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S.M.A.R.T Goals: How to Set Effective Goals


If you're bored and feeling lazy, one of the most productive things you can do is set yourself some goals. It requires very little energy and can be done with just a paper and pen.

As the great American writer Bill Copeland once said, "The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score".

S.M.A.R.T Goals

He could not have said it any better. If you've got high aspirations and ambitions then it's going to be incredibly hard to meet those aspirations without any concrete goals. 

How to Set Effective Goals

Pablo Picasso best highlighted the importance of setting effective goals by stating "our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” 

Therefore, it's incredibly important to know how to set proper goals. One popular strategy is the S.M.A.R.T method. S.M.A.R.T is an acronym for all the criteria your goals must meet in order to be deemed effective. The meaning of the acronym is explained below:

Make sure your goals are Specific

The S in S.M.A.R.T is for specific. It's incredibly important that when you set your goals, you're making them as specific and as detailed as possible. You should have a clear vision of what it is you're setting out to accomplish. 

The reason why it's so important to be specific is if you don't have a clear idea of what you want to achieve, we can get distracted and waste our efforts due to not knowing exactly what it is that you're trying to do. Without a specific goal, often we end up just wasting our own time and energy.

For example, a popular yet pointless goal is wanting to get in better shape. The reason why it's pointless is because it has no real meaning, it's just going to have you working out aimlessly. 

Setting Effective Goals

Before setting a goal like this, you need to work out the following:

  • What sort of shape are you trying to get in. I.e. are you trying to put on some muscle or lose some fat
  • What does the end goal look like / How do you know when you've achieved your goal
  • How are you going to go about getting in better shape

For example, my own goal is to put on 20lbs of fat and muscle within the next 5 months. As it's specific, I know exactly what needs to be done to achieve my goal. 

Make sure your goals are Measurable 

Next, the M in S.M.A.R.T is for measurable. In order for your goals to be deemed effective, they need to be measurable. This means you should be able to track your progress when working towards your goals.

Make sure your goals are measurable

There are many reasons why you should ensure your goals are measurable, some of the benefits include:

  • Looking back at how much you've accomplished can be incredibly motivational and empower you to keep pushing on.
  • It gives you an idea on how much you have left to achieve before your deadline
  • Measurable goals give you an idea of whether you're on the right track. You can compare how much you've achieved with your goal and if you're not on the right path, you can change up your approach. 

Back to my own goal of putting on weight. Because I've stated exactly how much weight I want to put on, i can easily track my progress and know whether I'm on the right track. If I'm not where I should be then I can change up my approach. On the flip side, if my progress is good then i can keep doing what I'm doing and know that I'm on track to achieve my goal. 

Make sure your goals are Attainable

The A in S.M.A.R.T is for Attainable. It is essential that you ensure your goals are attainable; if the goals you're setting for yourself are unattainable, all you're doing is wasting your own time and effort. 

Furthermore, it can be damaging psychologically to set unattainable goals. This is because you're setting yourself up for failure and it can be crushing to not achieve something that your worked so hard on. 

Stressed out over not achieving goals

Other benefits of ensuring your goals are attainable include:

  • You can have confidence in the fact that your efforts are going to help you to achieve your goals
  • You don't burn yourself out. There's a very fine line between going the extra mile and burning yourself out. By making sure you're goals are attainable, you can avoid suffering from a burn out.
  • You know that you have enough time in your schedule to achieve your goals as you've already ensured that they are attainable

If i had set a goal of putting on 40lbs of muscle in a year, all i would be doing is setting myself up for failure and disappointment. This is because our bodies are only able to put on around a maximum of 20-25lbs of muscle in a year, therefore my goal would be unattainable. 

Make sure your goals are Relevant

Next, the R in S.M.A.R.T is for relevant. For your goals to be deemed effective, you need to ensure that your goals are relevant. This means not setting a large array of goals; it may feel incredible to set a 100 new goals for your life but all you're really doing is spreading yourself thin.

Make sure your goals are attainable

By setting only a select few amount of goals which really mean something to you, you're able to properly focus your time and effort into these goals and therefore you're more likely to achieve them.

To ensure that your goals are relevant, you need to be asking yourself the following questions:

  • Does the goal seem worthwhile?  I.e. does the benefits of achieving the goal outweigh the sacrifices needed
  • Is this the right time in your life to be setting out to achieve this particular goal
  • Do you have the time and effort required available to achieve this goal ?

Back to my example of putting on some weight. If this goal was out of alignment with my own desires, then i would happen to run out of motivation very quickly and never achieve my goal. Therefore, it is incredibly important that your goals are worthwhile to you!

Make sure your goals are Time Bound

Lastly, the T in S.M.A.R.T is for Time Bound. The final step in making your goals as effective as possible is ensuring that they are time bound. Doing this is simple, all you need to do is state exactly when you want to achieve your goal by.

The main reason why you should ensure your goals are time bound is because it prevents you from delaying your own progress and procrastinating. By setting a deadline, you're giving yourself a sense of urgency to achieve your goals.

Make sure your goals are time bound

Other benefits of ensuring your goals are time bound include:

  • It gives priority to your goals over meaningless tasks since there's a deadline for them
  • Ensures that every day is meaningful in the days coming up to your deadline
  • Puts some positive pressure on you, therefore increases your focus

By making sure your goals meet all of these criteria, you're productivity and rate of achievements should go through the roof!


I hope that this guide on effective goal setting will inspire you to start setting your own goals; remember to make sure it follows the S.M.A.R.T criteria so that you can increase the likelihood of you achieving your goal!


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