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How to Set SMART Goals and Crush Them

Do you have goals you want to achieve but aren’t sure where to begin? Are you someone who sets goals but struggles to slay them? Do you feel like you’re working hard but not seeing the progress you want to see? Enter SMART Goals.

The benefits of goal setting are endless. Goal setting can lead to achieving success, feelings of motivation, and aligning how we spend our time with our primary foci, to name a few. But setting goals is only the first half of it. Having the tools you need to achieve and hold yourself accountable to your goals is what you need to slay those goals you set for yourself. 

I am no stranger to the struggle of wanting to achieve goals and not knowing where to begin. In college, I discovered SMART goals, credited initially to George T. Doran in the November 1981 issue of Management Review, but didn’t fully understand the SMART method. Over the last few years, I’ve taken the time to learn about SMART goals in-depth and have applied this goal-setting method in my life both personally and professionally to achieve success. 

Let’s get to it! SMART stands for

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable or Attainable
  • Relevant 
  • Time-Bound

PRO Tip: Editable SMART Goals templates can help you think strategically about your objectives and goals targets, following the SMART goals approach. Use one of these templates to develop a clear plan.

Specific: Don’t be too broad and vague with your goals. Get specific, so you know what you’re striving to accomplish. 

Say, for example, I want to set an exercise goal. Saying I want to exercise more is too arbitrary. Instead of saying, “I’m going to exercise more and get fit,” I ask myself the following: 

  • What do I want to accomplish? What type of exercise or activity do I want to do? For example, I enjoy barre and yoga classes, so perhaps I want to focus on taking barre and yoga classes. 
  • Why is this goal important to me? 
  • What resources will I need to accomplish this goal, if any? 
  • How am I going to achieve this goal? Is there any prep work I need to do to help me succeed? 

Measurable: Ensure that your goal is quantifiable, so you know if you’re successful in achieving the result or not. 

So, I’m working on our goal of exercising more. I’ve determined what I want to accomplish, why it’s important to me, what resources are needed, and any prep work that needs to occur. 

Let’s say I’ve decided that I want to take more barre classes each week. This goal is important to me because I care about my health and incorporating physical activity into my daily routine. To help set the foundation and help me achieve my goal, I’ve decided to obtain a monthly membership at my local barre studio to attend group classes and access the equipment I need. So, I’m ready to take more barre classes.

Hold it right there! Taking more barre classes is too vague and not easily quantifiable. With my specific goal of taking barre classes in mind, I ask myself the following: 

  • How many barre classes do I want to take? 
  • Am I going to set a weekly or monthly goal? 
  • How will I track my progress?
  • How will I know that I’ve accomplished my goal? (e.g., If I take X amount of barre classes by Sunday evening each week, I’ve reached my goal.) 

I’m going to commit to taking thirty barre classes at my studio for my example. I will know I’ve accomplished my goal once I’ve attended all thirty classes. Let’s keep going. 

Achievable or Attainable: Don’t be afraid to be ambitious, but don’t be unrealistic and set yourself up to fail. 

In my example, I’ve committed to taking thirty barre classes in total. Before I hold myself accountable for this number, I stop and ask myself: 

  • Is this goal realistic based upon my schedule and other commitments? 
  • Can I afford the cost of taking this many classes? 
  • Will my body be able to able to handle this amount of exercise without feeling too exhausted? 
  • Are there any barriers that may prevent me from achieving this goal?
  • Can I realistically achieve this goal?

Relevant: Review your goal and make sure it makes sense with what you want and where you’re at in your life right now. 

When setting goals for yourself, complete a quick self-check-in to make sure your goals are relevant to you and your long-term vision. Understand your reason(s) for setting this goal and determine if it’s worthwhile. A few questions to consider:

  • Why do I want to achieve this goal?
  • Why is the outcome important to me? 
  • Does this align with my other goals and long-term vision?

Consider adding a personal touch to your motivation for achieving this goal to help you keep going. In my example, perhaps I want to take thirty barre classes in two months to be more in shape for my best friend’s wedding. Having this additional layer of motivation can help make the goal feel more meaningful. 

Time-Bound: Set a deadline to create a sense of urgency and structure. 

Similarly to balancing ambition with attainableness, be honest with yourself when setting deadlines for your goals. You want to feel incentivized and motivated, not pressured, and overwhelmed by the deadlines you set. Some questions to consider:

I want to take thirty barre classes in total. If I give myself six months to do so, I may lose steam or postpone getting started. I will also be less likely to notice results if I spread classes apart. On the other hand, if I give myself thirty days to take thirty barre classes, I will be pushing my limits and will be forced to hold myself to a strict schedule. If I miss one day, I will have already forfeited achieving my goal. 

Instead, I’ll take thirty classes in total in two months. This level of commitment is doable, fits in line with my schedule, and is measurable. 

My SMART goal is: I’m going to take thirty barre classes in two months to get in shape for my best friend’s wedding. I’m going to take classes at my local barre studio, and I’ll keep track of my attendance through the barre app, as well as in my planner. This goal is important because I want to be in shape for her big day and want to take care of my body by incorporating physical activity back into my routine. 

Following the SMART method is only half of the process. Here are some tips for staying motivated and crushing your SMART goals once you’ve set them: 

  • Add time to work on your goal into your schedule in advance. Utilize a planner, Google calendar, or any other time planning method that works for you. Don’t expect to find time to work on your goal; make time to work on it. 
  • Consider the accountability factor. If you struggle with holding yourself accountable, share your plan with a friend or loved one and ask them to be your accountability buddy. 
  • Check-in with yourself regularly and identify what’s working and what’s not working. If your goal needs to be adjusted, don’t hesitate to change things up. 
  • For every accomplished goal, consider setting a new one in its place to keep moving forward. Use your feelings of accomplishment to springboard you into your next SMART goal plan and continue your success. 

Are you feeling motivated and ready to get started? Download our free SMART Goal Planner worksheet!

About the Author

Alyssa Towns (Swantkoski)

Alyssa graduated from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs in 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice. Early in her career, her interests shifted, and she works in communications and change management. She lives in Denver with her husband, and they love going on adventures together. She lives for summers in Colorado and enjoys hiking and stand up paddleboarding. She also enjoys collecting plants and stationery sets, reading self-help books, and is obsessed with the Yoga with Adriene YouTube channel. No matter where her career path leads her, writing, and sharing her experiences to help others will always be a part of her plans.