May 25, 2018

What Are SMART Goals (and How To Set Them)

Trying to improve your team productivity? Struggling to close your projects?
You can’t do either without setting clear goals.

Over the decades, several techniques have risen to fame as answers to goals setting. The SMART goals framework is one of the most famous.

What are SMART goals and how did they become so popular? After all, can’t just any goal be more than enough?

In this article, we’ll explain what SMART goals mean – and how managers can put them into place.

So although the SMART framework is used for personal goals, too, in this article we’ll talk about SMART goals in a work setting.


  1. What are SMART goals?
  2. What does SMART mean?
  3. Do SMART goals really work?
  4. How to write SMART goals: examples
  5. How share and monitor SMART goals
what are smart goals

What Are SMART Goals?

The SMART framework is a scheme for setting up goals that are actually achievable.
The credit for the inventing SMART goals is uncertain. However, the first written mention of the SMART framework was in 1981 in an article by George T. Doran on the issue of Management Review:

‘How do you write meaningful objectives?’- that is, frame a statement of results to be achieved, Managers are confused by all the verbal from seminars, books, magazines, consultants, and so on.
Let me suggest therefore, that when it comes to writing effective objectives, corporate officers, managers, and supervisors just have to think of the acronym SMART.

George T. Doran

What Does SMART Mean?

“SMART” is an acronym. Every letter stands for an adjective that defines the characteristics that the goals would have. Basically, the five words are the criteria to follow to set the goals.

Here’s the explanation of each letter of the SMART framework:

  • Specific: is targeted on an area of improvement;
  • Measurable: has clear success metrics assigned to it;
  • Achievable: can be broken down in realistic steps;
  • Relevant: fits inside the general scope and strategy of the project;
  • Time-bound: has a (realistic) deadline;
SMART goals acronym explanation

The acronym changed and adapted over time. For example, Doran originally envisioned the A as in “Assignable”, which means making clear who is in charge of that goal in particular.

The SMART framework is sometimes also called SMART-ER:

  • Evaluated: appraisal of a goal to assess the extent to which it has been achieved.
  • Reviewed: reflection and adjustment of your approach or behavior to reach a goal. (reference needed)

For the sake of this article, we’ll stick to the SMART framework.

Why Are SMART Goals Important?

SMART goals are important as a framework to measure success.

Without goals, it’s really hard for a business, a team, or an individual to fullfill their mission.

However, not all goals are the same: a poorly crafted, un-measurable goal would be useless in the big picture and make it impossible to know if the work has been effective. It can lead to discouragment and low morale when the goal isn’t reached.

Do SMART Goals Really Work?

The SMART(ER) framework has had its share of criticism throughout the years. The downsides are that smart goals don’t seem to work on the long term, but rather at the short term. Also, SMART goals lack flexibility. Besides, the conservative nature of SMART goals could hinder the employee capacity to dare and “think big”.

That doesn’t mean that the smart framework should be thrown out entirely. You’ll have to evaluate the upsides and see if they fit in your current need and strategy:

  • by consistently following the framework, you’ll have a measurable reference for future projects;
  • the more targeted the goal is, the better you’ll be able to allocate time and resources to it;
  • your team is more likely to be successful if they have clear, attainable goals to reach.

According to Brian Tracy,

“Only 3% of adults have clear, written, specific, measurable, time-bounded goals, and by every statistic, they accomplish ten times as much as people with no goals at all”

Let’s see how to write SMART goal the right way – and how to achieve them.

How To Write Smart Goals

Before you start

You cannot set your personal or your team’s goal and objectives without before taking a look at where you’re now, what’s been done that far and where you want to head in the future. For example:

– Use tools like Google Analytics to extract audience and traffic metrics;
– Take a look at Google Trends to predict where your industry will be going:
– Check where you and your team have been spending their time;
Consult with management on the company goals and expectations, and how to fill your actions in the strategy;
– Review the strategies you’ve implemented this far and identify what you achieved and what you missed.

A template for SMART goals

After you have a clear picture of the current situation, it’s time for writing your SMART goals. When you do it, you’ll basically go through all five letters of the SMART acronym.

For example: let’s say that from the Google Analytics panel of your B2B website you notice a lot of visitors coming but very few turning into leads. You decide to focus on the website in order to increase the number of leads signing up to know more about your product.

Setting up your SMART goals should work approximately like this:


What area are you trying to improve? What exactly will you do?

Generic goal: I want more leads
Specific goal: I will improve the conversion rate of the website


How will you know you have achieved your goal? In what ways will you measure it?

Generic goal: I will increase the conversion rate of the website
Measurable goal: I will increase the conversion rate of the website by 25%. I will track goals in Google Analytics to make sure I reach the result.


Take a look at all the past data you have. Taking trends, patterns and needs into account, what result is most likely to be achieved? Do you have the resources and capabilities? Can you break the goal down in steps?

Achievable goal: I will increase the conversion rate of the website by 25%, by optimizing the CTAs, changing the buttons size and movie the content above-the-fold. I will track goals in Google Analytics to make sure I reach the result.


How does the goal fit in the strategy? Is it meaningful? Will it help or jeopardize other goals?


How much time will you allow for reaching this goal? Can you define a reasonable deadline in the calendar?

Time-bound goal: I will increase the conversion rate of the website by 25% in Q2, by optimizing the CTAs, changing the size of the buttons, and moving the content above-the-fold. I will track goals in Google Analytics to make sure I reach the result.

How To Share And Monitor SMART Goals

Hopefully, by now you should have outlined your SMART goals.

So what steps should you take now to actually achieve them? I have some suggestions:

1) Write the goals down
You should put all your goals into writing and keep them available for you and your team to review. So you won’t risk forgetting what exactly was is needed. Plus, writing everything down will serve as motivation.

2) Share them with the team
Explain to your team members what they’re working towards. It will improve communication and transparency.

Feel free to use this Slideshare presentation that I have prepared to explain the benefits of SMART goals to your team:

Here’s the link to the presentation on Slideshare

3) Track your time
Since your goals are time based , you should be extra careful with how you use your and your team’s time. Time tracking tools like Timeneye help exactly with that. You can track time against projects and turn the hours into data that you can analyze.

4) Analyze
Speaking of analysis, make sure to monitor the progression of your projects. This way you’ll know before meeting your deadlines how you and your team are doing.

You can repeat the process as many times as you want and for any goals you track in the company. Once this process is established in your team, it’ll become more natural and effective and you’ll be able to set and measure the prìerfomance of your team.

Did you set up your SMART goals? If so, now it’s time to boost your team’s productivity and start tracking your results!


Marketing Manager at Timeneye. She’s passionate about technology and finding better, smarter ways to work. In her free time, she enjoys reading books and belting out tunes from Broadway musicals (although the neighbours don’t seem to appreciate that). Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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