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Making S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Updated: Jan 14, 2023

Written By: Cassandra Vella

What does it mean to make SMART goals?

S.M.A.R.T is the ultimate guide to goal setting !

While there are many interpretations to what S. M. A. R. T. stands for, it’s commonly attributed to Peter Drucker’s Management by Objectives concept. The acronym was first used in the November 1981 issue of Management Review by George T. Doran followed by St. Louis professor Robert S. Rubin’s article for The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

Many educators today refer to S. M. A. R. T. as:

  • Specific (simple, sensible, significant).

  • Measurable (meaningful, motivating).

  • Achievable (agreed, attainable).

  • Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based).

  • Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive).

How to utilize S. M. A. R. T. goals?

Setting goals is akin to making risky decisions, but goal setting doesn’t have to be stressful! What does each term in S. M. A. R. T. actually mean?

1. Specific

To increase motivation and focus, goals should be clear and concise. It’s quite helpful to answer the five “W’s” when defining goals to make sure the goals are specific:

  • What do I want to accomplish?

  • Why is this goal important?

  • Who is involved?

  • Where is it located?

  • Which resources or limits are involved?


A student who struggles with academics may be trying to raise a course grade. A specific goal could be, "I want to gain the skills and knowledge to excel in geometry and biology by next school year."

2. Measurable

Once specifics of goals are set, it’s pertinent to make sure the goals are measurable. Being able to assess progress for each goal keeps you motivated, focused, and inspired as the reward of achieving a goal is getting closer and closer. When defining the measurability of a goal make sure to include:

  • How much?

  • How many?

  • How will I know when it is accomplished?


For a student trying to raise a reading grade in English Language Arts, measuring the progress of the goal can include increasing page numbers being read, or comprehension quizzes being passed along each chapter.

3. Achievable

To be successful, the goal must be achievable, of couse! It should stretch your abilities, but still be realistically within your reach with some additional steps along the way.When you are setting an achievable goal, you may realize some resources and opportunities in your path may have been overlooked before, which may help you get closer to your goal than before too.

An achievable goal will usually answer questions such as:

  • How can I accomplish this goal?

  • How realistic is the goal, based on other constraints, such as financial factors?


You may need to ask yourself if developing the skills required to be the Hockey Club Vice President is realistic, based on your existing skill set, experience, and qualifications. For instance, do you have the time to complete the required training effectively? Are the necessary resources available to you during your schedule? Can you shift some daily tasks around to accomplish this without impacting your current plans?


Don’t set goals that require codependent approval and work without involvement of the other, or others, involved (ie parents driving, siblings/teammates as partners etc).

4. Relevant

This step is about ensuring that your goal matters, and that it also aligns with other goals you may have. Make sure your plans move forward with the support and assistance you need along the way, but that you're still responsible for achieving your own goal.

A relevant goal can answer "yes" to these questions:

  • Does this seem worthwhile?

  • Is this the right time?

  • Does this match our other efforts/needs?

  • Am I the right person to reach this goal?

  • Is it applicable in the current socio-economic environment?


You may want to be the next vice president of the karate club, but is it the right time to start working towards this goal? Are you sure you’re the right person for this role? Have you considered your friends’ goals? For example, if your friend is passionate about karate, and you are only in your first month of training, would the vice president role be right for you right now?

5. Time-bound

Give each goal a deadline to focus on so it doesn’t get swept in the wind. This part of the SMART goal criteria helps to prevent everyday tasks from taking priority over your longer-term goals.

A time-bound goal will usually answer these questions:

  • When?

  • What can I do six months from now?

  • What can I do six weeks from now?

  • What can I do today?


If your student is building up the skills to do a cartwheel before their first dance competition, they may set their cartwheel goal in advance of the dance competition so rehearsals including the cartwheel step can be perfected in time for the show.

The Pros and Cons of SMART Goals

S. M. A. R. T. can be a useful tool to help you achieve your goals with a clear perspective and the inspiration you need to continue on your journey. S. M. A. R. T. can be motivating when it comes to defining objectives and seeking a clear path to reaching them.

SMART may not work well for long-term goals as it lacks flexibility, and may stifle creativity.

When you learn to use SMART in your goal setting, you will build your skills in creating attainable goals. S. M. A. R. T. will also help you learn how to stay organized, motivated, and on the right path in your day to day work/school life. Start using S. M. A. R. T. to support your goals today, and comment below how they’ve begun to help you!

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