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A Guide to S.M.A.R.T.E.R Planning

Updated on January 10, 2013

You probably remember a time when you were sat down and told that if you want to be successful, you need to write down your 5, 10, and 15 year goals, and perhaps even your lifetime goals. You may have written something like, “I’m going to graduate from college, get a job making lots of money, marry a swimsuit model, become a millionaire and live in a mansion and drive a red Lamborghini with champagne leather upholstery.”

For many of us, that is the extent of our training in setting goals, so it is no wonder that many of us have given up on goals all-together. As a result, many of us just make it through college, get a job paying the bills, settle down into a starter home with someone special who after the first child or sooner won’t be caught dead in a swimsuit, and bemoan our empty savings account as we commute to work in the family minivan with cheerios crumbs and chocolate milk stains on the upholstery.

Goals like that are like loading the kids up in the minivan and saying, “Today kids, we’re going to Disney World”, then using a brochure of the MagicKingdom as your only guide for getting there!

There is a S.M.A.R.T.E.R. way!

"A Good Plan" by: Jose Villegas y Cordero (1848-1922)
"A Good Plan" by: Jose Villegas y Cordero (1848-1922)


Specify your goal – Be specific

Example: A general goal might be to get in shape. A specific goal would be to join a gym next Monday morning at 6:30 AM and exercise for 45 minutes every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 7:00 AM on a continual basis, to maintain a strong and healthy body. We can be even more specific by stating what activities we will do for exercise, and what performance goals to achieve, such as running a mile in under 5 minutes.

A specific goal is far more likely to be achieved than a general goal. The more specific you can be, the better your chances of achieving your goal.

What does it mean to be specific? A specific goal answers questions like:

  • What exactly do you want to achieve?
  • How will you measure your progress?
  • Where will you be when you are achieving your goal?
  • Why is this goal important to you?
  • What are the benefits of achieving this goal?
  • What milestones will you need to achieve along the way?
  • When will you need to achieve these milestones?
  • When will you achieve your goal


Measurable – Measure your progress.

Example: Our previous example has no way of measuring progress. How will you know when you are in shape, or getting in shape? What shape do you want to be in? The specific example on the other hand has several ways of measuring progress.

1. We either register Monday morning, or we don’t.

2. We are either exercising Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, ore we are not.

3. We set specific times, so we can measure whether we are on time or late.

4. We can measure the length of our workout against our goal.

5. We can measure our progress toward reaching our goal of a 5 minute mile.

Things you can measure include milestones, tasks, time, quantities, etc.

Qualitative and subjective goals may require a little more effort to measure progress and achievement, and if you plan to achieve them, then you must be able to measure them.

Try to find a way to quantify your goals. For instance, if you have a goal of wanting to feel comfortable talking to people about your new product, then you might start with a measurable quantity like saying hi to 10 people per day until you feel comfortable, then you will move to starting a conversation with at least 1 person per day and so forth, so that you break the goal up into logical steps and milestones so that your goal is no longer a subjective and possibly even scary thing but a series of steps of progress.

You want to work for what you do want. Nobody wants to work for what they don’t want. Thinking positively will help you in everyday life so make it a habit!


Affirmation – Write and refer to your goals in a positive way.

It is becoming an increasingly known fact that the thing we focus on expands and magnifies. So if our goals are filled with negativity, for example: "I want to quit smoking", or "I need to lose weight", or, "I'm going to stop being afraid to approach people", then our lives will be become more filled with negativity and it will be more difficult for us to achieve our goals. We will have less satisfaction in our lives due to that negativity.

Since we want our goals to be easier to achieve and bring more happiness into our lives we want to write and state our goals in a positive way so that positive energy expands in our world. This results in a form of validation of ourselves and our goals. So let's fill our lives with positive energy and create positive statements like: “I am a non-smoker”, “I will be my ideal weight by May 1st of this year”, and “I enjoy speaking to new people more every time I do it, so I speak with someone new every day”.


Recorded with Reminders – Write it down or enter it in your PDA.

Any good plan needs to be recorded, written down or entered into a planner or schedule with milestones, reminders and points of decision and follow up. You need to list the steps for accomplishing the goal in complete detail with smaller goals or steps to achieving each part. You need to write your goals out in complete detail, including why it is important to you so that when life gets messy you can remember what you want to achieve, why, and how to do it. The difference between a hope or dream and a goal is the plan.

You can also use one of the many online goal tacking and planning tools now available. Check out these hubs to learn about some of these tools:

The Best Free Online Goal Tracking Tools

The Best Goal Tracking Tools Online


Timeline – When and how frequently will each action occur?

Effective goals always include a timeline.  Not just a “complete by” time but also timelines for the steps and milestones to reach your goal.  This helps us to measure our progress and plan for important events that are crucial for achieving our goals. We should try to chunk our goals down into daily or weekly actions.

Which area of your life do you feel needs more attention?

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Evaluate Your Plan & Priorities

It is very important to evaluate your values and priorities because your goals should be in line with your values and other goals. Any goal that conflicts with values, priorities or other goals is probably doomed for failure. You should also set goals in all areas of your life so that you can be balanced and keep priorities in check. Consider the six areas of life:

  1. Family & Home
  2. Financial & Career
  3. Spiritual & Ethical
  4. Physical & Health
  5. Social & Cultural
  6. Mental & Educational

Here are some valuable questions to help you plan for your goal:

  • What are you willing to do to achieve your goal?
  • What are you not willing to do to achieve your goal?
  • What obstacles do you need to overcome?
  • What knowledge or skills do you need to acquire?
  • What tools and resources can you use to assist you?
  • Which organizations and groups should you associate with?
  • Whose help will you need?
  • Who will be affected by your efforts and achievements?
  • How will they be affected?
  • How will your life be changed?
  • Where are you now?
  • Where will you need to be?

Make sure you make a written record of these questions and answers to help you evaluate goals and keep you on track for achieving your goal.


Review & Revise

Periodically and at the end of each milestone decide whether your goal has been met, needs to be continued or needs to be revised.

  • What went right?
  • What did you learn?
  • Do you need additional resources?
  • Is this goal still in line with your values, priorities and other goals?
  • Have new obstacles arisen?
  • Are you ahead of or behind schedule?
  • What actions need to be taken?
  • What new opportunities and positive results came of your action?

If at first you don't succeed - watch this!

Keep your plans updated based on your progress and new opportunities or obstacles that arise. Stay true to your dreams and values and plan your goals accordingly. Never let complacency, laziness, or difficulty plan for you. Never, never, never give in or give up.

Sometimes when we get to this stage of planning, we find it becomes necessary to modify, postpone, or even discontinue pursuing some goals due to a conflict in priorities, or newly discovered information.

When you plan this way, you can feel good about yourself even when you don’t achieve some of your goals, because you will understand why, and you will be confident knowing that it was to achieve something better. The most wonderful thing is that planning in this way will help you enjoy the happiness of an abundant life full of achievement!

Do you have a goal to create more passive income?

Become a HubPages Author today, writing about things that interest you, and start earning money by creating your own hubs on HubPages.


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    • MakeMoneyGoal profile image

      James Flynn 7 years ago from Edinburgh

      Hi Getting There. I am getting there too!

      Great hub and great content on Goal setting.

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      All the best.

      Jim Flynn

      Goals On Target

    • getting there profile image

      getting there 8 years ago

      Thanks for the feedback SimeyC.

    • SimeyC profile image

      Simon Cook 8 years ago from NJ, USA

      I was taught this method in a 'managing time and setting goals' seminar at work - it's very effective both in work and at home!!! I also like to create a 'bucket list' - which is like a condensed version of this! Great and informative hub! Thanks