The importance of knowing how to write SMART objectives cannot be negated by anyone who wants to achieve definite goals in personal or professional life. Objectives are crucial in defining future course of one’s life and deciding where one wants to reach. Objectives are either our goals or important milestones on the way of reaching destination. Most of us do understand the importance of setting objectives in life; however, mere having them in your mind is not enough. Putting them on paper works effectively in order to reaching the objectives.
Understanding of how to write SMART objectives has crossed the realms of personal development. Increasingly, many organizations are using the SMART acronym with objectives and goal setting. Whether your intentions are personal or they are professional requirements, it is important to understand how to write SMART objectives.
What does SMART stands for?
The acronym SMART stands for:
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Achievable
R – Realistic
T – Time bound
The origin of this acronym is credited to Peter Drucker. He coined it in his book “The Practice of Management” published in 1954. It is not that the objectives were not well defined before the acronym came to existence; however, it defined the characteristics of almost perfect objective writing. Some claim that Paul J. Meyer used it in his work "Personal Success Planner" in 1965. The term was also effectively used by Dale Carnegie in his world famous personal development trainings.
Without getting much into the doubts and debates of the SMART acronym, let us see how it defines the dimensions of objectives.
Specific: Every aspect of objectives should be well explained. Objectives should clearly tell what is to be achieved, who is responsible for achieving it, how it is to be achieved, when it is to be achieved and why it must be achieved. In other words, specific outline converts mere dreams into objectives or goals. It covers the intentions, timeframe, resources, methods and benefits of achieving objectives. e.g. ‘I want to become rich’ is no SMART objective. It is just a dream or wishful thinking. Whereas, ‘I will have $1 million in my bank account by Dec 31, 2015’ is quite specific objective.
Measurable: Your objectives should be measurable. Only then you will know whether you are meeting the objectives or not, and how much effort is needed at every step. Definite criteria like time, date, quality, quantity, etc should be set to measure objectives. Measuring objectives is essential in order to review and adjust all objectives related aspects. You can be certain whether you completing every part or lagging behind. Measurable scales are crucial to keep you on track. Citing the same example, richness in ‘I want to become rich’ cannot be measures. However, ‘I will have $1 million in my bank account by Dec 31, 2015’ is certainly measurable objective.
Achievable: If the objectives are not achievable, they are dreams. Setting objectives that are way beyond your limits will take you nowhere and all your efforts will go in vein. It is equally important to understand what is achievable for you. Setting objectives too below your capabilities in order to make them achievable will not enhance your caliber or professional abilities. Set objectives that are just a little beyond your capacities. Do leave the room for challenging and stretching your limits. Take your skills and resources into consideration while defining objectives. As per our example, I must know whether I can save $1 million in my bank account by Dec 31, 2015. In general, it sounds achievable.
Realistic: Do not let your fantasies or overconfidence come into play. Setting unrealistic objectives will only disappoint you. Decide whether you can realistically achieve the objectives with the resources and time available to you? In fact, whether your objectives are realistic will depend largely on your own capabilities. Your belief in your capabilities can turn many objectives realistic. Being realistic also means you should have interest and inclination towards your objectives. Objectives can be put under reality check by finding out whether similar objectives were achieved by anyone else earlier. ‘I will have $1 million in my bank account by Dec 31, 2015’ is realistic, but ‘I will have $1 million in my bank account by this month end’ or ‘I will have $1 billion in my bank account within two years’ may be unrealistic.
Time Bound: Time is the actual criteria that confines objectives into a frame. It converts dreams into goals and statements into missions. Set concrete time frame for not only the objective but also every step and part of it. Without time frame, objectives are spread all over. Time is the single most important criteria that signify the importance of objectives. Any objective will be achievable if there is no time limit or constraint to it. Without time bound activities no procedures will have any meaning and SMART objectives shall clearly define time relationships between every step and constituents. ‘I will have $1 million in my bank account by Dec 31, 2015’ will lose significance if time factor is dropped and ‘I will have $1 million in my bank account’ will be a mere wishful thinking. Also it must divide my objective in many timeframes and define what I shall do every day or month in order to reach the destination.
Being a very important aspect of personal growth, SMART objectives are assertively defined in organizational growth these days. Any person willing to achieve something in life must know how to write SMART objectives.