Scott Postma

A blog about the Great Books, the Craft of Writing, and Human Flourishing.

Are Your Objectives SMART Enough?

Most organizations (and lots of people) have a mission statement to communicate their reason for existing and to keep them steered in the right direction.

They should also have short-term and long-term objectives as well. These are goals to strive for and achieve, like way points in the organization’s journey that fit within the framework of its values and mission.

But an organization’s objectives will not be reached, and they will fail to be effective in guiding the organization to success, if they are not SMART.

SMART goals are by no means novel. But they’re worth reviewing since so many people and organizations are reviewing and implementing their personal, professional, and spiritual objectives for the New Year.

SMART objectives are Specific. Nebulous goals like, “One day I’m going to going to start my own business,” or “This year our church is going to grow” will always remain in the future and out of reach. Objectives need to be as specific as possible. Something like, “In 2014, I’m going to lose 25 lbs. by joining a gym and hiring a personal trainer/nutritionist to help me develop a menu and exercise regimen” is much more specific. You know exactly what you want to accomplish and how you propose to accomplish it. It doesn’t matter if it morphs a little along the way. The key is that it is specific.

SMART objectives are Measurable. In the previous example, saying “One day I’m going to going to start my own business,” has no measurable quality to it. Of course, not everything valuable in life, like love or satisfaction, is perfectly measurable, but setting objectives that are measurable often produce the unmeasurable goals we want to achieve. Making objectives measurable provide assessment points along the way. For example, “In 2014, I’m going to lose 25 lbs. by joining a gym and…” could be modified to say, “In 2014, I’m going to lose approximately 2 lbs. per month for a total of 25 lbs. by going to the gym 5 days a week and following the dietitian’s eating regimen.” There are measurable qualities to this last statement because you can log your days, your weight and your diet. This allows you to make adjustments along the way when it’s necessary.

SMART objectives are Achievable. Achievable goals are just that. If you are deep in debt, getting the capital and resources you need to start a business may not be achievable. If you set a specific goal of inviting 1000 people to church in 2014 but there are only 500 people in your town, that would not be an achievable objective. If you want to lose 25 lbs. but are only 10 lbs. overweight, that would not be achievable. There’s nothing wrong with setting big goals and dreaming big dreams–that’s encouraged!–but you need to do your homework before establishing objectives.

SMART objectives are Realistic. This is related to having achievable objectives, but it focuses on your abilities and resources rather than the market or your constituents. Do you have the resources to accomplish your objectives? Are the objectives realistic in the sense that they are reasonable? For example, losing 25 lbs. or starting a business in a year is realistic. Losing 100 lbs., or becoming independently wealthy in a year probably is not.

SMART objectives are Time-oriented. Time-oriented means your objectives are time-activated and time-terminated. You have established start dates and deadlines. Starting a business is a big endeavor that requires a multitude of smaller projects that each needs to be broken into smaller tasks. Losing weight, writing a book, or growing the church’s reach and influence is the same. Breaking down the objectives into tasks that are placed on the calendar to be initiated and achieved at a specific time is how you make your objectives time-oriented.

When we make our objectives SMART we can be successful in any endeavor. But when we let them stay DUMB (Dim, Unrealistic, Morphing, Banal) they tend to make fools out of us. And certainly none of us want to be slogging along again next year looking up blogs on reaching goals and setting objectives wondering if we’ll ever get that business off the ground or the weight off our thighs, answering to people who keep asking, “I thought you said you were going to…”

What are your SMART objectives? I would love to hear about them in the comments? What have some of your DUMB objectives been and how did you learn from them?

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About Scott Postma

Scott is a writer and teacher living in North Idaho. He loves teaching the Great Books, writing and blogging, and collecting more books than he'll ever read in a lifetime. You can subscribe to the tribe and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.

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6 Replies

  1. Loved this post! I think too many times, I get into the rut of working hard on dumb things. Good way to put workflow into perspsective.

    1. I’ve had lots of ‘dumb’ goals over the years. It’s frustrating to waste time in a rut, for sure. Thanks for stopping by, Josh!

  2. Wonderful article! We walked a similar path regarding SMART goals. I just competed an article for the New Year. It’s a great time to set goals and this system is a great way to insure success.
    Thanks for sharing your talents with us! Ah – I found you through the My500Words challenge.

    1. Tony, glad to meet you. I just found the My500Words blog list. Lots to explore. Thanks for reading. Have a great New Year!

  3. Ricardo, yes, you’re right. Smaller, achievable tasks are the way to accomplish big tasks in the long run. Good luck with your new business, and Happy New Year!

  4. I definitely agree that the more specific you are about your goals, the more likely you are to actually accomplish them.

    I soft-launched my new business last month. I got there by breaking things down into smaller, achievable tasks that I could work towards accomplishing daily.

    It’s when you have a big picture goal that things get overwhelming. You don’t know where to start, you don’t know what to work on next… Next thing you know, you haven’t made any progress.