SMART Goals - a fun look at a goal setting acronym

SMART Goals - Setting & DefiningIn the last post on goal setting, we looked at how to identify goals for all areas of your life. I firmly believe that if you did nothing more than write those goals down, you'll be exponentially more effective at accomplishing them.

S.M.A.R.T. Goals Explained

But you can speed up the process by creating a road map for each goal you want to accomplish. One of the most common ways to teach the components of effective goal setting is using the acronym S.M.A.R.T.:

  • Specific: Get really specific about what you want to accomplish. A vague "earn more money" isn't enough. How much? By when?
  • Measurable: How will you measure this? By gross income? Net income? Volume of sales?
  • Achievable: You may want to raise $1,000,000, but is that really achievable? All goals should stretch you. But SMART goals are designed to help you make achievable steps rather than miraculous leaps.
  • Results oriented: Focus on results. Enough said.
  • Timely: When is the goal to be accomplished? How regularly will you check in on the goal?

Variations on the SMART Acronym

Years ago, I came across this fun information from my friend Sara Hurd.

  • S Specific | Simple | Single
  • M Measurable | Meaningful
  • A Achievable | Acceptable | Attainable | Actionable | Action-oriented | Adjustable | As-if-now | Agreed | Action plan | Achieved
  • R Relevant | Realistic | Reachable | Rewarding | Results-oriented
    Result-based | Reasonable
  • T Time-dimensioned | Time frame | Tangible | Trackable | Time-boxed | Timely | Time-sensitive | Time-stamped | Time-bound | Time-based | Timed
    Time-dated | Timetable | Time

Robert Rubin, Assistant Professor of Management at DePaul University, found the following additional variations in his research:

  • S Specific with a stretch | Sensible | Significant
  • M Motivating
  • A Accountable | Agreed-upon | Assignable
  • R Reviewable | Relative | Relevant to a mission
  • T Timelines | Time-specific | Time-scaled | Time-constrained | Time-phased | Time-limited | Time-driven | Time-related | Time and toward what you want

Sara also found people advocating SMARTER goals:
E- Extending (the goal should stretch the performer’s capabilities) and R - Rewarding
OR E– Evaluate and R – Re-do
OR E – Evaluate and R– Review
OR E – Exclusive and R– Representative

Creating a Road Map for Completing Your Goals

In the "roadmap" worksheet I created for my MagnetGoals, I list a number of factors to consider in accomplishing a goal: create specific steps with dates, consider obstacles that might occur, list people and resources that will help you accomplish the steps and overcome the obstacles.

In my experience, the last field on the page is the most important, the field to list your coach or accountability partner. Having an executive coach or trusted accountability partner has been the most important factor in helping me accomplish my goals. Knowing they're going to ask me about specific steps to my goals is incredibly motivating, reminding me to take action!

How about you? How do you set goals effectively? Let us know in the comments!


Want more on effective goal setting? Sign up for the free MagnetGoals Workbook at

About Marc A. Pitman

Marc A. Pitman is the CEO of The Concord Leadership Group, the author of Ask Without Fear! and director of The Nonprofit Academy. A coach to leaders around the world, Marc's expertise and enthusiasm engages audiences and has caught the attention of media organizations as diverse as Al Jazeera and Fox News. Marc’s experience also includes pastoring a Vineyard church, managing a gubernatorial campaign, and teaching internet marketing and fundraising at colleges and universities. He is the husband to his best friend and the father of three amazing kids. And if you drive by him on the road, he’ll be singing 80’s tunes loud enough to embarrass his family! You can connect with him on Google+, on Twitter @marcapitman, and like "Ask Without Fear!" on Facebook.
To get his free ebook on 21 ways to get board members engaged with fundraising, go to


  1. Nice to see we agree on importance of being SMART 😉

  2. Great post!

    For tracking and setting SMART goals, you may want to check out, a very nicely built web app designed for tracking goals and todo lists, and supports time tracking too. It's clear, focused, easy to navigate, worth a try.

What would you add?