What Are Smart Goals and Are They Effective?

What is it you’d like to accomplish in the new year?

No matter what you’d like to do, creating goals is essential for both personal and professional progress. Goals help you to stay focused and ambitious to succeed, they help you stay motivated and keep your momentum going; and yet, so many people don’t set goals for themselves.


Put simply: Many goals are unhelpful from the start.

That’s no reason to shy away from setting goals for yourself. The key to setting actionable, achievable goals that you can accomplish and be proud of is to make them S.M.A.R.T.

What are smart goals?

If you’ve never seen that term before you may be wondering, “What does smart goal stand for?”

And that’s a fantastic question.

However, let’s first look at the definition for a regular old goal. Business Dictionary defines a goal as “An observable and measurable end result having one or more objectives to be achieved within a more or less fixed timeframe.”

That’s a little vague, and procrastinators the world over know there’s nothing more flexible than a “more or less fixed timeframe.” (Amirite?)

Smart goals take these wishy-washy, vague goals and turn them into actionable drivers of progress and results.

A smart goal is

  • Specific – clearly defined and identified
  • Measurable – quantifiable, able to be measured
  • Achievable – doable and realizable
  • Realistic – practical and able to be completed
  • Timely – clearly defined dates and times by which they’re done

Why are smart goals effective?

When you create a smart goal and use the parameters above to define it, you’re outlining a detailed path to success. Smart goals force you to think practically and realistically, and break down your lofty ideas into achievable action plans. They encourage you to focus your efforts on using your time wisely, and that’s something just about anyone can benefit from.

What is a smart goal example?

You didn’t think we were going to leave you hanging without an example or two of smart goals, did you?

Let’s set the stage with a regular, open-ended goal (the type you’re likely used to seeing) and turn that into a smart goal.

Francesca, an entrepreneur and blogger, decides that her goal is to finally give her blog and website the refresh it’s long needed. She’s hoping that by giving her site a facelift, she’ll be able to increase the time people stay on her blog and also increase the number of purchases they’ll make through her sponsored links and ads.  

But where’s the accountability in that goal? Where’s the timeliness and measurability?

There’s nothing in a vague goal like “refresh my site and blog” that sets parameters to help you achieve it. Let’s dive into how we can turn this large, indefinite goal into smaller smart goals that are easier to achieve.    

How can we make the goal specific?

What does “website refresh” encompass?

  • Updating images and logos
  • Updating social media links in the footer
  • Improving the checkout process
  • Making contact information easy to find
  • Changing blog layout

How can we make the goal measurable?

Include things in your goal that can be quantified. Here’s what we mean:

  • Bad: Update images and logos on my website.
  • Good: Update 5 images on my website every day and update my logo.

You can measure whether or not you achieve that goal because you’ll know whether or not you actually updated 5 images per day.

How can we make the goal achievable?

How do you make sure your goal is doable?

It’s time to revisit Francesca. What you may not know about her is that for her day job she’s an EMT and works crazy hours. Her technical know-how is limited, she’s not using a website builder to take the stress out of website creation, and she outsourced building her site to begin with.

Is updating her website doable right now? Probably not. Let’s make it doable by including an element like:

  • Switch to using a website builder.
    • Website builders, like Domain.com’s, provide drag and drop elements to make edits and modifications to your site a breeze. They make a seemingly difficult task like “updating a website” very doable for those of us who don’t have a 4-year degree in computer coding and programming.

How can we make the goal realistic?

To make a goal realistic, consider setting time aside for it on a regular basis.

“Update my site” is a lofty goal for someone who is busy and doesn’t have experience with coding websites. Switching to the website builder makes Francesca’s goal more achievable, but realistically, she needs to set time aside to do it. Here’s what she could add to her goal to make it just a little smarter:

  • Set aside 30 minutes per week to work on the site.

How can we make the goal timely?

Francesca thinks that by saying she’ll update her site “in the new year” she’s being timely. But a year encompasses 12 months and that’s a lot of time to push off the task of updating a site.

She can make her goal timely by giving herself concrete deadlines, like this:

  • Update the contact information on my about page by the end of January.

Putting the smart goal together.

Ok, we’ve gone through all the elements of a smart goal and we’re ready to put them together to see what a smart goal looks like compared to a general goal.

Original goal: Update website in the new year.

Better, smart(er) goals:

  • Set aside 30 minutes each week to update the contact information on my site to be completed by end of January.
  • Using a website builder, dedicate 30 minutes each week to updating the images and logos on my site and to be completed by end of February.

Smart goals keep you accountable.

Smart goals don’t leave wiggle room for interpretation or procrastination. They make you think realistically about what’s achievable and what isn’t, and they’re time bound, so you can’t push your goal off until December 31st of next year.

Looking for more inspiration to get on track next year? Here are 10 productivity tips to help you succeed.

How else do you stay on track and motivated? Let us know in the comments.

Natalie Brownell
Natalie Brownell

Domain.com Marketing Manager. She believes in the power of words and loves a good story. She resides in MA and spends her days behind the keyboard with her two feline coworkers. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Natalie Brownell
Natalie Brownell

Domain.com Marketing Manager. She believes in the power of words and loves a good story. She resides in MA and spends her days behind the keyboard with her two feline coworkers. Connect with her on LinkedIn.