What are SMART goals and how do I write them?

SMART criteria is a goal setting technique that can help you set effective goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.


  • Specific: The first principle focuses on the power of a specific goal over a more general one. This means the goal is clear and unmistakable. Specific goals answers the "five Ws": What do you want to accomplish? Why (what are the reasons and benefits)? Who is involved? Where (if location is important)? Which (requirements and constraints)?
  • Measurable: The second principle stresses the need for goals to be quantifiable. If a goal cannot be measured, how will you know if you're making progress? How will you know if you've achieved it?
  • Attainable: The third principle focuses on the importance of making goals that are realistic and achievable. The idea is that unattainable goals -- goals that everyone agrees are clearly out of reach -- are highly demotivating. This is where SMART goals and OKRs really separate themselves. OKRs tend to be much more aspirational and aggressive.
  • Relevant: The fourth principle focuses on setting goals that matter. A goal to train and complete your first marathon may be specific, measurable, attainable and time-bound but lacks relevance. Goals that are in alignment with the organization's strategy -- goals that drive the team, department, and organization forward -- would be considered relevant. 
  • Time-bound: The fifth principle focuses on the power of setting a due date for a goal. Committing to a deadline creates a sense of urgency and prevents goals from getting overtaken by the small fires that inevitably arise in every organization. 

The SMART model is a great way to ensure you've written a high-quality goal.