Use a SMART Goal Template to Hack Your Productivity
A SMART goal doesn’t have to just be an employee-assessment tool: you can create your own SMART goals to hack your personal productivity.
We’re going to walk you through what a SMART goal is, how they can slay your to-do list, and how to create your own SMART goals using our easy-to-customize template
What is a SMART goal?
Goals can become nebulous quickly: “I want to get better at sales” or “I want to get in shape.” While those are both noble goals, neither of them can be measured, tracked, or completed. This means you’ll never, ever be able to definitively complete them.
A SMART goal, however, helps you define and categorize your projects so that you can actually complete them. It also asks questions of you: What is the goal exactly, can it be done, is it realistic, and how much time is it going to take?
The concept of the SMART goal was created by consultant George T. Doran in 1981. In his paper, “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives,” he outlined how to create SMART goals to inspire employees and track their progress and success. In the original paper, SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, and time-related.
The Smart Acronym
Time, refinement, and the telephone game have altered the acronym multiple times. You may have also heard of a common alternative, which some people find more useful: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
The definition has even expanded to the idea of the “SMARTER” goal, which appends “evaluate” and “review” to the end of the standard goal. Essentially, these remind you to track how you’re progressing toward your goal and how you achieved it when you finish.
Feel free to mix and match the parameters of the acronym—maybe the goal being “attainable” is less important to you than who you can “assign” parts of the goal process to.
The idea of the SMART goal is that, once you’ve defined the specific parameters of a realistic and effective goal, you can actually achieve it.
Creating your own SMART goals
If you’re looking to boost how productive you are—either from day to day or in the long run—you need to create goals and reach them. That’s the definition of productivity, really.
Here’s how you make a SMART goal for yourself.
“S” – Create a specific goal
No vague goals. Avoid words like less, more, better, sometimes, always, and never.
If you want to be better about responding to work emails, create a specific goal of it. Try something like “I will respond to at least one email per hour.”
“M” – Define how to measure progress toward your goal
A goal that can’t be measured is useless. Most goals require multiple steps to achieve, so sit down and write all of the steps you’ll have to go through to achieve your goal.
You would then use these steps to assess how much progress you’re making toward your goal. These steps will become the roadmap to your goal and help give you motivation as you chip away at it.
“A” – Figure out if your goal is attainable
A goal that can’t be reached is a fantasy. This part of the SMART goal doesn’t mean just possible/impossible. I think you know a goal to “bench press the Empire State Building” is unreasonable. However, figuring out whether your goal is attainable can also mean asking, “Is the juice worth the squeeze?”
How much time is this goal going to take up? Is that amount of time commensurate with the value gained from completing the goal?
“R” – Is your goal relevant to your plans?
Next, you’ll want to ask yourself if the goal you have in mind is ultimately beneficial or constructive to your work or life. Will achieving this goal improve your mental health, societal standing, or career outlook?
In essence, is this goal useful to you? Does it help you achieve what you want? Does it reflect your personal morality, ethics, and desires?
“T” – Give your goal a hard time limit
The most important part of a SMART goal, especially if you’re aiming to boost your productivity, is an end date.
Put a realistic time limit on your goal and stick with it. If it’s a long-term goal, “five years” is a perfectly reasonable thing to put in this section. However, a longer goal is going to require more steps and more progress-tracking. As you break down a long-term SMART goal in the “M” portion, remember to give each step a hard time limit as well.
On the other end of the spectrum, don’t be afraid of extremely short-term SMART goals. Productivity is “getting things done,” and SMART goals can help you check off your monthly, weekly, or even daily to-do list.
Grab a SMART goal template and get crackin’
Now that you know the basics of a SMART goal and how to use it to boost your productivity, download this quick SMART goal template to help you manage tasks of any size.
Download your own copy of our SMART Goal Template