?

An example of a personal SMART goal could be:

I’m going to run a half-marathon next year (specific, time-bound) because of my decision to live a healthier life (relevant). I will train 10 hours a week for the six months (measurable), according to the plan my running coach has set for me. I used her plan when I ran my first 10K, so I know I can keep up with a similar schedule (attainable).

Goal-setting is a wonderful tool for getting these done. Getting things done adds confidence, skill, and success to your life. Try using SMART goals to get away from life’s distractions and focus on what’s really important in your life and your work.


Alisa Manjarrez, Brand Strategist