What Does SMART Mean?

Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.

Tony Robbins

SMART - is a concept of setting objectives, so that they are clear, easy to understand and know when a goal has been completed. First, it was described in the Management Review (1981) by George T. Doran where he discussed the importance of objectives and the difficulty of setting them.

The acronym stands for:

SMART criteria meaning

SMART criteria meaning

by Dmitry Salnikov

We’ll go letter by letter and I will show you the process of the goal-setting with examples. Let’s say you want to learn Spanish. If you define the goal as “Learn Spanish”, you’ll never know when could you consider the goal is done and what exactly must you do to accomplish it.

 Specific

First, you need to make sure your goal is very specific and clear as possible. Try answering the 5 W-questions:

  • What do I want to accomplish? (Learn Spanish)
  • Why is this goal important? (I want to move to Spain)
  • Who is involved? (Me)
  • Where is it located? (I can learn everywhere)
  • Which resources or limits are involved? (3 hours/week, $50/month)

Our goal becomes: “I want to learn Spanish because I want to move to Spain. I can learn everywhere within my time limit of 3 hours per week and budget of $50 per month (e.g. for online courses).”

Measurable

You won’t be able to track your progress towards the goal if you can’t measure it, and it often can demotivate. When you see how much you did, it makes you feeling the excitement and to stay focused.

Answer these questions:

  • How much/many? (know at least 3000 most-used words)
  • How will I know when it is accomplished? (I can read and mostly understand fiction books, I can start and sustain a conversation with native-speaking people)

Getting back to our example, you must define what does it mean for you when you say “I learned Spanish”. According to some studies, 3000 words is enough to talk almost on every topic and make conversations.

Now the goal becomes measurable: “I want to learn Spanish, because I want to move to Spain. I can learn everywhere within my time limit of 3 hours per week and budget of $50 per month (e.g. for online courses). The goal can be considered as accomplished when I know at least 3000 most-used Spanish words, I can read and mostly understand fiction books, I can start and sustain a conversation with native-speaking people.

Achievable

Your goal must be achievable and realistic, otherwise you will spend your limited resources without getting to a success. It shouldn’t be necessarily easy, it can be a challenge, but a realistic challenge. For example, you’d probably can’t learn 3000 words in a month, but a year can be realistic challenge for you.

An achievable goal answers these questions:

  • How can I accomplish this goal? (Buy books, use free online courses, attend group classes 2 times/month)
  • How realistic is the goal, based on the constraints, such as time, people, financial factors? (It’s more like a challenge, but I can do it if try hard)

Update our goal with new details: “I want to learn Spanish because I want to move to Spain. I can learn everywhere within my time limit of 3 hours per week and budget of $50 per month (e.g. for online courses). To achieve the goal I will use books, free online courses, I will attend group classes 2 times/month (~$30/month). The goal can be considered as accomplished when I know at least 3000 most-used Spanish words, I can read and mostly understand fiction books, I can start and sustain a conversation with native-speaking people.”

 Relevant

At this step, you need to decide whether the goal does really matter to you, and does it align with your other goals and needs.

A relevant goal answers these questions:

  • Does this seem worthwhile? (I must know Spanish to be able to find a job in Spain)
  • Is this the right time? (I have a year before moving to Spain, so it’s a perfect time to learn Spanish)
  • Does this match my other efforts/needs? (Absolutely)
  • Am I the right person to reach this goal? (I am)
  • Is it applicable in the current socio-economic environment? (Yes)

Time-bound

All goals should have a deadline so that you can focus on your long-term goals and don’t be distracted by everyday tasks. Without a deadline, it’s easy to procrastinate and be inefficient.

A time-bound goal answers following questions:

  • When? (1 year from now)
  • What can I do six months from now? (I must know at least 1500 words and be able to read simple texts, chat on basic topics)
  • What can I do 4 weeks from now? (I should know at least 250 words and attend group learning courses)
  • What can I do today? (Buy a good book and register at the best online platform with Spanish courses)

Let’s update our goal with the information about deadlines: “I want to learn Spanish because I want to move to Spain. I can learn everywhere within my time limit of 3 hours per week and budget of $50 per month (e.g. for online courses). To achieve the goal I will use books, free online courses, I will attend group classes 2 times/month (~$30/month). The goal can be considered as accomplished when I know at least 3000 most-used Spanish words, I can read and mostly understand fiction books, I can start and sustain a conversation with native-speaking people. The deadline for this goal is 1 year from now (specify the date here). In 6 months I must know at least 1500 words and be able to read simple texts, chat on basic topics. In 4 weeks I should know at least 250 words and attend group learning courses. Today I should go buy a good book and register at the best online platform with Spanish courses.

by runsociety.com

Be even SMARTER

Some authors modify SMART and add additional criteria, one good example is SMARTER: it requires you to Evaluate and Readjust your goal during the process. Personally, I very like this approach, because if you evaluate your goal every day (or week) you’ll be much more likely to achieve it (long-term goals often easy to ignore if not being evaluated regularly).

Evaluate. If you don’t evaluate you can’t measure your progress. You need to set the interval of evaluating your progress. For example, your goal is to learn 3000 words in a year, then theoretically you must learn 250 new words every month. It’s easy to compare planned words number with the actual number every month so that you always could know how well your progress aligns with your plan.

Readjust. Once you have evaluated your results, it’s time to readjust your goal or means to achieve it. Let’s say after the first month of learning Spanish you have learned only 200 words, even though you tried very hard and used all the available time and allocated resources. Now to be able to hit the target of 500 words in another month, you must learn 300 words (instead of 250), and it’s 33% more than in the first month. You can either decide to either extend your time limits or lower your final target number to a more optimistical: 200 words * 12 months = 2400 words. Also, you can decide to allocate more resources (e.g. spend 5 hours/week and use more money). All these decisions depend on your real situation, motivation and needs.

I hope you will start using the SMART methodology in your everyday life. It’s a very simple and powerful tool.