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It’s a common experience for everyone to set goals and fail at achieving them. There can be dozens of reasons why things won’t work out and some goals just might not be attainable despite our best efforts.

However, for most people missing the mark is often because of factors such as undefined/improperly defined goals, unwillingness to make the commitment, unrealistic results, and even lost focus.

In other words most of us fail because our goals lack clear plans, and like what was said by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry- a goal without a plan is just a wish.

Setting clear goals should involve methodically breaking down the goals into simple steps, measuring progress and a time frame to carry it all out. In this article we discuss some common smart goal examples you can use in your professional life.

What are SMART goals?

SMART is an acronym that stands for “Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely”. SMART goals deal with every aspect of setting a realistic goal and making an actionable plan that can be measured and completed within a time frame.

It takes the vagueness out of goal setting and replaces it with methodical steps to generate results. SMART goal setting methodology also keeps the steps bite sized and motivates you to work on it without giving up.

Guidelines for setting SMART goals

Setting SMART goals requires you to understand each component in depth so your goal can be clear. Here are the five aspects of SMART goals:

1. What it means to be specific

SMART goals begin with specificity. If you can’t clearly define what you want, you can’t get it. Vague and wishful statements do not constitute goals, your goal has to be clear and concrete.

In professional settings the specificity can be related to growth, building expertise or attaining targets. It answers important questions such as “who?”, “what?”, “when?”, “where?” and “why?”. When these variables are clearly resolved you can begin the goal setting.

Good specificity: Complete building the scale model for display a month before the exhibition.

Poor specificity: Make something amazing for the exhibition.

2. Making your goals measurable

Your goals have to be quantifiable for clear measurement of progress. Without it you won’t know how far you’ve come or how quickly you need to work to maintain deadlines. With proper metrics you can also break up the tasks into manageable chunks and know when you’d reach completion. While some goals have straightforward metrics using clocks or tracking software, other goals can have less tangible metrics. Regardless, it’s essential to come up with metrics of any kind to work towards your goal.

Good metrics example: Increase overall efficiency by 5% and complete 10 extra reports every day.

Poor metrics example: do as many extra reports as possible every day.

3. How to make it achievable

While it’s a good idea to dream big and aim higher, there should be a limit to how lofty of a goal you can set for yourself at any given time to stay practical. The bigger the goal the more challenges to overcome and more likely you are to fail. Lofty goals for the distant can often lead to procrastination in most people. Therefore set achievable goals in the short term to work towards a bigger dream.

Achievable goal example: Increase revenue by 20% over the course of 12 months by onboarding 4 new clients.

Poor goal example: Double revenue by the end of the year.

4. What it means to be relevant

Relevance gives the context for any goal and alignment with the higher purpose of the goal. For instance, if your goal is to build your interpersonal and communication skills, the higher purpose could be better client interaction and better performance as a team-player. Setting personal goals that have no overarching purpose gives you little benefit or even become detrimental in some cases.

Relevant goal: To double revenue in four years through methodical steps.

Poor relevance goal: to double revenue

5. Setting time-bound schedules

No goal can be achieved without setting a time limit. In the absence of a time-frame we tend to procrastinate or not work with the same zeal. Such projects quite often fade away. Time is also an important metric against which progress can be measured. Regardless of how long the goals might take to achieve, it’s important to have a time frame.

Good example of time-setting: To double revenue in four years through methodical steps.

Poor example: to double revenue

10 Examples of professional SMART goal setting

Here are ten great smart goals examples that most people come across in their professional lives:

1. Learn a new technical skill

When it comes to technical skills, the more you know the better it is in terms of prospects. There could be numerous new technical skills in your line of work that can help build your career. Find the most impactful one and work on it.

  • Specify: If working on spreadsheets extensively is what is in your future role, brushing up on Excel or Google Docs is a great idea. Taking up a class that spans 4 months can be highly effective in that regard.
  • Measure: Online courses often have a completion bar for your technical training. As long as you’re on your way to complete on time, you’re doing well.
  • Achievable: taking it up as a course makes learning even easier.
  • Relevance: Your technical skill should be useful in the long run or in your future role.
  • Time: The time limit is 4 months to finish the course and learn new skills.

2. Increase work-life balance

If you’re overworking everyday and losing time spent on family or at home, a SMART goal can be set to improve your work-life balance.

  • Specify: set a goal to reduce your daily work hours by 1 hour and do it for a whole month to see the results. It's a simple but highly specific goal.
  • Measure: You can measure this by how many hours you’ve spent at work and at home with family. You can also measure how much your work efficiency has been altered versus the quality time spent at home. While the latter is subjective, you can observe an improvement in work-life balance if there is any.
  • Achievable: Working long hours doesn’t mean you’re doing your best or most productive work. Sometimes your efficiency can improve if you set shorter timeframes. The goal is achievable as long as it doesn’t affect your performance or finances.
  • Relevance: Efficiency and work-life balance are critical elements to success and fulfillment.
  • Time: You should be seeing results in about a month’s time if it’s working well.

3. Develop time management skills

You can use planners everyday to schedule time for the day, week and month and stick to it for six months to stay on track with time management.

  • Specify: here you look for the type of planners that are most suitable for the desired outcome you’re looking for.
  • Measurable: The more you complete things on time, the better this activity is going for you and the more efficiently you’re managing time. Check off items on your planner and watch progress for weeks.
  • Attainable: The goal is attainable depending on the tasks you have and the type of planner you choose.
  • Relevance: Time management is the essence of success in any project. By managing the days and weeks, you can take care of the months and years.
  • Time: The time period is 6 months to build efficiency and do better than before.

4. Improve public speaking skills

If you often use filler words such as “uhh” and “umm” it can become a distraction during presentations. Shedding unnecessary movement and fidgeting can also improve your public speaking.

  • Specific: Sound clear and confident by eliminating filler words and fidgeting. Attain good speech in 6 months.
  • Measure: Count filler words and fidgeting for every two minutes of speech. Record practice sessions or speak in front of family and friends. Reduce filler words or fidgeting to one in 5 minutes.
  • Attainable: With enough practice it’s an attainable goal.
  • Relevance: Reducing distractions can make you sound impressive to the audience and also maintain their attention.
  • Time: In 6 months your practice should make you a better public speaker.

5. Grow client base

A good goal can be to add 5 new businesses to your client base by the end of the year. To pull it off you can spend one hour on cold calling every day. You can also attend professional meets in your industries and make 3 new contacts at the least.

  • Specify: Spend one hour cold calling and generating leads and also meet 3 new people at events.
  • Measure: Number of calls and leads generated can work as a yardstick.
  • Attainable: While the final number of leads can vary, it is possible to hit all the measurable goals.
  • Relevance: Adding new clients is essential for business and your bottom line as a sales rep.
  • Time: In one year you need to have 5 or more new clients.

6. Improve mental clarity and focus

Mental clarity and focus can be lost because of poor sleep, stress, poor diet or a combination of all the factors. If you are aware of which factors are disturbing your clarity, it is possible to set a SMART goal to improve it.

  • Specify: I will sleep for 7 hours every day and exercise for one hour in the evening to reduce stress and improve sleep. Ex: One hour of gentle exercise at 6 pm, go to bed before 11, and wake up early at 6am.
  • Measure: While mental clarity and focus is subjective and vary throughout the day, sleeping regularly can bring about noticeable changes. With better clarity you make fewer mistakes and get work done sooner. You will also feel better throughout the day with elevated mood and concentration. These results can be recorded on a calendar as measurement.
  • Achievability: The goal is achievable unless you have a sleep disorder.
  • Relevance: Mental clarity and focus is the key to professional performance.
  • Time: Depending on your schedules, you can give yourself two to six months to achieve the goal.

7. Build professional network

One of the best ways to build a professional network is to interact with more people at work-related casual gatherings. There’s room to set SMART goals here.

  • Specify: I will interact with six new people at ever professional/casual business gathering over the next 8 months.
  • Measure: The number to hit is at least 6. Over 8 months it could become 60 if you attend 10 gatherings.
  • Attainable: Unless the gathering has less than 6 people, you should be able to strike up a conversation with 6 new people at an event.
  • Relevant: Building professional networks has benefits both for your organization and you as an individual.
  • Time: With a time frame of 8 months you will have plenty of opportunity to build your network.

8. Increase income, take up freelancing

Freelancing on your extra time is a great way to make some extra money. A goal for this should have you specify what you’ll do and how much.

  • Specify: Take up at least one freelance work each week and improve income by X amount every month.
  • Measure: You can keep track of how many projects you’re taking up as a freelancer and how much extra income that gets you.
  • Achievable: The goal can be achieved by varying your work intake every month until you reach or exceed your desired extra income.
  • Relevance: Freelancing not only gets you the extra cash but also builds your portfolio.
  • Time: Plan it accordingly to manage multiple projects in time.

9. Decrease travel costs

Aim to cut down travel costs for the year by 10% through research into assessing better deals and other cost saving measures.

  • Specify: Spend an hour every week to figure out travel plans for best prices.
  • Measure: Compare the decrease in travel costs to the deals you would have normally chosen. Compared to previous years as well.
  • Achievable: One hour is a reasonable time to spend for the benefits of 10% lowered travel costs.
  • Relevance: If you’re running a business that requires plenty of travel, 10% saving can make a huge difference.
  • Time: One year time frame is a good reference to compare travel savings.

10. Build subject matter expertise

Subject matter expertise is built over time with continuous learning and growth. Expertise is often measured using credentials.

  • Specify: I will take up a one year course on my subject and become certified as a subject matter expert. I will also read two journals a week to stay updated.
  • Measure: Read two journals a week and keep track of your progress on the course website.
  • Attainable: This is an attainable goal.
  • Relevance: Being a subject matter expert improves your work and future prospects.
  • Time: Completion of course takes a year. Beyond that a similar goal can be set to build your knowledge.


These smart goal examples show how easy it can be to set practical targets for professional development. Any new goal can be broken down in a similar fashion and achieved through the SMART method.

You can also go one step further and apply SMART to other areas of life as well!

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