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Last Updated on November 26, 2020

What Are SMART Objectives? (And How to Use Them)

What Are SMART Objectives? (And How to Use Them)

Imagine you’re planning a road trip to a place you’ve never been. Before leaving, you would probably open up Google Maps and plan your route. The same principle carries over to personal and professional goal-setting. Mapping out your journey with SMART objectives is a strategic way you get where you want to go, when you want to get there — and to avoid time-consuming wrong turns along the way.

As the CEO of my own company, my most precious resource is time. I’m tasked with the role of leading my team to our organization’s goals, and I want to make sure we don’t waste time getting off track. SMART objectives help me accomplish that, and they can help you, too.

What Are SMART Objectives?

SMART objectives are a framework for accomplishing your goals[1]. SMART is an acronym consisting of five key elements on the road map toward efficiency. If an objective is “smart,” it will be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

These elements create an action plan for where you want to go and an assessment tool for measuring progress along the way.[2]

smart objectives

    George T Doran, a consultant and former Director of Corporate Planning for Washington Water Power Company, developed the framework of SMART goals[3] to help managers lead their organizations toward their goals. However, SMART objectives are an effective method for anyone who wants to accomplish something — professional or personal — in the most efficient way.

    By clearly defining the steps and resources you need to move toward your accomplishments — and signaling progress as you go — SMART objectives keep you motivated and on track, increasing the odds you’ll get where you want to go in the long term.

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    How does this play out practically? Perhaps you’re tasked with increasing the SEO traffic to your company’s website. As is, this objective is quite vague. How much do you want to increase the traffic, and by when?

    SMART goals add specificity to your objectives, making your desired outcome, along with your action steps, as concrete as possible.

    How to Use SMART Objectives to Increase Your Efficiency

    As with any new routine, implementing SMART objectives requires a bit of time and intentionality, but in the end, they should save you some hassle. With the right steps and mindset, you will be able to move closer to your goals without wasting valuable time or energy.

    The first step to implementing and applying SMART objectives is thinking big. Take some time to zoom out and reflect on the big picture. What’s your overall vision for your project or organization?

    Once you establish an idea of where you want all your hard work to lead you five or ten years down the road, you can use SMART objectives to brainstorm the most effective steps to get there.

    For more information on creating SMART goals, you can check out this video:

    1. Be as Specific as Possible

    When you’re venturing out on a road trip, you probably have an idea of where you’re going. If you don’t have a clear picture of where you want to go, you won’t know how to get there. That’s why it’s vital to be as specific as possible about the end result you’re seeking.

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    Think of this specificity as creating a mission statement for your goal.[4]

    For example, my colleagues and I recently decided we wanted to streamline our customer service process. Ideally, this would result in happier customers, a respectable goal on its own. But what would this improvement look like, tangibly?

    Customer reviews are one way to concretely determine whether our customers are thrilled with our product and service. Therefore, to make the goal more specific, we decided we wanted our five-star ratings to increase.

    With a specific improvement in mind, we were able to develop practical action steps to get there. We also gained new motivation to make our customers’ experience great.

    To create a specific goal of your own, write out exactly what you’re trying to accomplish, with the most specific wording as possible. Avoid words like “increase” or “improve,” which are vague, and choose a specific action instead.

    2. Make Your Goals Measurable

    To make your objectives “smart,” you need a way to track your progress and understand when you’ve met expectations. That’s why measurable goals are particularly important.

    Using my example, my team and I knew we wanted our positive ratings to improve, but by how much? How would we know when our work was paying off?

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    We decided increasing our five-star online reviews by 30 percent would be an accurate way of measuring our progress. We had improved our sales by this much before, so applying the same objective to our reviews seemed reasonable.

    When you create your own SMART goals, make sure to establish a benchmark. Associating a number, amount, percentage, or frequency with your goal creates a “bullseye” target for you to hit. It’s your quantified picture of success to help you achieve goals.

    3. Be Realistic

    It’s important to stretch yourself when you’re chasing a goal. However, since time is of the essence for most of us, it’s crucial to be realistic. Can this goal actually be achieved with your existing time and resources, or does it need to be scaled down and integrated into a larger plan?

    When my team and I set out to improve our user ratings, I had to examine the likelihood we could actually accomplish it. If I had doubted our ability to do so, I would have tweaked the objective. For example, I could have stretched the deadline or decreased the measurement of success.

    Looking back at past progress and analytics is one way to double check that your SMART objective is realistic. Are you hoping for a spike in traffic to your company’s website? If your past few months have shown an increase of just two or three percent, a goal of 10 percent growth might be a stretch.

    Save yourself time and frustration, and aim to be as realistic as possible.

    4. Choose Goals That Are Relevant to Your Business

    Another common time-waster is creating goals that are irrelevant to an individual or organization’s core values or strategy.

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    For my colleagues and me, happy customers are the primary benchmark for success. We built our product and company to save our customers time and improve their lives, so a goal of improving customer ratings made sense. It fit with the direction we were already going.

    When you’re developing SMART objectives of your own, ask yourself whether your goal lines up with your organization’s strategic plans and with industry trends. In other words, make sure your desired objective matters. You want your hard work to pay off.

    5. Choose a Specific Time Frame

    The final step in creating SMART objectives is allotting a specific time frame to your goal. Every objective has mile markers and a destination, so make sure to ask yourself the question, “When will this be done?”

    Adding the boundaries of a particular time frame will keep you focused and on schedule. In our case, we were aiming for a 30-percent improvement in reviews within three months. This deadline created a sense of pressure that motivated us to work hard, but it also felt realistic.

    With the time frame in mind, our objective went from “increase positive reviews” to “grow five-star ratings by 30 percent within three months.”

    The Bottom Line

    If you’re creating specific, measurable, and achievable SMART objectives of your own, you’re creating a road map to your success. The good news is that taking time to create these goals is a major part of the journey. As the famous author, salesman, and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once said,

    “A goal properly set is halfway reached.”

    More Tips on Creating SMART Objectives

    Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

    Reference

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    Aytekin Tank

    Founder and CEO of JotForm, sharing entrepreneurship and productivity tips at Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on April 19, 2021

    How to Find Your Passion and Live a More Fulfilling Life

    How to Find Your Passion and Live a More Fulfilling Life

    If you could do one thing to transform your life, I would highly recommend it be to find something you’re passionate about, and do it for a living. Learning how to find your passion may not be as easy as it sounds, but it’s well worth the effort.

    If you dread going to your job, find yourself constantly lacking motivation, or find what you’re doing dull and repetitive, you need to start looking for a new job.

    Staying in your current job will not only continue to leave you feeling stuck and make you unhappy, but you are not realizing your full potential in life.

    Imagine this instead:

    You get up early, jumping out of bed, excited to go to work. You might put in more hours than the average person, but it doesn’t seem difficult to you, because your work hours just zoom right by.

    You are often in that state of mind, often referred to as “flow,” where you can lose track of the world and time, losing yourself in the task at hand. Work is not work as many people refer to it, but something that is fun and interesting and exciting. It’s not a “job” but a passion that leads to a fulfilling life.

    If you’ve got a job you dislike, or even hate, this will sound like a pipe dream to you. And if you never put in the effort to find what you’re passionate about, such a thing will never be possible.

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    However, if you dare to ask “how do I find my passion,” imagine the possibilities, and actually search for what you love, it is not only a possibility, but a probability.

    How do you go about learning how to find your passion in life? Here are some suggestions:

    1. Is There Something You Already Love Doing?

    Do you have a hobby or something you loved doing as a child, but never considered it as a possibility for a job?

    Whether it’s reading comic books, collecting something, or creating or building, there is probably a way you could do it for a living. Open a comic book shop, or create a comic book site online.

    If there’s already something you love doing, you’re ahead of the game. Now you just need to research the possibilities of making money from it.

    2. Find out What You Spend Hours Reading About

    For myself, when I get passionate about something, I’ll read about it for hours on end. I’ll buy books and magazines. I’ll spend days on the Internet finding out more.

    There may be a few possibilities here for you, and all of them are possible career paths. Don’t close your mind to these topics. Look into them until you feel your heart is content, and this will help you get started as you learn how to find your passion.

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    3. Brainstorm

    If nothing comes to mind right away as you’re asking how to find my passion, get out a sheet of paper and start writing down ideas[1]. This doesn’t need to be an organized list. It can simply be a paper full of random notes or even doodles. All of this will eventually come in handy later.

    Look around your house, on your computer, or on your bookshelf for inspiration, and write down whatever comes to mind. There are no bad ideas at this stage.

    4. Ask Around

    There are likely people you admire in life, and there are things about them that you would like to replicate in yourself. Go to them if possible, and pick their brain. See how they landed where they currently are and whether they feel they’ve discovered their passion.

    The more possibilities you find, the more likely your chances of learning how to find your passion in the long run. This may mean that you spend time talking to friends and family, coworkers, or even acquaintances in your free time.

    5. Don’t Quit Your Job Just Yet

    If you find your calling, your passion, don’t just turn in your resignation tomorrow. It’s best to stay in your job while you’re researching the possibilities.

    If you can do your passion as a side job and build up the income for a few months or a year, that’s even better. It gives you a chance to build up some savings (and if you’re going into business for yourself, you’ll need that cash reserve), while practicing the skills you need.

    6. Give It a Try First

    It’s best to actually test your new idea before jumping into it as a career as you’re wondering how to find your passion. Do it as a hobby or side job at first, so that you can see if it’s really your true calling.

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    You may be passionate about it for a few days, but where the rubber meets the road is whether you’re passionate about it for at least a few months.

    If you pass this test, you have probably found it.

    7. Do as Much Research as Possible

    Know as much about your passion as possible. If this has been a passion for a while, you may have already been doing this. At any rate, do even more research. Read every website possible on the topic, and buy the best books available.

    Find other people, either in your area or on the Internet, who do what you want to do for a living, and quiz them about the profession.

    How much do they make, and what training and education did they need? What skills are necessary, and how did they get their start? What recommendations do they have?

    Often, you’ll find that people are more than willing to give advice.

    8. Practice, and Practice, and Practice Some More

    If you’re getting close to learning how to find your passion, don’t go into it with amateur skill level. If you want to make money—to be a professional—you need to have professional skills.

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    Get very good at your future career, and you will make money at it. Practice for hours on end and learn how to focus; if it’s something you love, the practice should be something you want to do.

    9. Never Quit Trying

    It’s possible that you won’t be able to find your passion at first. However, if you give up after a few days, you’re sure to fail. Keep trying, for months on end if necessary, and you’ll find it eventually.

    Perhaps you thought you found your passion but discovered several months on that it wasn’t for you. Start over again and find a new passion. There may be more than one passion in your lifetime, so explore all the possibilities.

    Have you found your passion but haven’t been successful making a living at it? Keep trying, and try again until you succeed. Success doesn’t come easy, so giving up early is a sure way to fail.

    If you need a little help, the Make It Happen Handbook can provide you with a solid action plan to help you turn your passion in your career. Check out the handbook and start to live your passion!

    The Bottom Line

    Don’t forget that all of this will be a lot of work, but it will be the best investment you’ve ever made. Put in the time to learn how to find your passion, and you will find that your days are more fulfilling and produce more happiness and well-being in the long-term.

    More About Finding Passion

    Featured photo credit: Dewet Willemse via unsplash.com

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