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SMART goals and effectiveness

How can you effectively set goals? Use the SMART framework to create goals that are concise, realistic, and well-defined.

The SMART framework is useful for creating goals that are concise, realistic, and well-defined. This increases our likelihood of achieving them. 

The following graphic explains what the acronym ‘SMART’ represents.

Alt text: An illustration of the SMART framework: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. The SMART acronym. Click to expand

It’s important to articulate these elements clearly in our goals. A goal such as, ‘I want to be the best at chess’ is not a SMART goal. It is quite vague and can be difficult to measure.  

However, phrased as a SMART goal, it might sound more like, ‘I want to compete in the next national chess tournament. I will improve my chess skills by studying advanced strategies for one hour per day and completing three chess challenges per week for the next six months before attending the next qualifier. I will record my performance each time and continue this practice to be prepared for the next tournament in one year’s time’. 

Research from Lawlor[1] on the application of SMART goals found that utilising SMART goals within teams was effective in inciting action.  

In the context of the workplace, SMART goals provide managers and teams with a number of advantages. Firstly, they are clear and concise. When managers set goals with their teams that are vague, this makes it difficult to measure the outcome of these goals. SMART goals help to motivate our teams with measurable goals that can be tracked. SMART goals need to be realistically attainable but also remain relevant to long-term objectives. In an organisation, this might mean we align an individual’s SMART goals with those of the wider team or organisation. Finally, SMART goals prompt us to create goals that are time-bound. Having a clear end date encourages us to remain motivated and adds another element of measurability to track progress against our goal.


Reflect on a time when perhaps you did not manage to achieve a goal that you had set for yourself.  
  • Can you identify which element(s) of the SMART framework might have required more attention? Perhaps your goal was too ambitious or not measurable?  
  • What might you change if you were to attempt this goal again? 


1. Lawlor, K.B. ‘Smart Goals: How the Application of Smart Goals can Contribute to Achievement of Student Learning Outcomes’. Developments in Business Simulation and Experimental Learning; 2012 [cited 2022 Dec 22]. Available from: 

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