What Are SMART Goals and How to Write Them in 2021


“Maybe I’ll just watch one more episode.”
“I’ll start working on it tomorrow.”
“Might as well give up. I’m never going to improve.” 

If you’ve ever told yourself any of these, you know how difficult it can be to achieve goals.

You might get distracted by Netflix or demotivated because your goal to get abs by laughing for hours turned out to be unrealistic. 😢

Fortunately, you can use a goal setting framework like SMART goals to set effective goals and stay motivated. 

But what does SMART goal stand for, and how can you use it to achieve success?

Don’t worry!

In this article, we’ll explore what SMART goals are, how to write them, some examples, and the best goal setting tool to help you achieve your goals. We’ll also cover the key benefits of SMART goals.

Ready, set, goals!

What Is a SMART Goal?

If you think that a SMART goal is just a super clever goal that someone came up with, you’re not entirely wrong.

SMART goals help you set achievable, well-thought-out goals. The SMART goal acronym defines a set of criteria that allows teams and individuals to keep it real, literally.

SMART stands for goals that are:

  1. Specific
  2. Measurable
  3. Attainable
  4. Relevant
  5. Time-bound

If you have ever worked towards a vague goal without any way to track progress, you need to set SMART goals. Whether it’s personal or professional goals, the SMART criteria can help you create a realistic goal, establish a clear timeline, and identify any missed targets. 

How to Write a SMART Goal

Remember, a SMART goal stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound goals. To write a SMART objective, you’ll need to work through all five elements to build trackable, clear goals.

Let’s now go through each step in the SMART framework:

1. Specific

To avoid setting a general goal, you need to create a specific action plan. 

All you need to do is answer the common ‘w’ questions:

  • What: give a detailed description of what exactly you want to achieve
  • Who: list down the people who need to be part of your goal. This is crucial if you’re working towards a team performance goal
  • When: choose the start date and end date for your set goal
  • Where: if applicable, you’ll need to select a location for your goal
  • Why: define your reason for wanting to achieve this specific goal. You should get insights into how your objective aligns with where you want to be in the future
  • Which: determine any challenges or requirements which will affect goal progress to know if you’ve set an achievable goal. For example, if your goal is to launch a new website, but you have no experience in web development, you’re probably going to run into some obstacles 
i need help

2. Measurable

The next step is to decide how you’ll measure progress towards your goal.

When you define these metrics, your goal becomes more tangible since you can clearly see how close you are to reaching them.

Additionally, if you’ve set a long term goal, you can motivate yourself by setting milestones.

What are milestones?

Milestones are the key achievements along your goal’s timeline. For example, if your goal is to launch a shopping website, creating the UI can be a milestone.

Celebrating your milestones can help you stay motivated to achieve even more goals! 🥳

3. Attainable

Now, you’ll need to determine how achievable your objective is. 

While setting a super challenging goal (like a stretch goal) could help you perform even better, it could demotivate you if you couldn’t achieve it. 

Instead, you should think about any new skills, change in attitude, goal-setting software, equipment, courses, etc., you’ll need to nail your goal.

If you find that you’re missing a skill or certification, you’ll need to determine how to attain them. 

But remember to think about your financial and time constraints!

For example, to start your online shopping business, you’ll probably need to hire web developers. But you’ll also need to decide if you can afford to pay those developers. 💰

4. Relevant

Setting a relevant goal helps ensure that you set a good goal that actually makes sense for your future.

If you set SMART goals that don’t align with your career development or long-term personal goal, you’re probably going to feel pretty ‘meh’ when you reach them.

For example, if you see yourself running your own online retail business in the next few months, you should be setting goals to take courses in sales and marketing. 

But instead, if you make it a goal to take stand-up comedy courses for the next three months…

it doesn't make sense

Once you’ve completed all those courses, you won’t feel any closer to your ultimate goal.

5. Time-bound

Goals should have a deadline.

Without one, your goals will stretch into infinity and beyond, along with your procrastination!

For example, to create a realistic timeline for an online business, you need to consider things like:

  • Do I need to recruit team members?
  • Do I need to rent a space?
  • What kind of administrative documents do I need to submit?
  • How long will it take to secure suppliers?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll know how much time you need to achieve your goal.

What Is an Example of a SMART Goal?

Here are two examples of general goals:

Goal 1: I want to write a business book
Goal 2: I want to get fitter

Right now, our goals are super vague and unattainable. We don’t know how we’re going to achieve them, how much time it will take, and we don’t even know if we can reach them.

Now, let’s use the SMART goals formula to create well-crafted, achievable goals that’ll make you say:

we got this

1. I want to write a business book 📚 

  • Specific: I’m going to write a book about online retail businesses that is a minimum of 200 pages
  • Measurable: I’ll write one chapter per month or four pages per week
  • Attainable: I’ll work on the manuscript first. Once that is completed, I’ll look for an editor and self-publish the book using iBooks
  • Relevant: writing a book on this topic will help me establish myself as an expert in the online retail industry. This way, I can increase my brand’s visibility and credibility
  • Time-bound: my manuscript will be ready to be published in 12 months

SMART goal example:
To become an expert in my industry and boost my brand’s visibility, I’ll write a 200-page book about online retail businesses by writing one chapter per month or four pages per week. After a year, my book will be ready, and I’ll have it checked by an editor and start the self-publishing process via iBooks. 

2. I want to get fitter 🏃 

  • Specific: I will burn at least 1000 calories every week for two months by jogging on the treadmill
  • Measurable: I will jot down my daily progress using data from the treadmill’s calculator
  • Attainable: since I was burning 850 calories a week, increasing it by 150 is manageable. But I’ll need to jog for 30 minutes extra every day
  • Relevant: burning more calories will help me achieve my goal of getting fitter
  • Time-bound: this will be my exercise routine for the next eight weeks

SMART goal example:
To get fitter and healthier, I will burn at least 1000 calories every week for the next two months by jogging on the treadmill. To do it, I’ll jog for 30 minutes extra every day and use the data from my treadmill’s calculator to ensure I burn 1000 calories every week.

How to Achieve Your SMART Goals

Great, you now know how to write SMART goals.

But the process doesn’t end there. 

You need to execute those goals successfully.

And while you could write your SMART goals down on paper and manually track your progress towards them, that just wouldn’t be smart. 😉


It would just take way too much time, and you’ve got time-sensitive goals to reach!

But with SMART goal setting software like ClickUp, you can speed up the process and visualize your progress with a click of a button.

Here’s how ClickUp can help you set and achieve your SMART goals:

1. Get a specific breakdown of your goal

ClickUp has the answer to every ‘w’ question out there:

  • What: use checklists to list down exactly what you want to accomplish. Add as much detail as you wish by adding subitems to your checklist
  • Who: add a single assignee, multiple assignees, or Teams to any ClickUp task
  • When: stick to your goal schedule by adding time estimates to your tasks. Time estimates also help you predict how much time future projects will need 🔮
  • Where: if your goal is location-based, use the Map view to include geographic addresses in your tasks
  • Why: use Docs as a journal to document the reason behind your goal. You can also jot down any challenges you faced before and after you achieved your overall goal

Need to get down to the nitty-gritty details?

Just use Custom Fields to add any extra data to your tasks.

clickup creating a custom field

2. Measure your goal progress accurately

In ClickUp, Goals and Targets let you set and track your progress towards any type of measurable goal.

SMART goals, OKRs (Objective and Key Result), KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)… ClickUp can handle it all. 

But what exactly are Goals in ClickUp?

Goals are high-level containers that you can break down into smaller, measurable Targets. 

Once you complete your Targets, you strike out your big Goal. 🎳

Here are different types of Targets you can set:

  • Number: keep track of any KPI, like your customer satisfaction score 
  • True/False: check if something’s been done or not. For example, if you’ve posted your weekly blog post on social media
  • Currency: keep an eye on your financial goals
  • Tasks: a performance management Target type that lets you see if tasks have been completed

ClickUp also keeps track of your progress in real-time. Every time you complete a Target, your progress percentage increases automatically.

clickup goal

ClickUp’s accurate progress tracking will help you stay realistic about your goals. 

This way, you won’t think you’re making progress when your SMART goals could actually be going down in flames.

homer simpson smart

Another way you can measure your progress is by using ClickUp’s Gantt Charts and Milestones.

Gantt Charts are intuitive timelines that help you schedule tasks, track progress, and identify any bottlenecks. And when you combine Milestones with Gantt Charts, you can quickly see which tasks are your progress markers. 

This way, you’ll know when you’ve made some significant headway with your goal.

3. Achieve success with ease

Here’s how ClickUp makes it easier for you to attain your goals:

  • Dashboards: your personal mission control center where you can see all your completed tasks and how you’re progressing towards current goals
  • Bar Chart Widget: raise the bar by keeping track of your progress with custom Bar Charts 
  • Status Widgets: view the number of tasks that are in progress, closed, or completed
  • Reminders: schedule Reminders so you never forget to tackle your goals. Avoid the stress of random notifications by customizing your Notification Settings

Recurring Tasks: set tasks to repeat daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly. This is handy if you’ve got repetitive goals like daily exercise routines 🏈

clickup recurring task

4. Link your goals to relevant objectives

ClickUp task relationships let you quickly link tasks across your Workspace.

This way, you can make sure your SMART goal is relevant by connecting it to an already-existing personal or business goal.

And if a particular task needs to be completed before you can begin another one, use task dependencies to see which tasks are blocking and waiting on others. 

After all, no one likes half-baked things, especially projects (and cake 😜).

clickup dependencies

5. Set timeframes for your goals

Set accurate time frames for your tasks by adding start dates and due dates to your tasks.

Having set deadlines will motivate you to get started on your goals, so you don’t end up doing this:

follow through

And if you’ve got time-sensitive goals, you can use the native time tracker to track how much time you spend on them. You can also move across tasks and start and stop time from any device with the global timer.

clickup time tracking

2 Major Benefits of Using the SMART Goal Format

Here are two fantastic benefits of using SMART goals:

1. SMART goals can improve self-development

A goal setting framework like SMART goals helps us psychologically. 

Before we set a SMART goal, we need to understand our core values and ensure that the objective we set aligns with those values. This way, we are more likely to benefit from our goals in the long run.

Additionally, when we set a SMART goal action plan, we need to accept our abilities and set realistic expectations for ourselves.

For example, if you want to become a senior marketing manager, you need to make sure you’ve got the required certifications, so you don’t end up in a situation like this:

not qualified

But once we do achieve success, we feel more confident and motivated to set and achieve more goals!

2. SMART goals are easy to work with

The SMART goal criteria are super easy to understand, and you don’t need tons of training or expensive goal setter tools to put them into action.

This is why it’s an excellent goal setting process for individuals and teams of all sizes. 

For example, you can align your personal goals with your company management’s goals and keep track of progress without spending a fortune.

Let’s Get Smart About It! 

The SMART goal setting framework is about creating a strategic plan that’ll help you focus on achievable objectives.

Although the SMART goal system can help you set practical  personal and career goals, having a goal setting tool like ClickUp can make the process a lot easier.

With features like Priorities, Goal Folders, and tons of Integrations, you won’t have to waste time manually documenting and tracking goals.

Get smart and hop on ClickUp for free today to knock out SMART goals that are as well as you train your body! 🥊

the rock focus

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