What is the SMART Criteria?

SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic and Time Related and is most often used to guide the setting of objectives and goals.

The principal advantage of using the SMART criteria when creating outcomes, objectives and goals is that it adds clarity. This means that they incorporate all of the necessary criteria required to help focus efforts, thereby increasing the chances of achieving them.

There are many variations of the SMART acronym. This creates confusion and unnecessary complexity which makes it difficult to apply in a consistent manner.  For the sake of clarity and simplicity, we will stick to the original definition that was created by George T Doran in 1981:

Specific – Goals that are specific have a significantly greater chance of being accomplished so it is important to set a clear, unambiguous outcome that everyone understands.

Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress with regard to achieving your goal.  To make a goal measurable, ask yourself: How do I know if I have reached my goal?  What is my indicator of progress?

Assignable – specify who will be responsible for achieving it.

Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources and time. A SMART goal is likely realistic if you believe that it can be accomplished. Ask yourself: Is the goal realistic and within reach? Is the goal reachable, given the time and resources? Are you able to commit to achieving the goal?

Time related – A SMART goal must be time-bound in that it has a start and finish date. If the goal is not time-constrained, there will be no sense of urgency and, therefore, less motivation to achieve the goal. Ask yourself: Does my goal have a deadline? By when do you want to achieve your goal?

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