SMART Goals – Definition

Cite this article as:"SMART Goals – Definition," in The Business Professor, updated April 26, 2019, last accessed October 20, 2020,

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SMART Goals Definition

SMART is a goal-setting principle that many businesses or firms employ in order to achieve specific goals and objectives. Goals are crucial to any business, no individual or corporate group sets out on a business endeavour without any plans. Goals do not only give a business a sense of direction but also helps the business achieve desired results. SMART is an acronym that guides businesses and individuals in setting their goals and objectives. SMART means;

S- Specific

M- Measurable

A- Attainable

R- Relevant

T- Timely

A Little More on What is SMART goals

Goals are set in every aspect of human life, whether you are a student, you set goals, as an employee or employer, you set goals, life itself is all about setting and achieving goals. SMART goal setting principle can be used by anyone, regardless of the class or for what purpose the goals are being set.

Using the SMART goal setting principle can help you structure your goals in achievable ways and also track the progress of the goals. This principle saves you from vague objectives and helps you set goals that you can verify through the SMART checklist. SMART goal setting principle has been proven to be one of the most effective ways of setting and achieving goals.

SMART goal setting principle helps individuals or corporate organizations clarify their goals and how the goals can be realised. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. So, any goal you will set using this technique must conform to the above criteria.

The SMART goal setting principle provides you with a goal checklist that helps you track your goals and monitor their attainment.Through the checklist, you can also evaluate your objectives. S in SMART means Specific. It entails being particular or precise on what you want to achieve. Specificity requires that a goal setter refrains from the use of generic terms, rather, state in clear terms what you intend to achieve. Specificity under SMART requires that before you want your goals, you ask yourself these questions and answer them. They are; what do I want to achieve? How will I achieve it? Where and when will I achieve it? Who do I need in order to achieve it? Are there criteria or limitations to achieve it and why exactly do I want to achieve this goal?

The SMART principle also entails that any goal you want to set must be measurable. For your goal to be measurable, it has to be something tangible, because abstract or imaginary goals are immeasurable. This means that you must be able to break your goal down to bits where its progress can easily be measured and evidence for its attainment shown at every stage. Measurable goals help to know whether you really have a specific goal you want to achieve or your goal is just theoretical.

T in SMART means Attainability. Is your goal realisable or achievable? If not, what do you need to work on? These are major areas that the attainability of a goal focuses on. Unattainable goals amount to waste of time, efforts and resources which the SMART goal setting principle protects you from. Also, if your available resources are insufficient for the goal you want to achieve, that means you need to have a rethink. Attainability of a goal requires that you put indices that are crucial to the realisation of the goal in picture.

The relevance of goal is another major area that SMART addresses. So, before and after setting a goal, you should ask yourself, will the achievement of this goal be relevant to any area of my life? For what purpose do I want to achieve this goal? If you cannot find an answer to any of this, then it means your goal is not relevant to you. Using a SMART goal setting principle requires that your goal must be relevant to you, your business or career. Hence, you must be able to answer the question; what is my objective for setting this goal? What difference or impact will it make?

SMART goal setting is require that the goals you set are timely. This means that you have to plan everything you have to do, right from the initiation of the goal to the attainment. Time is precious, once gone, it is difficult to recover.

References for Smart Goals

Academic Research on Smart Goals

SMART goals, SMART schools., O’Neill, J. (2000). Educational Leadership, 57(5), 46-50.

SMART goals, Haughey, D. (2015). ProjectSmart. co. uk. Np, nd Web, 11.

Will the real SMART goals please stand up, Rubin, R. S. (2002). The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 39(4), 26-27.

The dumb thing about SMART goals for innovation, Prather, C. W. (2005). Research Technology Management, 48(5), 14.

The development, content validity and inter‐rater reliability of the SMART‐Goal Evaluation Method: A standardised method for evaluating clinical goals, Bowman, J., Mogensen, L., Marsland, E., & Lannin, N. (2015). Australian occupational therapy journal, 62(6), 420-427.

Setting SMART Goals For Smart Staff Development, Avery, E. F. (2012).

Set SMART Goals, Barnes, N. Set SMART Goals.

Motivation, SMART Goals, and Vision, Test, C.

When SMART Goals Are Not So Smart, Reeves, M., & Fuller, J. (2018). MIT Sloan Management Review, 59(4), 1-5.

Making SMART Goals Smarter, LFACHE, L. M. E. M.

Performance plans: Smart analysis: Smarter goals, McPhun, H. (2014). Training & Development, 41(2), 32.

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