06/01/2017 03:54 EDT | Updated 06/01/2017 03:55 EDT

SMART Goal Setting And Time Management

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SMART goal setting and time management are two business best practices that help professionals manage important priorities. And, whether used individually or used in unison, SMART goal setting and time management are formidable tools to manage and exceed objectives.

First and foremost, you will have greater motivation and commitment if your SMART goal is something you really want. If you dislike a task, even a SMART goal matrix will not get you motivated.

Why Use SMART Goals?

The SMART matrix puts structure around your goal, and because there is a structure you increase the chance of being successful. SMART goal setting also helps keep you getting sidetracked by less important actions like Busy Work.

A structured / detailed goal also increases:

  • Clarity of task
  • Motivation
  • Moral
  • Satisfaction... and more

A SMART goal decrease:

  • Surprises
  • Missed opportunities
  • Wasted time / resources / money
  • Damaged reputation... and more

A SMART goal also ensures your specific goal can be measured within a defined timeframe and therefore determined to have been achieved (or not).

How To Write A SMART Goal

When I'm facilitating SMART goal training, I recommend participants add a stretch to their goals. Because SMART goals help increase your success I believe you should reach for the stars.

When creating a SMART goal start with a simple but inspirational action statement; a statement that defines desired change. Don't try to write a perfect SMART goal immediately; once you have an action statement you build from there.

Be sure to use a verb when you write your action statement... answer the question, "What are you trying to see?"

Here are some verbs common to action statements:

  • Improve...
  • Add...
  • Increase...
  • Lower...
  • Reduce...
  • Save...

For example, an inspiring action statement may be, "We want to increase growth by 15% in the Small Business Market."

This action statement is a good start, but it is not a SMART goal... yet.

Using The SMART Matrix

The SMART matrix provides a structure for you to break down your action statement (your big idea), into defined sections. There are different 'words' that make up SMART and no matter which you use, the words in each of the sections are mostly all related.

The SMART matrix I find is most familiar to the business professionals I teach / coach is:

  • S - Specific
  • M - Measurable
  • A - Attainable
  • R - Realistic
  • T - Time Based

Let's go through each of the five areas in more detail.

  • Specific is the foundation on which the rest of your plan will be built. The less specific a goal is the more difficult it will be to complete and you will also likely find that scope creep begins to derail your project. When you are specific you will experience greater success and greater satisfaction. If you have a large goal with many influencing parts you will likely have to break your large goal down into multiple smaller more specific goals.
  • Measurable is often the one people hate but I believe it should be the one we love because it defines SUCCESS (everyone loves success). Measurement of success can be any Key Performance Indicator (KPI), such as time, distance, percent change, profit etc.
  • Attainable is about determining how the goal will be achieved. Has everyone bought-in? Do you have the resources to achieve success? If you don't have the resources can you get them?
  • Realistic determines if you are committed to your goal. Realistic also helps you evaluate if you might be biting off more than you can handle. Are you working on too many goals in the same time? If yes, what do you do? Hire more people? Add more time? One solution that is popular and may help is to evaluate your activities using the 80/20 rule. What are the 20% of goals that will provide us 80% of benefit?
  • Time based provides incentive / motivation. Time-based milestones help us monitor progress and measure success. If our SMART goal is to train and run three times per week, and we have worked out twice and it is Friday, we know we have to get busy (motivated), sometime on Saturday.

Whether in business or your personal life, having a goal pushes you forward and provides a constant reminder of what you want to achieve. Without SMART goals we are at greater risk of failing not because we lack ability or knowledge, but because of our busy schedules.


SMART goals help you achieve your best. SMART goals help you / your team be absolutely clear on the expectations and the steps to achieve these shared performance objectives.

SMART goals have power; they should be a living plan that are referred to frequently and reevaluated regularly. A goal that is relevant today may change tomorrow - so the SMART acronym has also changed to incorporate additional areas of focus for goal-setters. SMARTER, for example, includes two additional criteria:

  • Evaluate: Have circumstances, clients and/or technology changed that may impact your goal and your progress?
  • Revise: Do adjustment need to be made to reach your goal?

For projects big or small, when you apply the SMART matrix, everyone benefits.

Note: When you create Stretch Goals make sure they are still attainable. If goals are too lofty they are demotivating... and if goals are too small they become routine, boring, demotivating... and leave room for your competition.


It is generally accepted that the SMART acronym was first defined in 1981 by George T. Doran who published a paper titled "There's a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management's Goals and Objectives". The concept is also often associated with Peter Drucker's Management by Objectives (MBO).

Happy communicating, mentoring, motivating, coaching... and training.

Click here to learn more about Bruce Mayhew Consulting. We facilitate courses including email etiquette, time management, leadership, generational differences and more.

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