Write SMART Goals

Provides step-by-step instructions on how to write Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic, and Timely goals.

Write Smart Goals


Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic, and Timely (SMART) goals were introduced in 1981 by George T. Doran to help managers write goals and objectives. Using this methodology can increase the success of your company.

Note The terms associated with SMART goals acronym may vary to meet your organization's needs. Here we use the most accepted terms.

Performance Reviews includes an employee Goals page, which is used by managers and employees to establish individual goals. These goals can be used in performance reviews. Individual goals, defined as the manager’s or employee's desired end results, are usually established upfront. They direct employees in accomplishing specific tasks to achieve a certain outcome within a given time frame. These goals can be aligned with active corporate goals.

Writing clear goals is important to meet business needs and promote success for your employees, department, and company. Unclear goals may cause confusion with company and departmental priorities. With unclear goals, your team may be unsure about work priorities, how and when work needs to be completed, and how success is measured.

Many organizations use SMART goals during the goal development process. SMART goals provide a clearly-defined direction and an end result that can be accomplished. These goals also spell out the measurement criteria so everyone can tell easily if the goal has been met.


Whether you are writing goals for yourself or writing goals for your employees, goal writing should be a collaborative effort between manager and employee. This collaboration ensures all goals are important to the intended person and align with department initiatives.

SMART Goals Example

SMART goals provide clear guidelines when writing goals to promote success for your employees, department, and company. SMART goals include specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and timely information.

Here is an example of a SMART Goal:

To grow company business, by December 1st I will identify the top five company growth initiatives for next year through gathering last year's data, researching future trends, conducting a SWOT analysis, and facilitating a strategic planning session.


Goals should be written to include specific information. Your goal statement should paint a vivid outcome of what you want to achieve. All specific goal statements must answer who, what, when, why and how. The more specific the goal statement, the more specific the outcome. Once you have written a specific goal, it is more likely to be measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.

Note Create your SMART goals around an achievement and not just a task. For example, to take a course is a task-oriented goal. Instead consider why you want to take the course and write your goal around that motivation. You may find that taking a course is just one step needed to reach a higher, more meaningful achievement.
Question Description Example
Who Identify the person responsible for meeting this goal. In Performance Reviews, enter goals on the employee Goals page, indicating the employee to which the goal is assigned. The employee
What State exactly what you want to achieve. Make sure you have stated an achievement and not a task. Identify the top five company growth initiatives
When Indicate the date this goal should be completed. In Performance Reviews, you can enter start and due dates for each goal. By December 1st
Why Indicate why this goal is important. To grow company business


Include how you plan to achieve these results, including the requirements and constraints. Here is where you can insert the tasks to help you achieve your goal. Gathering last year's data, researching future trends, conducting a SWOT analysis, and facilitating a strategic planning session.


Goals should be written in a way that is measurable. A measurable goal helps you determine when the goal is accomplished. Measurable goals allows you to record progress and identify when the goal has been completed.


To help measure a goal, include milestones to determine if you are on track. Be sure to add the measurable milestones to your goals whenever possible.

Your goal statement should answer the following questions to indicate it is a measurable goal.

Question Description Example
How Many Identifies a numeric frame of reference that can be measured within the goal (for example, 3 days, 500 miles, or 15 employees). five
How Much Identifies a numeric value that can be measured within the goal (for example, 20% or $500.00). five company growth initiatives


Goals are action-oriented when they include actions to move you closer to reaching the goal. If you cannot take action on the goal, then you have no influence on the goal outcome.

In our SMART goal example, the action is to identify the top five company growth initiatives. Some goals may require more than one action. Be sure your statement includes every action needed to reach your goal.


All goals must be realistic. If you set goals that are too high, you won’t be able to reach them. If your goals are set too low, you may not care if you reach them. Also, you may not grow during the process of achieving each goal. Set goals that are within your reach. Goals should be something that must be worked at in order to be achieved. Realistic goals keep you motivated and encourages learning.

Your goal statement should answer the following questions to indicate it is a realistic goal. If you answer "No" to these questions, you may need to adjust your goal statement to ensure it is realistic.

Question Description
Do I have the resources needed to accomplish the goal? Indicates whether or not you have the proper allocation of personnel, programs, or equipment to help you achieve this goal.
Do I have the time needed to reach this goal? Indicates whether or not there is enough time allotted for the achievement of the goal.


All goals must be bound to a specific time frame, so you know when the goal is complete. When goals are not time-bound, the unrelated day-to-day tasks may take a higher priority. To make sure your goal is timely, not only should you set final end dates for your goals, but you should also set dates for the other milestones to help you track your progress.

Your goal statement should answer the following questions to indicate it is a timely goal.

Question Description Example
How much time do I have to reach this goal? Indicates the length of time it takes to achieve the goal. You may have short-term or long-term time frames. If you know it will take a long time to complete a goal, you may want to create milestones to help you stay on track. For example, if you are working on a project that will take two years, write measurable milestones that indicate what should be completed by the end of the first year. One Year
When is the goal due? Indicates the date the goal should be achieved. December 1st

SMART Goals Checklist

Use the following checklist to help you write a SMART goal.

Write your answers in the Entry column after you complete each question:

Goal Must Be... Description Entry
Specific Who? Identify the employee.
What? Identify what you want the employee to achieve (a task is not an achievement).
When? Identify a due date for the goal.
Why? Indicate why this goal is important.
How? Indicate the task that helps you achieve the goal.
Ask yourself the following questions about your goal. Make sure you can answer Yes to each question.
Measurable Does the goal have numeric values for how much or how many?
Attainable Can you reach this goal by taking one or more actions?
Realistic Do you have the time and resources (personnel, programs, or equipment) to help you achieve this goal?
Timely Are there due dates?

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