SMART Goal Setting for School, Work, and Life

This month the theme is productivity — strategies such as work hacks and new habit formation — to help you move confidently toward your goals for this new year (and beyond!). This post will talk about how to use the SMART framework to write goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

Smart Resolutions = SMART Resolutions!
In the first post of January 2018, I talked about resolutions and starting afresh. That’s a given activity for the turn of the old year into the new, right? Besides giving you some quick tips on how to be smart about the resolutions you are committing to, I talked about using the SMART framework to build those resolutions.

The SMART framework for goal setting is popular around the world because it is simple to remember and it gets you thinking about important variables that help to direct and organize your energy toward a particular target – a habit change, a short- or long-term project, a personal or professional resolution. Plus, this framework is not restricted to business; it can be used in any discipline or industry that uses goals and/or objectives.

A consultant and businessman, George T. Doran, is credited with developing the framework and publishing a paper, titled “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives” (Haughey, 2014). Using the SMART criteria helps you to write effective goals because the components help you to drill down to the essence of a successful goal — knowing exactly what you want to do/change/improve/stop, identifying how you’ll know when the goal is met, ensuring that the goal is achievable and realistic given your resources, and giving yourself a deadline for achieving the goal.

If you’ve been on leadership teams in school or at work, you’ve likely formulated (or at least heard of) SMART goals. This business framework is helpful to guide you to be really clear about the purpose of your resolutions – being clear means being specific and not vague about your goals and, importantly, how to know if you’ve met your goals by identifying the indicators for success. When I consult, I use the SMART framework to write my goals for the project so that everyone is clear on the outcomes to be achieved.

What is the SMART Framework?
SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

You get a gold star if you can figure out why I’m calling this goal-setting acronym a “framework.”

Just as a theoretical framework for nursing directs you on how to be a nurse according to a specific theorist’s worldview, this goal-setting framework directs you how to write a goal that will help you achieve an outcome. There is a particular language or terminology that is used. There are specific steps to follow. You use the language of the framework when talking about how to follow its direction and in writing your goals. Using the SMART goal format helps you hone in on your goal and makes you more likely to achieve the goal as a result (Haughey, 2014).

Specific means being really clear and honed in on what you want to accomplish. Resolutions that are too vague will not help you to create a successful plan.
Measurable asks, How will you know that you’ve accomplished your goal? (e.g., number of pounds lost, assignment turned in before the deadline, record of your daily intake, number of minutes in front of the TV?, etc.).
Achievable means realistic and feasible for you to accomplish. “Stretch goals” are good too – but I’d suggest that you don’t make every resolution a stretch goal. If you set your sights too high, for too many goals, you will get frustrated and may abandon your hopes. Maybe one a quarter is enough to challenge you!
Relevant refers to choosing goals that are important to you and not because someone else thinks the goal is for you.
Time-Bound refers to identifying a deadline for your success.
You don’t need to have all the elements represented in your goal if it doesn’t make sense to your specific goal; but, the more components you pay attention to, the clearer the goal and the more likely that you’ll achieve it.

If you are interested in evaluating to what extent your goals have been achieved and have a continuous quality improvement mindset, you can use the acronym SMARTER. The E stands for Evaluated and the R signifies Reviewed or reflection and readjustment of your goal or the steps to achieve it (Haughey, 2014).

Now follow the steps I outlined in the Clean Slate post: decide what you want to resolve, choose a few goals to work on, write down your resolutions using the SMART or SMARTER framework, and then make a plan for success!

Put your goals somewhere that you will be able to review them easily – and every day — for motivation and to see how far you’ve progressed (Clifford, 2018; Haughey, 2014; Miller, n.d.). Good Luck!

How to Cite this Blogpost in APA*: Thompson, C. J. (2018, January 16). SMART goal setting for school, work, and life [Web Log Post]. Retrieved from *Citation should have hanging indent
Clifford, C. (2018, January 2). Tony Robbins: This is the difference between people who stick to their New Year’s resolutions and those who don’t. Retrieved from

Haughey, D. (2014, December 13). A brief history of SMART goals. Retrieved from

Miller, J. A. (n.d.). How to make (and keep) a New Year’s resolution [Blog Post]. Retrieved from