Setting SMART Professional Goals

Taking control of your life requires planning. Planning starts with defining SMART professional goals. Write down some dreams you aim to achieve or improve in your life. 

A Foolproof Guide to Making Professional Goals SMART

SMART goals concept is not new–it’s been featured across books on business and personal development. It’s taught in books, workshops and business schools. That’s because SMART Goals are so powerful.

Everyone says “I want to be rich!” but that’s a very vague thing to say. Go beyond vague and general goals like ‘my goal is to be rich in five years’ time’, or ‘I want to be able to be able to save more’… those statements don’t mean anything because you cannot really measure the success of these statements.

SMART is short for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time bound.
  • Specific: Clear, well-defined, concise
  • Measurable: Defined specifically in terms of criteria to know the success or failure of the goal
  • Attainable: Possible for you to achieve given your time, effort, and available resources
  • Realistic: realistic and relevant to your purpose
  • Timebound: clear defined timeline, start date and target date, to create a sense of urgency
Making Professional Goals SMART

History of SMART Goals

SMART goals were first defined by George T. Doran, a consultant from Washington Water Power Company, when he published a title ‘There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives”

‘How do you write meaningful objectives?’- that is, frame a statement of results to be achieved, Managers are confused by all the verbal from seminars, books, magazines, consultants, and so on. Let me suggest that when it comes to writing effective objectives, corporate officers, managers, and supervisors just have to think of the acronym SMART. Ideally speaking, each corporate, department and section objective should be: SMART.

George T. Doran

SMART goals have provided a clear and simple framework for defining and managing goals and objectives. The acronym is smart (pun intended)! It’s easy to remember and it’s useful.

Write your SMART goals down on paper and keep them somewhere you can see them regularly. Refer to them constantly. Check your progress on how near or far you are to achieving your goals.

An Example of SMART Goals

For example, let’s say your goal is to be able to save 50,000 to open a small e-commerce next year. Sounds concrete and un-vague, right? Let’s put it up on the SMART test:

  • Specific: I want to save 50,000 with my husband in 12 months to open my small e-commerce business.
  • Measurable: Both of us will set aside 2,100 of our salaries every month.
  • Attainable: Absolutely. 4,200 per month is 10% of our income.
  • Realistic: Yes. I know I can make it, with a few habit adjustments and sacrifices.
  • Timebound: 12 months to save up for 50,000.

Guide to Making Professional Goals SMART

Time to convert your goals into SMART goals! Here’s the guide to making professional goals smart:

– Is it Specific?

SPECIFIC. Is it clear, well-defined, concise? You can make a goal specific by asking the 5 W questions:

  1. What: What do I want to achieve?
  2. Who: Who is involved in this goal?
  3. When: When do I want to accomplish this goal?
  4. Where: Where is this goal to be achieved?
  5. Why: Why do I want to achieve this goal?

A general goal would be “I want to save more.” A more specific goal would be “I want to set aside more money from my income to increase my emergency fund.”

– Is it Measurable?

MEASURABLE. “What isn’t measured, isn’t managed.” Without any measurable criteria, you will not be able to determine the progress of your goals. Ask yourself:

  1. How much is your goal?
  2. How do I know i’ve reached my goal?
  3. What is my performance indicators?

To build on the specific goal above: “I want to set aside up to 20% of my income to increase my emergency fund by 150,000.”

– Is it Achievable?

ACHIEVABLE. Is your goal achievable and attainable? Determine ways to realizing your goal and figure out how you can work towards it. The achievability of the goal should be stretched to make you feel challenged, but defined well enough that you can actually achieve it.

Ask yourself:

  1. Do you have the necessary resources and capabilities that I have to achieve your goal? (Key Essentials to Success)
  2. Have other people done it successfully before?

Do I have the tools and capabilities to help me achieve my goal? If not, what am I missing and how can I acquire those tools?

– Is it Realistic?

Can the goal be realistically achieved? Ask yourself:

  1. Is the goal realistic and within my reach?
  2. Is the goal reachable given the time, capabilities and resources?
  3. Am I able to commit in achieving the goal?

– Is it Time bound?

A goal is time bound with a specific start and finish date. Specifying the target time will create a sense of urgency to achieve the goal.

For example, “I want to set aside up to 20% of my income immediately so I can increase my emergency fund to 150,000 within 12 months.”


While SMART goals make a very powerful tool, it also poses some weaknesses. Some people point out that it does not work well for long term goals; citing that it lacks flexibility.

Of course, the model does not guarantee success. It is not enough to define your goals. Of course, you need to put in the work and dedication. SMART goals are a good annual exercise and they should be reviewed as a checklist every year.

Others say that SMART goals do not promote excitement and stifles creativity.

These are all valid points. But we defend that the Goal Framework provides a simple and clear framework to goal setting. SMART goals help you understand your goals. Defining goals in a specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound manner.

The Framework is used not only in making SMART professional goals. It can also apply to making life goals, fitness goals and relationships goals.

Also read: How to quickly move up the career ladder

SMART goals give you a sense of direction, and with clear direction and a sense of purpose (Finding your Why), you can achieve on working your goals successfully.

Listen to the Podcast

To Further Reading:

More on Careers and Self Development

More on Personal Finance

Latest Blog Posts

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *