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See also Assessment | ePortfolio | Human resources | Personal learning plans (PLPs) | Strategic planning

SMART is a simple, memorable "... mnemonic used to set objectives, often called Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) project management, employee performance management and personal development..." — Wikipedia

SMART goalsspecific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely – is the use of a set of structured steps for the setting of goals. "SMART criteria" are used in project management by business people, life coaches and others who seek a more methodical approach to the setting of personal and professional goals. Put simply, SMART goal setting brings structure and trackability into your goals and objectives. SMART goals can be used for projects that will be completed over a period of one year and occasionally for projects up to three years. After three years, there may be other types of models such as personal learning plans (PLPs) that would be more appropriate. Within the context of on the job performance, SMART timelines can be used to plan projects such as the creation of a new library program, setting personal career goals (such as completing a course, or blogging 5x per month) and implementing new technologies to deliver services via Twitter or Facebook.

In organizational theory, goal setting dates back to the work of Edwin Locke in the 1960s. His seminal paper from the late 1960s entitled "Toward a Theory of Task Motivation and Incentives" argued that most employees are motivated by the setting of regular goals for themselves. However, workers must also be incentivized by receiving helpful and appropriate feedback from supervisors, mentors or interested individuals. In SMART goal-setting, it is important that a worker's plan has an element of accountability. Locke said that when employees were motivated to reach their goals that their work performance also improved. SMART can therefore be used in conjunction with goal-setting in annual performance reviews or short-term projects.

In pedagogical theory, setting personal goals is a major reason why learners may or may not be motivated to learn. The psychological and cognitive reactions to their performance in the classroom, for example, on tests and assignments, help learners to determine what they need to do to be successful. In setting their own goals based on performance, learners are better able to self-monitor and evaluate their performance but when accompanied by some sort of incentive it is more likely that they will be successful.

S – specific

Smart goals.png

What is involved in goal setting using the SMART framework? Goal setting requires writing down your goals, taking stock and reviewing them on a regular basis, writing a plan of action and setting reasonable time frames for achievement. Regardless of the time you have available, there is no doubt that realizing your goals requires a steady working towards their realization.

  • Begin with writing down as many of your personal and professional goals as possible
  • To set a specific goal, answer the six “W” questions: Who is involved? What do I want to accomplish? Where? (Identify a location) When? Establish a time frame. Which? Identify requirements and constraints. Why? Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.
  • Take time to review your list of goals; ensure your goals and objectives are clear, concise, tangible
  • S can also stand for steps or breaking your specific goals into steps to be successful
  • Now select the goal(s) that you want to pursue

M – measurable

  • Make your goals specific to ensure they are measurable.
  • Take time to document how you will know when you have achieved your goals
  • If you can’t think of a way, then consider revising the goal to be more narrow and specific. Use concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal you set.
  • When measuring your progress, ensure that you stay on track by meeting your targets which will inspire you to reach your goals. To determine whether your goals are measurable, ask questions such as: How much? How many?
  • M can also stand for motivational

A – attainable

  • Write your goals in an active voice, in a direct way. In other words, say "...we will double the number of page views visiting our wiki monthly”
  • When you identify goals that are important to you, think about ways to make them attainable. How you will "actuate" them.
  • Develop the appropriate attitude, abilities, skills and financial capacity to reach them. You begin to see previously overlooked opportunities to bring your goals closer to being attainable.
  • A can stand for accountable and action-oriented as in making sure that your goal can be tracked and accounted for?

R – realistic

  • Have realistic objectives. Don't over-plan and under-achieve or deliver. Your goals should represent objectives that are worthwhile. They can be both high and realistic; you decide how high your goals will be placed. Ensure every goal you set is part of an overall view of progress.
  • Lofty goals are frequently easier to meet because they challenge us. Many of the most difficult goals in life are worth working towards, and may take the longest and hardest efforts.
  • Interview others who are successful at setting and reaching goals
  • R can also stand for responsibility (as in it's up to you), and any roadblocks

T – timely / trackable

  • Any attempt to reach your goals must have an endpoint. Endpoints are similar to deadlines which will help most people stay on track, and focussed on completion.
  • SMART goals should be time-bound; any goal that has no deadline for completion will likely not be achieved.
  • In any case, ensure that your SMART timelines or time-based goals are realistic and specific.
  • What is the "due date" for reaching your stated goals? Don't say "sometime next year", instead say "March 1st, 2013".
  • Use Gantt charts and specific dates for achievement; develop a contingency for any goal not reached; revise accordingly
  • T can also stand for tenable or touchable, reachable

Reviewing & Revising SMART goals

The SMART goals criteria are not meant to put learners into rigid categories or remove creative exploration of your goals. Setting goals using SMART should be viewed as one step in articulating short or long-term goals. The framework, while useful, is meant to provide structure but some people find they depart from SMART after a period. As such, SMART may help you after working towards your goals for a time. Often, the most successful deployment of SMART includes an element of accountability and performance. This is where a supervisor, spouse or mentor can help to hold you accountable.

Goal setting is iterative and should be based on a frank evaluation of your abilities and potential. It should not be self-limiting. If you do not know where you stand, enlist the help of a teacher or colleague to help you determine your strengths and weaknesses. What you need, above all, is a commitment towards reaching your goals, and a good understanding of the process to get you there. You can use goal setting forms or software programs to guide you; further, you may want to change or adapt them numerous times. There are some useful software programs to help you develop your goals such as SMART goals and this app. Since you are the master of your universe, you should know best where you want to end up - and what you need to do to get there.

SMARTer goals

There is also a slight variation of the SMART model. SMART(er) adds two letters: e for ethical-ecology-evaluate, and r for resourced-rewards-revise. Depending on the individual who is setting goals and the context, there may be a need to consider the ethical issues associated with goal setting when using the SMART(er) framework. In that case, the sixth step would include a consideration of ethics. If ethics does not seem relevant, some individuals may want to use the evaluate and revise alternatives that are available in the SMARTer model. Incidentally, there are also a few SMARTest frameworks around. When you reach a significant milestone along the way to achieving any goal, be sure to give yourself an appropriate reward.


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