Comprehensive guide on how to set SMART objectives

7 April 2023

Check out our guide to SMART objectives to find out how to set actionable and achievable goals, whether they are big or small.

advice : Leadership and Strategy

Whether you’re setting up your first business, aiming to get a promotion, or working to achieve any life goal, it’s always important to dream big. But it’s also important to set actionable goalposts that help you accomplish exactly what you’ve set your mind to. SMART objectives are not only helpful in times when you’re starting a project or mission, they can be utilising any time you feel like you’re treading water with your business or not getting the results you want.

Implementing the SMART objective method helps you to visualise the specifics steps you need to action in order to reach your goal in a manageable and nonintimidating way. Measure your progress and work towards achievable goals and you’ll find yourself getting further than ever before.

What are SMART objectives?

SMART is an acronym for the words Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. The framework is used to set and achieve goals, whether that’s day-to-day projects, large-scale corporate objectives, or goals in your personal life.

Why set SMART objectives?

Although they might sound like something you’d do in school, utilising the SMART framework is a legitimate method for productively achieving your goals. The idea is that you avoid wasting time on objectives that are either not possible or won’t help you achieve the wider goal, and instead focus your time and energy in a productive and realistic way.

How to set SMART objectives

Specific – It might seem overly simple, but a goal must be specific in order for it be effective. Generic goals are harder to measure and can make moving forward with your plans a challenge. Being specific with your goals allows for productive planning.

When setting your Specific goals, ask yourself questions like:

  • What needs to be accomplished?
  • Why is it important?
  • Who’s responsible for achieving this goal/who can help me achieve this goal?
  • What steps need to be taken to reach this goal?

Measurable – Setting specific goals is a great start, now it’s time to make sure they’re measurable. Not only will this make it easier to track your progress, setting measurable goals is the only way you’ll know if you’ve succeeded. It’s important to be realistic with yourself while also ensuring that the benchmarks you’ve put in place will help you achieve the overall goal. We recommend thinking about questions like:

  • How much profit do I want to make?
  • How many products do I need to sell to make that profit?
  • When will I sell these products by?
  • How many new signups will I get this month?                 

Achievable – It’s important to make sure that you can reasonably and realistically achieve your goal given your resources, capacity, budget, and timeframe. There’s nothing more disheartening than setting goals and being excited to achieve them, only to realise that they’re not possible after already putting in effort, time, and sometimes even money. Save yourself the headache and avoid wasting resources by measuring whether your goal is achievable. Essentially, give yourself a reality check. Think about questions like:

  • Broadly, is this something me or my team can reasonably accomplish?
  • Do I/my team have the capacity to accomplish this goal?
  • Do I have the money to fund this goal?
  • How realistic is this goal given the timeframe?
  • Do I need to outsource tasks to achieve this goal?

Relevant – It’s time to look at the big picture. We’ve already put a lot of time into setting goals that are specific, measurable, and achievable, but do they align with your long-term objectives and vision? If the answer is no, the exercises beforehand have not been in vain – they’ve allowed you to understand what exactly you need to and essentially if it is worth it for yourself, your team, or your business right now. Sometimes, we choose goals that don’t necessarily matter to us or perhaps aren’t right for your team at that current time. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Is now the right time to try achieving this goal?
  • Will this be worthwhile for me/my team/my business?
  • Does this align with my values?

Time-bound – Finally, when setting SMART objectives, you must set a deadline or several deadlines. There needs to be something to measure against, otherwise you could end up pushing the end goal into the future. Of course, this isn’t set in stone (it’s up to you, after all), but consider a realistic and manageable timeline that won’t overwhelm you but also won’t end up losing wind if it takes too long. Consider if your goal is short-term or long-term, or if there are several short-term goals in order to reach the big long-term goal, and when you can realistically meet those. Not everyone likes deadlines, but they’re needed to make sure you’re meeting your milestones and making regular steps towards the long-term goal.

Examples of SMART objectives

In this scenario, Laura is a Social Media Manager at start-up food delivery service, let’s call it FoodtoDoor. Laura’s been tasked with increasing FoodtoDoor’s TikTok followers. Previous experience has taught Laura that simply making plans and setting goals has fallen off track in the place, so she decides to set SMART objectives.

Specific – Grow the number of followers of FoodtoDoor’s TikTok account by posting regular content and creating targeted campaigns.

Measurable – Increase the number of FoodtoDoor’s TikTok followers by 10,000 in 3 months by creating nationwide campaigns that will attract a Gen-Z audience.

Achievable – Increase the number of FoodtoDoor’s TikTok followers by 5,000 in 3 months by creating localised campaigns will attract a Gen-Z audience.

Relevant – Grow the number of FoodtoDoor’s TikTok followers by 5,000 in 3 months by creating localised campaigns will attract a Gen-Z audience. It’s important and relevant because Gen-Z make up nearly 60% of food delivery service customers but only 30% of FoodtoDoor’s customers, so it’s a huge market that we’re missing out.

Time-bound – Grow the number of FoodtoDoor’s TikTok followers by 5,000 within Q1 of 2023 – we aim to grow the number of followers by 1600 in January, 1600 in February, and 1700 in March.

The information available on this page is of a general nature and is not intended to provide specific advice to any individuals or entities. We work hard to ensure this information is accurate at the time of publishing, although there is no guarantee that such information is accurate at the time you read this. We recommend individuals and companies seek professional advice on their circumstances and matters.