Writing SMART Goals

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The term "SMART goals" was coined by in 1954. Since then, SMART goals have become popular with business managers, educators and others because they work. The late management guru Peter F. Drucker developed the concept.


Drucker was a management consultant, professor and the author of 39 books. He influenced many top executives in his long career. Management by objectives was one of his primary business theories. Effectiveness, he said, is the foundation of business, and the way to achieve it is to gain agreement between management and employees on the business's objectives.

In 2002, Drucker received the highest civilian honor in the U.S.—the Medal of Freedom. He died in 2005 at age 95. Instead of creating a Drucker legacy from his archives, Drucker's family decided to look forward instead of backward, and they gathered distinguished business people to form The Drucker Institute.

"Their mandate," states the institute's website, "was to transform the archival repository into a social enterprise whose purpose is to strengthen society by igniting effective, responsible and joyful management." Though Drucker was for years a successful business professor at Claremont Graduate University, the institute helped to show how his management ideas—including SMART goals—could be applied to other areas, such as public and adult education.

Goals for Success

If you have been to a business management class, you have likely have learned how to write goals and objectives in Drucker's way: SMART. If you haven't heard about Drucker, you are in for a treat that will help you achieve what you want and be more successful, whether you are a teacher trying to help your students achieve, an adult learner or a person who seeks to achieve your dreams.

SMART goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

Writing SMART Goals

Writing SMART goals for yourself or your students is a simple process if you understand the acronym and how to apply the steps it prescribed, as follows:

  1. "S" stands for specific. Make your goal or objective as specific as possible. Say exactly what you want to achieve in clear, concise words.
  2. "M" stands for measurable. Include a unit of measure in your goal. Be objective rather than subjective. When will your goal be achieved? How will you know it has been achieved?
  3. "A" stands for achievable. Be realistic. Ensure that your goal is feasible in terms of the resources available to you.
  4. "R" stands for realistic. Focus on the end results you desire rather than the activities necessary to get there. You want to grow personally, so reach for your goal—but be reasonable or you'll set yourself up for disappointment.
  5. "T" stands for time-bound. Give yourself a deadline within a year. Include a timeframe such as a week, month or year, and include a specific date if possible.

Examples and Variations

A few examples of properly written SMART goals might be helpful here:

  • Research tuition reimbursement and enroll in a degree program before the next employee review period.
  • Complete a continuing education course in using spreadsheet software by June 1.

You will sometimes see SMART with two As—as in SMAART. In that case, the first A stands for attainable and the second for action-oriented. This is just another way to encourage you to write goals in a way that inspires you to actually make them happen. As with any good writing, craft your goal or objective in an active, rather than passive, voice. Use an action verb near the beginning of the sentence, and ensure that your goal is stated in terms you can actually attain. As you achieve each goal, you will be capable of more, and in that way, grow.

Personal development is often one of the first things to get deleted from the priority list when life gets hectic. Give your personal goals and objectives a fighting chance by writing them down. Make them SMART, and you'll have a much better chance of attaining them.

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Your Citation
Peterson, Deb. "Writing SMART Goals." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/how-do-i-write-smart-goals-31493. Peterson, Deb. (2023, April 5). Writing SMART Goals. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/how-do-i-write-smart-goals-31493 Peterson, Deb. "Writing SMART Goals." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-do-i-write-smart-goals-31493 (accessed June 5, 2023).