SMART Goals 101: Examples, Templates and Worksheets
Every great idea came from a SMART goal being set into place. Every leader, entrepreneur, and go-getter followed their dreams by creating a plan to reach their goals and following through with them.
So when it comes to manifesting and achieving your success, you must start with setting goals.
You may have many reasons as to why you are not achieving your goals, but there are few excuses you can make as to why you are not actually trying.
Consider the excuses you tell yourself – many of them can be turned into opportunities if you take accountability for your decisions and create a plan for yourself.
Yes, it may be difficult and the journey may be long, but you will surely look back and be thankful you pushed yourself through it.
While success is not achieved overnight, it’s important to remember all the little steps one must take in order to reach the finish line. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You may get tired and want to stop, but just remember, starting was the most difficult part and you’ve already made past that – so keep going.
If you are struggling with moving forward, start with one small step. This can be done by setting some daily goals before bed. Then, wake up and start creating a routine with these daily goals in mind.
For example, maybe start your mornings by meditating or saying positive affirmations. Then, as you get comfortable in a routine of doing that, build upon the routine by adding more goals to promote your productivity throughout the day, and in turn, throughout your life.
The Importance of Goal Setting
Creating a routine is important for your productivity, but your goals are what navigate your productivity to your success.
Goal setting allows you to create the willpower to move the needle in your life and prevent feeling stagnate and stuck. Setting both long and short-term goals helps you build focus, measure progress, and hold yourself accountable. By setting goals, you can stop making excuses and procrastinating and start heading towards success.
But, not all goals are the same. Goals have to be thought out and specific to you and your situation. If you use a vague goal, it’s much more difficult to determine how successful you were in achieving it.
If you don’t put thought and effort into your goal setting, you may never reach the success you want. That’s why it’s important to aim before you shoot.
The best way to aim in goal setting is by using one of my favorite and most widely-used types of goal setting methods: SMART Goals.
What Are SMART Goals?
SMART goals have been around for over 30 years now. In 1981, consultant and former director of corporate planning for Washington Water Power Company, George T. Doran, published a paper titled, “There’s a SMART Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives,” introducing the SMART goals criteria as a way to improve your chances of accomplishing your goals.
What does it take for a goal to be considered a SMART Goal, you ask? In this context, SMART is actually an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
This acronym acts as a tool to help you ensure that the goals you create are geared to you and your means of success.
SMART goals are versatile and can be applied to both personal and professional areas of life.
For example, SMART goals are absolutely essential for managers when figuring out how to motivate their employees. Creating a SMART goals action plan in the workplace can stimulate productivity and overall achievement.
A personal SMART goal example may be committing to taking a walk every day before work. This walk could then turn into a routine, which will later turn into a habit. Habits like these can then help you work towards a bigger goal of building a healthier and more productive lifestyle overall.
Now that you have a general understanding of what a SMART goal is, let’s break the acronym down to help you understand each element.
How to Set SMART Goals
Though it may look a little complex, setting SMART goal objectives is very simple. To create a SMART goal, focus on each word of the acronym itself.
Remember that S.M.A.R.T. stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
The goals you create should embody all of these elements. Once they do, you will see the true potential of this term and how you can utilize it to achieve success in your life.
Let’s start at the beginning.
S – Specific
Good goals are not ambiguous or vague. Rather, they are clear and concise. You should know what you want to focus on, even if you aren’t quite sure how to get there yet.
For example, rather than saying, “I want to get into shape,” you could say, “I want to lose fifteen pounds by the summer.”
The first statement gives you a very broad definition of what it means to be “in shape.” But your version of “in shape” may be entirely different than someone else’s – it leaves too much room for interpretation and less room for action.
You can see how the latter example is much more specific, allowing for much more effective planning.
At first, being specific with your goals may add some extra pressure. However, the specificity of your goal will allow you to home in on what you are looking to achieve and attack it directly rather than dance around it. Your focus will be narrow, efficient, and precise.
M – Measurable
Tracking the progress of your goal is an important part of keeping yourself motivated and holding yourself accountable.
Measuring your progress allows you to set milestones that you can celebrate when you meet them and reevaluate if you don’t.
Some goals can be defined in numerical or financial terms. Some can be broken down into steps, each of which infers that the previous step has been completed and progress has been made.
Some goals are more difficult to quantify, though, in which case you can evaluate your endurance and efficiency whence completing that task by writing down how you felt doing it on a daily basis. This also allows you to measure changes in mindset during your journey.
A SMART goal example for this could be simply “being more positive.”
While that’s hard to quantify, you can measure progress by noting how much easier it gets to be positive on a daily basis when you are actively working on it.
Make sure you measure your goals regularly in order to help you stay on track or adjust as needed. The progress you make will motivate you to continue moving forward.
A – Achievable
While your goals should challenge you, they shouldn’t be impossible for you to accomplish.
Far too many people fall into the trap of setting impossible goals for themselves. While big, exaggerated goals may be motivating for a while, they may actually leave you feeling depleted and distraught in the long run.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t reach for the stars, it just means that you should be reasonable about your output. Once you’ve reached your goal, you can then aim for something higher.
Before you set your goal, make sure that you can actually envision yourself achieving it and can create a SMART goal action plan for doing so.
This plan should consider if your goal can be accomplished within the constraints of time, money, skill level, external environment, and the other constraints contained both inside and outside of yourself.
Even if your long-term goals are grand, start with more achievable goals and work your way up.
R – Relevant
Not all goals are created equally. Some may be much more worthwhile to you than they are to your coworkers or friends. Unless your goal is relevant to the overall plan for your life, achieving it may not contribute to your ultimate success.
You must remember that your goals should be within the bounds of reality. There are some goals that are meant to be merely inspirational and do not necessarily reflect your current reality.
Always create goals that are actionable and achievable; ones that do not require the wave of a magic wand.
In order to ensure that your goal is beneficial and relevant to you, make sure that it aligns with your values and larger, long-term goals.
If a goal doesn’t contribute toward your broader objectives, you might need to rethink it.
You should always ask yourself why the goal is important to you, how achieving it will help you, and how it will contribute toward your long-term goals.
When you have a good answer for each of those questions, then you know you’re setting the right kind of relevant goals.
T – Time-Bound
Effective SMART goals should follow a timeline. A timeline promotes motivation and prioritization while giving you confidence through the tracking of your progress.
Here’s a SMART goal example that is time-bound:
You want to start reading more books, but rather than saying, “I want to start reading more books,” you could say, “I want to read twelve books in the next six months.”
You will notice that the first statement is all-around vague – “more” could mean as few as one book or as many as 100 books. It also does not set a goal timeline, making it more difficult to track consistently.
The second goal is much more specific as far as quantity and timing go, allowing you to keep track of your progress and see how far away you are from reaching your goal.
When planning out your SMART goals, write down each of these criteria (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound), and write a sentence or two about how your goal fits each.
If you can create a goal that aligns with each element, your goal will prove to be more elevated and beneficial than a standard blanket goal.
Additionally, when you specify schedules for the attainment of each part of the goal, and the completion of each part of the task, you will find it much easier for you to stay on track.
SMART Goals Examples
In case you’re still unsure what exactly qualifies a goal as being “SMART,” let’s take a look at a few specific SMART goals examples as references when you are developing your own goals.
SMART Goals Examples for Saving Money
Let’s say that your goal is to start saving more money.
Now, in and of itself, this isn’t a SMART goal, but it can easily be modified so that it is one.
For example, you could say that you want to save $10,000 a year for the next ten years in order to prepare for a comfortable retirement.
Now this goal is would be considered a SMART goal. Using a SMART goals template may also help you see how each criterion is being accounted for in the creation of this goal.
S (Specific) = You have designated a specific amount of money you hope to save.
M (Measurable) = You are able to track how much money you’re putting away towards your goal.
A (Achievable) = After accessing your financial situation, you have deemed an appropriate and realistic amount.
R (Relevant) = Saving money will allow you to achieve your goal of having a comfortable retirement fund.
T (Time-bound) = You have set a timeline for when you should have $100,000 in savings.
SMART Goals Examples for Leadership
Let’s say that your goal is to hold a leadership role within your organization.
Here’s what that goal looks like as a SMART goal: I will earn a managerial promotion in my department during my yearly evaluation in 3 months by working harder and taking on more responsibility without being asked.
Now let’s look at each element of the SMART goal to help you better understand and achieve it:
S (Specific) = You are working towards the exact position you want to be promoted for within your department.
M (Measurable) = Your success can be measured by the promotion.
A (Achievable) = Your current role is the stepping stone to the managerial role if you go above and beyond your current job description.
R (Relevant) = The managerial role aligns with your desired career trajectory.
T (Time-bound) = You are working towards being promoted during your yearly review in 3 months.
SMART Goals Example for Writing a Book
Now let’s say you have a personal goal of writing a book.
Instead of leaving this goal vague, we will turn it into a personal SMART goal.
Your personal SMART goal is: I will finish writing the manuscript of my book by the fall of next year by writing 5 pages a day starting today.
S (Specific) = You have specified the deliverable (the manuscript).
M (Measurable) = You have a set amount of pages that you have to write per day in order to finish by next fall.
A (Achievable) = You enjoy writing and are very motivated to finish your book, so writing 5 pages a day is doable.
R (Relevant) = Finishing the manuscript will get you much closer to eventually publishing the book to a bigger audience.
T (Time-bound) = You are working towards the manuscript being completed by the fall of next year.
SMART Goals Templates & Smart Goal Worksheets
In addition to writing down the criteria for your SMART goals and checking that the goal you set matches each criterion, you may find it beneficial to try using goal-setting templates and worksheets.
These thorough cheat sheets will help create a SMART goals actin plan and help organize your thoughts in a clear way and can be referenced throughout your journey.
How you decide to use a goal-setting template depends on the template itself. A SMART goals template includes helpful tips on how you can create the right kind of goals, how you can keep track of your progress, ways to stay motivated, and more.
How To Use a SMART Goals Template Or Worksheet
Writing SMART goals is much quicker when you use a template. I find the most benefit from the templates when I print them and manually fill them out. I can then use the SMART goal worksheets as physical and mental references as I work towards my goals.
To do this, simply fill out each section in the template you choose as it applies to your specific goal at the time, in the order you are instructed to do so.
For those of you who enjoy using templates, planners, and other written tools to help you stay organized, goal-setting templates may be an essential tool in your SMART goal creation.
These SMART goal templates make it easy to create goals specifically designed for you and your vision of success.
By following the tips above when creating your goals, you will see that these goals will inspire you, challenge you, and push you towards the best version of yourself – the version you are destined to become once you commit to achieving your goals!
The journey may be a tough one, but you will be thankful you did it in the end!
About Brian Tracy — Brian is recognized as the top sales training and personal success authority in the world today. He has authored more than 60 books and has produced more than 500 audio and video learning programs on sales, management, business success and personal development, including worldwide bestseller The Psychology of Achievement. Brian's goal is to help you achieve your personal and business goals faster and easier than you ever imagined. You can follow him on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin and Youtube.