The SMART way to reach your ultimate objectives

The SMART way to reach your ultimate objectives
JobStreet content teamupdated on 28 July, 2023

In today’s accelerated world, ambition is a significant ingredient for success. However, merely having lofty aspirations isn't enough. It's crucial to develop a solid plan that leads to your ultimate goal.

A SMART goal, consisting of five components, aids in formulating your true objectives. Missing one or more elements may undermine its efficacy. Professionals use SMART for outlining short and long-term plans, including career paths or specific project targets. The SMART framework streamlines the process.

Understanding SMART goals

SMART is a commonly used tool for aligning professional goals. The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound. It offers robust parameters that can enhance the approach to your goals.

View SMART as the necessary components for reaching your potential. Each element highlights areas that might otherwise be overlooked. Overlooking essential aspects, no matter how small, may jeopardise your efforts.

SMART goals are particularly valuable for startup businesses. About 20% of new businesses fail within the first two years, often due to poor planning. SMART principles can mitigate this risk and propel your business objectives forward.

Every business benefits from having a well-structured plan. It provides a sense of purpose for your team. SMART increases your team's chances of success significantly.

SMART changes vague statements like "We need to increase our sales," into specific, actionable goals by prompting questions like "How do we do this? What's the timeline? What resources and manpower are needed? Is it feasible? How will we measure success?"

The Advantages of SMART goals

Team planning with SMART goals on whiteboard and sticky notes

Employing SMART principles provides a reference point if a project goes off track. You can adjust according to your established parameters.

Improved productivity

By identifying the five elements of SMART, tasks become more efficient. You have a process and benchmarks, which increase productivity and result in a more positive outcome than vague goals.

For instance, instead of stating "I'm going to raise money to invest," be explicit like, "I'm going to raise X amount of money to invest in real estate." This specificity ensures you aim for a concrete goal and minimises deviation.

(Read more: How to Overcome Procrastination at Work: 10 Productivity Tips to Know)

Enhanced focus and motivation

A defined goal facilitates the division of tasks. Breaking a goal into manageable chunks enhances focus. Using SMART reduces the team’s overall anxiety, invaluable when leading a project with a large group.

For example, if a team member worries about the feasibility of a product launch campaign, examine your timeline. Then check variables like manpower, budget, and workload within a specific timeframe.

Improved decision-making

Though SMART doesn’t prevent problems,  it aids in handling them. The defined parameters help identify alternative routes you can take strategies or backup plans that align with the original objective.

For example, if you want to enrol in an arts programme but lack resources consider workshop classes or finding a mentor instead. Internships can also help develop the skills learned in a classroom setting.

( Read more: 5 Benefits of a Good Internship Programme Every Job Seeker Should Know )

Better Time Management

Knowing distinct aspects of your goals enhances your overall experience by improving time management. By following the SMART framework, your objectives get strengthened with a timeline.

Increased success rate

The SMART framework clarifies your objectives, eliminating ambiguity.  It's akin to commuting to your office; you need to know your destination, best mode of transportation, fare amount, best departure time, and the possibility of rain.

Understanding your goal’s trajectory makes a significant part of the process predictable. If you’re confident that the components of your goal are well within your capacity, your success probability rises.

How to set SMART goals

Start with a vague goal, then detail each SMART component. For instance, you want to shift careers. That’s a good way to start, but without a detailed plan,  it could lead to a dead-end.

First, be Specific. It’s commendable that you want to step out of your comfort zone and shift careers. However, when you’re jumping from one place to another, you have to know where you’re landing.

Identify which industry you plan to shift to and consider the work setup.Is remote or onsite work preferable? Around 51% of professionals in Malaysia believe that they can work better remotely. Are you part of that statistic?

Second, make it Measurable. If you’re currently working full-time, you need to find time for your job hunt. Then, evaluate whether you possess the necessary skills for this new endeavour. If not, consider additional training.

Third, ensure it’s Achievable. Once you start considering your objectives and what you want to do, it will be easy to assess what you lack and what you need to overcome it. In this case, you can enrol in various online courses or workshops. Ask knowledgeable peers or reach out to industry experts for advice.

Fourth, is it Realistic? If you’re balancing a full-time job, job hunting, or training, allocate some free time to make your goal feasible.Changing careers is a significant step, but it can have considerable payoffs.

Fifth, ensure it’s Time-Bound. Set a clear, efficient timeline. If you want to shift careers at a specific point in time, ensure that you plan everything accordingly. For example, "By the end of the year, I should have acquired all the skills necessary for an entry-level position in this industry." Do you have a personal deadline that you want to meet? Make your timeline clear and efficient. Each component plays a crucial role in the overall success of your goals, so devote enough time to each one.

Let's delve deeper into each SMART component.


Being specific has everything to do with asking yourself exactly what you want to achieve and being as clear as possible. Specific goals provide a tangible target in the near or far future.

Example: I want to increase my document reading speed


Now that you have a specific goal in mind, determine key indicators for tracking your progress and identifying areas for improvement. A measurable goal provides a baseline.

Example: As reading is a skill, I will make it a goal to finish four books a month in my spare time.


Now that you have a specific goal and a way to measure its effectiveness, it allows you to foresee potential problems that may arise, whether it's scheduling conflicts or inadequate skills. Either way, by knowing how achievable your goal is, you can prepare ways to overcome these potential obstacles such that you can still achieve your desired result.

Example: To enhance my reading speed, I will read approximately 30-50 pages a day.


Making your goal realistic brings it one step closer to reality. . Ask yourself why you're setting this goal. This purpose drives the rest of the SMART framework.

Example: I want to increase my reading speed to process work documents faster, becoming a more efficient team player.


Setting a timeline motivates you to meet your objectives promptly. Having no fixed deadlines could lead to unnecessary delays,  impacting team morale.

Example: By year-end, I aim to have read over 48 books.

Common mistakes to avoid when setting SMART goals

Focused woman with laptop using SMART goals for success and productivity in her work

Avoid indistinct or unclear goals

A distinct destination can speed up your goal achievement by providing a set of clear tasks.  Many professionals stumble by setting grandiose goals without short-term action plans on how to achieve them. This can make your goal unreachable as you navigate blindly.

For instance, professionals may state: I want to increase my company’s client base. To form a reachable goal, you should detail specifics. This gives a proper timeline for necessary tasks, allowing for adjustments if inconsistencies occur.

Avoid neglecting to set quantifiable  targets

Understanding your progress towards your goal is crucial to keep yourself or your team inspired. By defining the boundaries early on, you will have a criterion to evaluate your advancement. Without these measures, even the most specific goals will leave you unsure of your improvements.

Avoid overrating or underestimating your capabilities

Acknowledging your strengths and limitations is a vital step in assessing the likelihood of success. Overestimating your abilities may disrupt the components of the SMART framework.

For example, you plunge into coding for a software firm without daily practice.. Chances are, you may make numerous mistakes, halting progress and undermining your SMART framework.

Conversely, you may have decades of experience as a programmer, mastery over several software tools and a robust network. Yet, you hesitate to accept a senior programmer role, thinking you still don’t have the chops.

Underrating your abilities is just as bad as overrating it. By doing so, you might miss out on good opportunities.

Avoid overlooking external factors

Setting a SMART goal doesn't shield you from every obstacle. You must consider variables outside your control, like the fluctuating job market or job interview outcomes.

By considering external factors, you are bracing yourself for the possibility that plan A may not work out the way you intend it to. The earlier you acknowledge these external factors, the better you can devise alternatives and adjust your SMART framework accordingly.

Avoid ignoring the need to revisit and adjust goals

Failure to revisit goals for potential adjustments can be detrimental. No plan is flawless. With external factors interfering, changes in your approach to your goal are often necessary.

Suppose you planned on attending a writing workshop so you can enhance your skills as a writer, but an urgent matter forced you to cancel. Does that mean that your ultimate goal to be a good writer is now unattainable? Of course not. You can search for other workshops online, even virtual ones, for more flexibility.

How to Stay Accountable for Your SMART Goals

Colleagues in meeting, happy girl points at board, using SMART goals for productive teamwork

Identify your motivation

Reflect on why you want to achieve that goal. Is it for personal or professional growth? Are you aiming to start a business? What brought you to your current position? Understanding your motivation increases your drive for success, especially with the SMART guidelines in place.

Creating a vision board may help in identifying these aspects and further actualise the goal.

Share your goals with others

When working with a team, it’s essential to share your SMART goals. Remember that every team member has potential and should be included in goal implementation. By sharing your goals, others become aware of your deadlines.

They will also understand your quality expectations, enabling effective communication of your ideas.

Track your progress

Document your progress regularly, even setbacks. Write it down or capture it through pictures and videos. This provides concrete information for future reference.

If you aim to read a hundred books in a year, consider posting book reviews on social media. By adhering to a certain habit, you reinforce focus on your goal. Tracking your progress informs your next steps.

Celebrate your successes

Achieving goals is no walk in the park, particularly career-related ones.Celebrating your successes should not induce any sense of guilt. To avoid burnout, reward yourself occasionally to commemorate small and big victories. Go out with your friends, take your vacation leaves, and don’t be afraid to unwind.

Learn from your failures

In the journey to achieve your goal using SMART, you can expect to encounter difficulties along the way. You might have to remap some parts and change your course. You might have to wait a little longer for that promotion or that scholarship grant due to unforeseen circumstances, delaying your goal achievement.

But learning from your failures is a crucial part of SMART goals, equipping you with knowledge for the next steps


With countless opportunities, deciding can be hard. SMART provides an effective method to realise your full potential. By following the SMART framework and specifying necessary tasks, you make consistent progress.

Being SMART doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to know everything right from the get-go. Components can be revised or realised as you go along, because ultimately it’s still your personal goal and you can approach it in whatever way you see fit.

Establish SMART goals to stay on track. Using SMART enhances the way you see your professional and personal life.

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  1. What are SMART goals?
    SMART is a tool for ensuring your goal is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound. These criteria streamline your path towards your end goal.
  2. Why is it important to set SMART goals?
    A lack of focus hampers success. SMART goals anchor your focus on crucial aspects, boosting your short and long-term plans.  By setting SMART goals, you establish expectations and initiate actions leading to desired outcomes.
  3. What is the difference between a goal and a SMART goal?
    • Your goal is your starting point A SMART goal is a detailed version of your goal, outlining tasks for reaching your ultimate goal.

    • For example, a goal could be:I want job satisfaction.

    • A SMART goal based on this could be: I aim for job satisfaction, so I'll transition careers and focus on my entrepreneurial skills. I'll take online crash courses, expand my network by attending events, and seek advice from industry experts. By year-end, I plan to invest in a fitness-centred business

  4. How do I know if my goals are SMART?
    • Specific- A specific goal narrows options and enhances focus.

    • Measurable- A measurable goal has key indicators of progress.

    • Achievable- An achievable goal evaluates potential outcomes to ensure feasibility.

    • Realistic- A realistic goal has a rational purpose behind each step towards the end goal.

    • Time-bound- A time-bound goal imposes urgency, enabling you to schedule or set a deadline for your goal.What are some common mistakes to avoid when setting SMART goals?

    • Setting too many goals may make your overall aim vague and hard to measure or achieve.

    • Over or underestimating your skills can skew your goals.

    • If you don’t learn from mistakes or revise your SMART goal components t, you’re likely aiming for an unattainable goal.

  5. How do I stay accountable for my SMART goals?
    • Creating a SMART goal can be complex but rewarding with consistent application. To stay accountable, identify your motivation and recall why your goal matters.

    • Inform your colleagues about your goals to manage expectations.

    • Even when failing in some aspects of your SMART goals, keep in mind that being successful means working your way around failures.

    Don’t be disheartened when things don’t pan out the way you intended.Instead, collect data and figure out the next best course of action.

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