What Are the SMART Criteria for Goal Setting?

What is Smart criteria in Goal Setting | Smart Criteria for Goals

Using SMART criteria to set goals and objectives is a common practice of the most successful people. Taking the time to map out your goals provides direction and motivation. It also leaves you better prepared for dealing with unexpected challenges.

So how do you use SMART criteria to set goals for yourself? You need to carefully evaluate your goals to ensure that they are clear and achievable.

Whether you want to succeed at work or in your personal life, use the following criteria for setting SMART goals:

1. What Is a SMART Goal?

SMART is an acronym designed to make it easier to remember several key points for successful goal setting. Each letter represents a separate point, and has questions to clarify outcomes:


  1. What do you want?
  2. What is your goal?
  3. What is your first step?
  4. What specifically will you achieve?


  1. How will you measure the goal?
  2. How much? How many?
  3. What standards will help you decide whether the outcome is acceptable?
  4. What are the milestone you can track along the way?


  1. Is the goal achievable considering the timescales set and the resources available?
  2. What will stop you achieve this goal?
  3. Do you have the resources to achieve your goal?


  1. How committed are you to attaining this goal?
  2. Do you have any reservation about the goal?
  3. To what extent is this goal aligned with your interests?
  4. What might be the consequences if you don’t achieve these goal?

Time Bound

  1. What timescale are you looking at? 
  2. What is an appropriate deadline for achieving the goal?

2. Purpose of Smart Goals

The purpose of SMART goals is to give you a clear outline of what you hope to achieve. If your goals are too vague or undefined, you are more likely to encounter difficulties. Without a target, you have nothing to aim for.

Using the SMART criteria to set goals provides more clarity and focus. It helps bring your objectives within reach, which is proven to boost productivity and motivation.

3. How to Set up SMART Goals

Setting goals using SMART criteria requires you to define specific aspects of your goals. Work your way through each of the following five criteria:

1. Specific

Each goal should have specific objectives. For example, instead of encouraging a sales team to do their best, you should give them specific sales quotas to aim for.

Define the specifics of the goal, which may include an outline of what you plan to accomplish. You may also define the importance of the goal, who is involved, and what resources you require.

2. Measurable

Setting a specific goal gives you something to work toward. However, you also need to measure your progress. Decide how you plan to measure your success.

This often includes key performance indicators (KPIs) such as sales revenue, customer acquisition costs, and transactions per customer.

When setting long-term goals, consider defining metrics for various stages of the project. This helps you stay on track.

For example, if your goal is to acquire 1000 new customers within the next five months, you may set smaller milestones of 200 new customers each month.

Using smaller, measurable milestones offers faster gratification, keeping you motivated and focused. 

3. Achievable

If a goal is not achievable, you are likely to become discouraged. Review the details of the goal to ensure that it is realistic. Think about the challenges and constraints of what you hope to accomplish.

If you find that the goal is not within your reach, you can try to scale it back. Choose something more attainable to avoid stretching your resources too thin.

4. Relevant

Make sure that your goal is relevant to your needs or the needs of your employer. Ask yourself whether the task is worthwhile. For example, you may discover that now is not the right time for achieving this specific goal.

5. Timebound

The last component of a SMART goal is the timeframe for completing the goal. You need to set a target date for achieving the outcomes that you defined in the first two steps.

The deadline that you set needs to be realistic. If the deadline is too soon, the goal may become unattainable.

Read also: 8 Examples of Work Performance Goals

4. Tips for Using SMART Criteria to Set Goals for Yourself

Along with using SMART criteria to set goals at work, you can start using the SMART criteria to set goals that arerelated to your personal ambitions. For example, you may want to learn a new skill, or reach a financial goal.

You can use the same techniques discussed to set your personal goals. Start by defining the specific outcomes that you want. Instead of simply saying “I want to lose weight,” decide how many pounds you want to lose.

After defining the outcomes, decide how you want to measure your progress. When losing weight, you may choose a weekly weigh-in to track your weight loss.

Make sure that your personal goals are achievable and relevant. If you set unrealistic goals, you are more likely to become frustrated with your progress.

5. Tips for Using SMART Criteria to Set Goals for Your Team

Using SMART criteria to set goals for your team involves a slightly different approach compared to setting goals for yourself. Instead of focusing on what you can achieve individually, you need to consider the abilities of everyone involved in the project.

The first step is to define the specific outcomes of the goals. Some team members may require more clarity, requiring you to spend more time outlining the specifics.

Setting measurable outcomes is also more important when working with a team. Make sure that everyone is on the same page and understands how to measure the success of the project.

You should also consider the strengths and weaknesses of each team member to determine if the goal is achievable. You may need to provide access to different resources to accommodate certain team members.

When setting goals for a team, some managers use the SMARTER method. This method adds two more criteria to the original SMART technique: evaluate and review.

Evaluate and review the details of the goal with the team. This is your chance to gain feedback for the goal-setting process.

Read More: 16 Tips on How to be Proactive and Take Initiative at Work

6. Pros and Cons of Using SMART Criteria for Goals

Setting a SMART goal may increase your chances of success. However, this productivity technique does come with a couple of potential drawbacks.

Using the SMART criteria to set goals may limit your flexibility for dealing with changes. When you have a carefully structured plan, you may struggle to adapt to sudden setbacks.

You also need to keep in mind that SMART is not a complete solution. You still need to rely on other tools and techniques to achieve positive outcomes. However, SMART criteria goals also provide far-reaching benefits.

Some of the main advantages of using SMART criteria to set goals and achieve them include:

  • Greater focus
  • Faster results
  • Less stress
  • More motivation

Setting SMART goals gives you focus and direction. You have a clear outline of what you want to achieve, which tends to result in less stress and quicker outcomes.

These benefits also help keep you and your team motivated. When you know that a goal is achievable, you are more likely to remain driven and committed to the goal.

Also Read: What Are the Most Valuable Aspects of Leadership?

7. Last Thoughts on Using SMART Criteria to Set Goals

If you want to achieve greater success, start using the best SMART criteria to set goals for performance or specific projects.

You first need to outline the specific outcomes that you hope to achieve. After defining the outcomes, define the metrics that you will use to track your progress and measure success.

Each goal should also be achievable and relevant. Review the goal to ensure that you have the necessary resources. The last step is setting the target date for completing the goal. This gives you a deadline to work with, helping you to stay on track.

You can now start using SMART to make smarter decisions in your personal or professional life. Just remember to maintain some flexibility to deal with any challenges that arise.

Related: What are Smart guidelines for goal setting? Leave your thoughts in the comment box.

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