Set a SMART goal

January arrives with the time of the resolutions: to do more sport, to spend more time with the family and the friends. In this article, I propose you to review the basics to define an objective, and reassess the different criteria to set good goals. Indeed the best way to achieve its goals is to have them well defined … The simplest technique is the SMART objective.

An objective must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed. In the SMARTEN-UP model, we can add 4 adjectives to question the validity of the objective and confirm ones capacity and motivation to achieve the objective:

  • Enthusiastic: Am I enthusiastic about moving towards this goal, does the road that separates me from it inspires me?
  • Natural: is this my goal? Did I choose it for me? Am I under external pressure to reach it?
  • Understood: Did I share my goal with a loved one, what does he/she think? Does he/she agree? Will he/she support me? Did he/she understand why I chose it?
  • Prepared: Am I ready to receive criticism? Do I have a plan B?

To implement the definition of a SMART goal, I propose to work with this objective:

Treat my emails faster and spend less time there.

This formulation (fairly conventional) of an objective does not give me the means to achieve it because it lacks precision.


The goal must be specific. That is to say, it concerns a subject, a project, a person, a team. In the example, the goal concerns me personally, it is related to my work and concerns specifically one of the tools that I use every day: emails.


One of the lean mottoes is that you can only improve what you measure. Indeed, how can I evaluate if I process my emails faster, without knowing the current response time? And when do I stop, should I reply to my emails within one minute of receiving them? For my example, I could choose to respond in 24 hours and not spend more than two hours a day processing and following-up emails. These figures are to be evaluated according to the volume of e-mail that I process, the other options available to me (telephone, meetings, …) and the urgency of the work I do.

Acceptable or Attractive

If the goal is set for a team or a third party, it must be accepted by the other party. It also applies to me: if I set a goal while stressed, it’s a safe bet that I will not reach it. How to accept a goal? By making it attractive: it is easier to achieve positive objectives than negative ones. It’s all about vocabulary. Which objective do you prefer:

  • reduce the time spent processing emails by 15 minutes per day
  • earn 15 minutes a day on my emails to walk outside


Setting goals requires getting to know each other well or knowing the person or team well. The goals must be realistic and consistent with my strengths and weaknesses. If my goal is too easy to achieve, I will not be satisfied, if it is too high, I may be discouraged before reaching it. In most cases, the goal is too ambitious. It can be helpful to split the goal into sub-goals with steps. I can see my progress, or the team can measure progress and get goals at each stage. In my example, I could cut my objective in half. As I am overloaded, I will first tackle the time that I spend every day on my emails. When I achieve this goal, I will see how to respond in a shorter time. It’s impossible to do everything right away.


To finalize the SMART goal, you have to set a limit: when do I want to reach my goal: in a month, six months, a year? Otherwise, there is a good chance that the goal will be the same in 2014

My SMART goal-example

I’ll be set aside time for work by limiting time spent on my email to two hours a day by May 15th. Then I will improve the satisfaction of my customers by responding in 24 hours to their messages for October 15th.

Don’t forget to celebrate your success!

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