Smart goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely)

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This article will cast a light on a management tool which is called SMART. SMART is a tool used by managers or regular persons. To make their goals realistic and achievable. SMART - Goals is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. [1]

All five different points are the most critical parameters that you must consider when starting a project. SMART goals help stay focused and motivated with a clear guideline and small milestones. However, reservations for the tool may be different from project to project. Since everything that is achievable, e.g. is not measurable.

SMART goals are not only for business but also in one's personal everyday life if one has set oneself a goal that must be achievable within a given time. Such as learning a new language, losing a few pounds or something completely third.

SMART goals have over 288 combinations, and the list is still going. Which makes the tool universal for goal setting in various areas of life:

  • Family and home
  • Financial and Career
  • Spritual and Ethical
  • Physical and Health
  • Social and Cultural
  • Mental and Educational [2]

This article will showcase how you can use the "SMART – Goals" tool and how it can help your project.

What does SMART stand for?

illustration of Smart goals.

Smart goals were developed by George Doran, Arthur Miller and James Cunningham back in 1981, where they wrote an article "There's a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management goals and objectives."

Doran has experienced project managers who quickly got confused by the things they read from the books and heard from the various seminars. Therefore, he has made it useful for those individuals. When they have a goal, they need to think about SMART abbreviation.

The SMART tool can be interpreted in many ways, as used in several contexts, both professionally and personally. Doran, therefore, believed that the goal of all companies should be:

  • Specific: Optimize in a specific targeted area. [3]
  • Measurable: measurable progress or indication of progress. [4]
  • Achievable: One must be aware of why one wants to achieve it.[5]
  • Relevant: Do you have the necessary resources or teams to achieve the goal? [6]
  • Timely: Have a specific deadline for when the goal should be achieved.[7]

Doran has been very flexible with his tool. The points mentioned above are just examples of how SMART can be used.
In addition, Doran has emphasized that not all goals involve all five criteria, but Doran still points out that the more that the requirements could be achieved, the clearer would be one's goal. Back in 2002, Robert Rubin wrote an article, "Will the real SMART goals, please stand up", which is a line from Eminem's song "slim shady", which is used to emphasize that SMART goals have changed over time.

The most commonly used SMART definition is the one written above (Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant & Timely). Smart can thus also be responsible for the following:

  • S - Specific, Strategic, simply, Stretching, significant [8]
  • M - Measurable, motivating, meaningful, manageable [9]
  • A - Achievable, agreed upon, acceptable, attainable, ambitios, action-oriented [10]
  • R - Reason, Reward, Realistic, Relevant, result-oriented [11]
  • T - True, Timely or time bond. [12]

This is one of the reasons why SMART goals have grown among people. SMART goals provide flexibility to the individual and thus personalize their goals and motivation.

How to apply this method

Smart worksheet.

There are several templates online where you can make use of the Smart tool.

In previous Sections, I have told briefly about what the individual points entail. Specific: as written earlier, it is crucial to have a specific and be aware of what you want to achieve.

S - Specific

With a specific goal, it is easier to stay focused and motivated. Under this point, one must, therefore, ask oneself W-questions. What is the reason for wanting to achieve it? Who do you need help to achieve that goal? and one of the most essential issues is What do you want to achieve? Here you have to go into detail and be specific to yourself and your project group so that everyone has a common goal.

An example within this point could be:

You are a newly started independent company of 5 men. The goal and desire are to be 25 employees within the next five years. As the current location and layout can not accommodate 25 employees. A specific goal may therefore be to furnish and have a new office building built that complies with the building regulations' new criteria in five years.

M - Measurable

Measurable, Here, you define when you are done. That is when one has achieved a specific goal. If you do not know when you are finished, then you will continue until you lie with your head down on the table, without any sense of when you are done. Without a goal or milestone, you are more likely to lack your work and requirements, to say you are finished. The most important thing is to set up some measurable criteria, even if it is personal.
Having measurable goals is essential for feeling progress. It boosts both one's motivation and creates focus. It is necessary to ask yourself and the group: How will one measure one's goals? What do you need? And last but not least, When is the goal achieved?

An example within this point could be:

To be a department head, you want to be able to do that. You have to acquire various skills, including having some specific courses to get the necessary experience within six years.

A - Achievable

Once you have stated some measurable criteria, you move on to the next question: Attractive or Achievable, Here you answer why you want to achieve the goal, what motivates you. The motivation and the reason why one wants to achieve the specific goal must be clarified. Therefore, it is vital to be aware and find the cause in oneself. It is therefore not enough to do it because others say you have to do it, such as your boss, as it will lack the quality and motivation to get up early in the morning.

An example within this point could be:

you need to be critical to your own goals, if it achieavable. to do that you need to ask yourself, is it realistic to have 20 new employes and a new office building for all your new employes, within in the next five years? If you think its sound reasonable, then you can continue with your goal settings. If not then you will have to rethink your goals and make it realistic and achievable.

R - Relevant

Realistically or Relevant, you have the resources to achieve your goal. It is vital to set up some realistic parameters. With high motivation, you can quickly become too overambitious and forget the tools and resources you have available. Over time, an overly optimistic mindset will lead you to lose your breath fast and thus lose motivation because your overambitious goals develop into unrealistic goals.

An example within this point could be:

It is important to ask relevant questions to your specific goal. If i want to build an office for my 25 employes, is it the right time? is it worth building one rather than buying or renting one? it might not be relevant under Corona for example. everybody working from home, and the budget is limited.

T - Timely

Timed, when will you be done? When is the deadline? Setting a deadline is something that both of us all look forward to and, at the same time, fear as the time approaches. Achieving the goal by the final deadline, it is essential to set some good milestones. Rather than acknowledging oneself when the final goal has been completed, it is necessary to acknowledge oneself with small milestones. We are motivated when they are recognized and achieve some goals. It leads both a closer to the goal and makes the final goal more realistic by dividing the cake into smaller pieces. There is no reason to start if you don't have set a deadline for your goals. Then you can always postpone it.

An example within this point could be:

Be very clear and realistic when you setting a deadline. Be prepared for every obstacles and try to fix or avoid them. set small milestones of what you need to achieve first to get closer to your final goal.

for example, before starting a project you will first have to get in touch with an architect to define your project, then after contacting an engineer to make all the necessary calculations and details and in the end get in touch with an entrepreneur to build your project.

If you can answer and define all of your SMART questions, then your project will be more clear and succesful.

Was Niels bohr SMART goals?

Be Smart goals.

When we have to talk about a failed project or poor project management, the Niels Bohr building is an exciting topic with lots of different aspects where and how the project failed.
Briefly, about the project, the Niels Bohr building is a laboratory and teaching building of approximately 52,000 m2. The building should accommodate approximately 4,000 students, 800 lecturers, 260 PhD students and 200 administrative staff. [13] The client on the project started with being the Danish Building Authority, with clients advising COWI and total adviser Rambøll. [14] The project began in January 2015 with a budget of 1.6 billion.DKK [15] with an expected end in 2018.
During the project, there have been ongoing errors, insufficient quality assurance and communication, which has led to delays and a bad mood among the team.
Niels Bohr project is handed over from the Danish Building Authority to the Danish Road Directorate In 2018. It happened due to the massive budget slippage. Experts estimated the project would cost up to 80% extra, which corresponds to approximately 4.2 billion. DKK. with a completed task in November 2020. With the unclear management structure and budget exceeded, could it be avoided using the SMART goals tool? Or was the Niels Bohr building SMART? With all that dissatisfaction among the artisans and ambiguity about who the management was? Then I doubt the project was SMART. Even using the SMART goals technique, it could not be known if it would help significantly.
If SMART goals was used, it would have helped clarify, focus, and encourage motivation, which is essential and necessary to achieve specific goals.
One of the biggest mistakes was a lack of understanding and communication among management and stakeholders. Everyone had something to say, and everyone wanted to lead. While the stakeholders could not decide who should lead, the developer was not found during the project, which has given frustrations to the consultants and the contractor.
The Niels Bohr project shows the importance of clear goals and the definition of individual goals. If the stakeholders had the same realistic common goals and achievable goals, there would be a greater chance that the problems would be solved within reasonable limits and thus save a lot of money. As the project was not practised and organized in a structured way, the Niels Bohr building cannot be called SMART goals. [16]


SMART goals are one of the most well-known tools for achieving a goal. Over time, several limitations and disadvantages with the SMART goals tool has then shown.
With a tool that is 40 years old, then it may be time to ask critical questions. Does the SMART model still work?
Is the smart model as efficient as it used to be? mentioned earlier in the article, the SMART model has evolved and changed to over 288 different combinations and abbreviations, which has been an advantage and a disadvantage at the same time.
The massive boom in people's interpretations of the SMART goals tool has obscured the SMART tool's real acronym. Researchers believe that the old SMART goals do not work optimally, as more focus must be on feedback and efficiency. According to the article "will the real SMART goals please stand up" the old SMART model has been added two extra letters. The two letters help to give the name of the new model "SMARTER", Where E stands for "efficiency" and R stands for "rewarding". [17]
The SMART tool is a good model to use in the short term, but SMART goals do not work optimally on long-term plans due to lack of flexibility. According to my SMART model study, the model works better in project management than portfolio management. As the model is not optimal with larger goals, SMART goals will be more useful for project managers.


Mind tools - give you a basic understand of how SMART goals can be used, annnd gives examples

Smart Goal Setting in Physical Therapy - gives you a additional information of SMART goals tools, examples and physical POV

Will the Real SMART Goals Please Stand Up? - is an article by Robert S. Rubin from Saint Louis University, about how SMART tools have change by time, with many new acronym SMART.

licitation - is about the project.

Folketingets statsrevisorerne - is about the budget for the project.

seven problems at Niels Bohr project - the seven most critical problems with the project


  1. [] How to Make Your Goals Achievable
  2. [] Smart Goal Setting in Physical Therapy
  3. [] How to Make Your Goals Achievable
  4. [] How to Make Your Goals Achievable
  5. [] How to Make Your Goals Achievable
  6. [] How to Make Your Goals Achievable
  7. [] How to Make Your Goals Achievable
  8. [] Will the real smart goals stand up
  9. [] Will the real smart goals stand up
  10. [] Will the real smart goals stand up
  11. [] Will the real smart goals stand up
  12. [] Will the real smart goals stand up
  13. [] Information about Niels Bohr
  14. [file:///C:/Users/Ahmet/AppData/Local/Packages/microsoft.windowscommunicationsapps_8wekyb3d8bbwe/LocalState/Files/S0/430/Attachments/Organisationsdiagram%20-%20Grontmij[1112].pdf] organisation of the project
  15. [] Budget of Niels Bohr project
  16. [] seven problems at Niels Bohr project
  17. [] Will the real smart goals stand up
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