What are smart goals and how to set your own smart goals?

thoughtful young African woman brainstorming SMART goals
Reflect on the present moment

When defining goals and key performance indicators (KPIs), whether business or personal, those goals must be important to you. Goals, objectives, and KPIs are tools, and each has a purpose. Like any other tool, it should be designed and used with intent and introduces the use of SMART criteria as the best practice for defining goals and KPIs.

This document defines your SMART criteria with relevant examples and provides best practice guidance to help you set your own SMART goals.

What are SMART goals?

SMART Goals refer to setting goals and KPIs in an accurate and easily communicated manner. SMART, a concept first presented by the author George T. Dora in an article published in 1981 and later expanded by Professor Robert S. Ruben, is an abbreviation for:

  • S pecific
  • M easurable (measurable)
  • A chievable
  • R ealistic
  • T ime-bound (dated)

SMART says that clear, achievable and strategic goals are the most effective way to set specific key steps and metrics. Instead of an approximate goal like increase in sales’, a goal like increase California’s premium subscription sales for February by 4% year-on-year’ would be a more SMART goal.

SMART Goals are individual steps in a carefully thought out strategy to achieve a larger goal.

If you’re running a marathon or climbing, your SMART goal is like a road sign on the road that tells you where you are and how well you are. It’s not just about reaching the finish line, it’s about the steps required to get there. The SMART KPI is a reliable measure with a beginning and an end, used by SMART goals.


Clearing your goals and expectations is the first step towards reaching them. It’s easy to miss if your goal is too broad or vague. And if the definition of a goal is too broad, it becomes more difficult to measure and achieve. Overly vague goals can lead to many mistakes and misunderstandings. It’s like you don’t even know what to wear when you’re hiking, as well as the trail distance, the estimated time required, the climbing conditions and what to wear. If you have a specific goal, you can see the path formed from start to finish. Specific KPIs further define the route through benchmarks and everyone knows where you are.

When setting SMART goals, try to answer the following questions:

  • What are the specific steps in the plan?
  • Who is needed to realise your goals?
  • Where should I put my effort into it?
  • Why is this goal worth the long-term strategy?
  • How is this goal prioritised over other goals?

Examples of specific SMART goals: If Superman wants to save the world’, he will narrow it down to a more specific stop Lex Luther’s plan’. By doing this, Superman can focus much more on his goals and priorities stopping the supervillains rather than saving the large, endangered black and white woodpecker.


If you can’t measure something, you won’t know if you’re doing well or if you’re out of plan and need to fix the route. In addition to setting specific goals, you need to be able to quantify your data or point you towards your progress toward that goal. Setting measurable goals and criteria ensures that everyone involved evaluates their performance and follows the planned path.

When setting SMART goals, try to answer the following questions:

  • What data do you need?
  • Where is the data, and how will it be accessed?
  • Is the data reliable and verifiable?
  • What is a reasonable step-by-step goal?
  • How much is enough and what is lacking?
  • How do you know if you’re meeting your goals?

Example of a measurable SMART goal: If your goal is to complete a climb in one day, then the survey will determine how far you need to walk per hour and track your progress. This way, you can measure the distance and time remaining based on your goal. This plan is smarter than starting walking, looking up at the top of the mountain in the afternoon and hoping to reach the top at sunset.


It is important to look at the end goal and set goals within realistic abilities. Nor should we be overly emotionally overwhelmed, we shouldn’t motivate ourselves with goals that are not persuasive or unattainable, nor should we pursue only extremely noble goals. Be motivated, both yourself and your stakeholders, with the satisfaction of your achievements and real performance. When setting goals, you need to be ambitious to drive success, but you also need to know your inner and outer limits. Achievement must be sustainable.

When setting SMART goals, try to answer the following questions:

  • What are the steps required to reach the goal?
  • How much direct control can you have in achieving your goals?
  • Are your goals realistic compared to previous performance?
  • What was the previous case?
  • Why do you think your goal is achievable?
  • What are the external and internal factors that can prevent you from achieving your goals?

Examples of Achievable SMART Goals: Search and Rescue Dogs have only one goal to find survivors from disasters such as earthquakes and terrorist attacks. To motivate search and rescue dogs at the scene of a terrible disaster, dog trainers often hide fake’ survivors for rescue dogs to rescue. Then the rescue dog is motivated to continue the hard work. This sense of fulfilment satisfaction empowers and sustains the continuation of the right actions for achievement.

Realistic and Relevant

Similar to the achievable criteria above, your goals should also be realistic and relevant. If you set goals that you will never reach, the team will not work harder, while if you set goals that are too easy, your team will not progress further.

You must also make sure that your goals are related to your ultimate or business goals over time. KPIs should measure business objectives against short-term and long-term strategies. It’s okay to adjust the criteria over time. Just because it works now doesn’t always work later. So it’s important to know when your business needs change. Keep your long-term goals in mind and don’t be afraid to modify your short-term tactics. It will help you achieve your long-term plan.

When setting SMART goals, try to answer the following questions:

  • Why is this the goal now?
  • Why hasn’t this been a goal in the past?
  • Who is the right person to drive this goal?
  • How does this goal promote long-term strategy?
  • What is the expected return on investment (ROI)?
  • What happens if you cannot achieve your goals?

Example of a realistic SMART goal: If your ultimate goal is to climb Mount Everest and you’ve never reached the top of the mountain, heading straight to Mount Everest is impractical. The criteria set out above say you should first ask yourself the following questions: You have to ask why you want to climb Mount Everest, if you are the right person to climb Mount Everest, and what will happen if you don’t get to the top. If you decide to do it, you need to set up a realistic training schedule to achieve the feat.


The last letter of SMART tends to be overlooked often, but it’s very important to time your goal. A deadline goal can consist of a starting point and an ending point, a set of timed parameters, or a set of staged goals. You can set deadlines for reaching specific goals so you don’t get out of your plan. Or, you can track metrics on a daily, monthly or quarterly basis over the entire period. Whichever method you choose, plan ahead to measure your KPIs over time so you can reach your goals on time.

When setting SMART goals, try to answer the following questions:

  • Is it an achievable goal in a given period?
  • What is the longest and shortest possible time to reach the goal?
  • What are some potential impediments or time-related factors that could delay progress?
  • What achievements have you achieved in the past within a similar period?
  • How and when to check progress?
  • What if you’re out of plan after half the time?
  • Are there times when progress can naturally slow down or accelerate?

Example of a due SMART goal: Let’s look at a simple health example. Everyone decides to go to the gym more often’ in the New Year. Your SMART workout goals will include exactly how many times you go to the gym and how many hours you will work out. It’s not a rough goal, you’ll decide that you’ll work out three times a week, one hour a day next month. Or, if you want to lose weight, you will set a goal with a deadline for I will lose about 5 kg in the next 3 months”. Then, set a step-by-step goal to check every two weeks so you don’t get off-plan. Naturally, other details of this goal will be determined by the rest of the SMART criteria.

Best Practice: How to Write Your Own SMART Goal

Using all five of SMART’s criteria sets strong and direct goals. But this is not the end. Now that you know exactly what SMART is like, let’s take a look at some best practices to consider when setting your own goals.

1. Set goals by reflecting your own needs

SMART goals are good when the KPIs you set are good. Business needs are not all the same, even in the same industry. Choosing a KPI because it doesn’t reflect your business goals and because someone else is using it, or because a post on the Internet tells you to do so, can go the wrong way. You can talk at length about specific metrics to avoid, but you should always carefully consider what best suits your personal or business needs.

2. Using SMART as a form of communication and transparency

As with all forms of communication, using clear information enables teams and managers to act better accordingly. You design SMART as a way to tell you exactly where you are and how well you are doing. If everyone in the business understands your goals and the criteria for reaching them, you can work together to succeed.

3. Carefully planning, progressing and checking the best route

It’s a good idea to plan a sequence of tasks and a sequence of achievements that will help you reach your long-term goals effectively. As SMART emphasises dividing your goals in detail, you will set goals in several stages. Some goals take effect immediately and others become effective depending on the success of others.

Use historical data to predict potential problems along the way and plan step-by-step goals to check for KPI adjustments. If you have a goal with a one-year deadline, you can plan to check the goal quarterly. If you check that way, you’ll know if you’re off-plan, as if you were using GPS.

4. SMART is not just for large corporate or team goals

SMART is a criterion that is often referred to as a very useful way to set and track business goals and metrics, but it also works well for individuals. Don’t hesitate to use SMART standards for individuals or small teams. When employees can track their performance against grand objectives and metrics, they can better understand how their performance directly impacts the organisation’s performance on a larger scale.

Or, if you prefer, you can use SMART for a completely different area than business. You can use your SMART knowledge for anything-New Year’s resolutions, athletic goals, job search, home decorating plans, and more.

5. SMART is only effective when long-term strategy makes sense

You should also know that SMART has two different flaws.

First, SMART breaks down big strategies into small pieces that can be implemented and achievable. If your overall strategy or vision is wrong, SMART will only help you achieve the goals that poor strategy calls for.

Second, SMART is a way to set goals, not a way to analyse success and failure. When setting goals, it’s not too late to include explicit evaluation and review steps to make the goal-setting process smarter. And always pay attention to how you design your next SMART goal that is better than the last one. When evaluating, consider the unexpected risks, questions you missed, and who you had to commit. After all, SMART is just a set of criteria and considerations, it’s up to us to ponder how to set better goals.