The ultimate guide to SMART goals, with a free template


OWithout concrete goals, you’re essentially shooting in the dark trying to improve. SMART goals are useful because they contain five aspects that help you focus and reassess the goals if necessary. This framework can be useful for any team trying to practice a project management. The five aspects of SMART goals are that they are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. We explore what SMART goals are and how they can help your team.

Definition of SMART objectives

A SMART objective is defined by its five key aspects or elements. Without all aspects, you might be setting goals, but not effectively creating a plan for success. Let’s take a closer look at the five elements of SMART goals.


Specific objectives have a desired outcome that is clearly understood. This can be a sales number or a product deployment goal. Whatever it is, the goal should be clearly articulated so that everyone is on the same page with the goal. Define what will be accomplished and the actions to be taken to achieve the goal.


These are the numbers used with the purpose. You need to have a quantifiable goal so you can track progress. Define the data that will be used to measure the goal and define a collection method.


Goals should be realistic in order to maintain the enthusiasm to try to achieve them. Setting stretch goals is great, but you might want to break them down into smaller chunks. If the goal is not achievable, you may need to increase resources first to give yourself a chance of success. Increasing resources would probably be its own SMART objective.


Goals should be aligned with the company’s mission. Don’t set goals just as an exercise for something to do. One way to determine if the objective is relevant is to define the key benefit to the organization.

Limited in time

Goals should have a deadline. A goal without a deadline is of little use. How can you identify success or failure? That’s why SMART goals set a deadline. This doesn’t mean all the work is done, but it does mean you can gauge the success of the effort and set new goals.

Benefits of SMART Goals

Setting SMART goals has many benefits, which is why you should consider adding them to your professional toolkit. First, a SMART goal helps give you a goal. By doing so, you are able to identify strengths and weaknesses. Second, a SMART goal provides the motivation to succeed. When you know where the goal line is, you’ll want to work towards reaching it or beating it. Third, a good SMART goal, while attainable, will also be challenging and will force you out of your comfort zone. Ultimately, the SMART goal is a useful tool for staying focused on achieving a goal.

Disadvantages of SMART goals

As with everything, there is a downside to SMART goals that you need to consider. By focusing on the S.MA.RT objective, you risk neglecting other areas of the business. There may be other tasks that command attention, but the focus on the goal could overshadow them and leave other things unfinished. Besides that, the SMART goal can put a lot of pressure on people to succeed. You do not want setting goals that people can’t achieve. It’s important to manage expectations and keep goals achievable to avoid burnout and morale issues.

How to track your goals

What’s the use of having a goal if you don’t go through with it? Once you have the goals, there are a few things you can do to make sure you stay on track and achieve them.

Write down the goals

Take the time to write down your goals and post them somewhere you can see them. For team goals, put them where everyone can see them. If it’s just for you, post a note next to your computer screen with the goals. Writing down goals brings them to life and makes them real. It’s also a good reminder of what you’re working on.

Share the objectives with the people concerned

Sharing goals sets the tone for accountability. Share your goals with your team, supervisor or a mentor. A shared goal is one that comes with a commitment to work hard to achieve the goal. Be sure to share your goals with a support person who will encourage you to persevere when the going gets tough.

Evaluate progress regularly

Check in and see how you are doing to achieve your goal. If the goal is a monthly goal, you may want to check in daily or weekly to see progress. It helps you redirect energy and change course if something you’re doing isn’t working and you’re not making progress. Better to see this sooner rather than later while you can still adapt with enough time to succeed.

Celebrate the victories

When you succeed, celebrate. But don’t think you have to wait for the goal to be reached before giving yourself a pat on the back. If you find yourself making great progress on a check-in, celebrate that too. Small successes help you maintain the energy needed to work towards the bigger goal.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is Project Management?

Project management uses processes, skills, tools and knowledge to carry out a planned project and achieve its objectives. It differs from general management by the limited scope of a project, concrete deadlines and specific deliverables.

What does the SMART goal mean?

Specific. Measurable. Feasible. Relevant. Limited in time.

The acronym helps you remember the key aspects of a goal so you have the best plan for success.

How to write a goal plan?

Write a goals plan starting with the specific goal to be measured. Establish a time frame or deadline in which you want to achieve the goal. Review what you write to make sure it’s both actionable and relevant to your overall goals.

Why are SMART goals used in performance reviews?

SMART goals are a great way for managers and team members to agree on expectations. Great managers work with Members of the team to set goals that fulfill the overall objective, but that the employee feels good about achieving.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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