A Simple Way to Use SMART & Complete Your Plans

A Simple Way to Use SMART & Complete Your Plans

December 26, 2019   - 

What is SMART?

The SMART acronym has been around for a while. Organizations and individuals have been using the framework to construct plans of various sizes and types. First, let's define the acronym. Second, we will expand from just creating SMART goals to other types of plans and how to use it when measuring the tasks you are working on. Before we get started, you have homework. Understand what your position is in the various roles in your life.

If you are a member of an organization, where does your organization fit in the marketplace? Are there any opportunities that you can or should take advantage of? Is there anything broken? Is there something that you are doing very well that can be tweaked? If you are an organization of one, is your vision meeting your reality? Where are the gaps? Are you accomplishing the things you want to do along with the things you have to do?

[Simple] SMART Examples

  • Increase region 1 sales 14% by the end of the first quarter.
  • Reduce delivery times by 16 hours by the end of the year.
  • Receive an undergraduate degree and complete MCAT to learn how to become a neurosurgeon.


Being able to understand and explain what you are trying to accomplish is powerful. Even the most complexed goal should be stated so you and others can both articulate and execute the goal.

Examine Our Examples

All three pass the test of being specific. If you were to pick any of the three as a goal to work on both you and others could see and understand what they should do.


Removing ambiguity will increase the focus needed to get across the finish line.


Defines the destination of where you are going. I know that sounds like an oversimplification, but it's true. This constraint defines the measure of success of what you need to accomplish.

Examine Our Examples

Two of the examples have numbers explicitly associated with them and one does not, but each has a measurement of completion. The most important thing to remember here is that having a "target".

  • Increase region 1 sales 14%
  • Reduce delivery times by 16 hours
  • Receive an undergraduate degree and complete MCAT


Is what you are you trying to accomplish within your ability, or all you willing to gain the skills, resources, etc. to accomplish it? If yes, proceed. If no, stop do not pass go.

Examine Our Examples

With the first two examples, we can assume that although they are stretching our abilities, they are definitely within reach. The third is an example of being committed to the long game, which may require more review.


Considering all of your commitments, how relevant is this? If it is not, then there are two options at your disposal - save it for later or delete it. Being able to understand and weigh your commitments honestly and quickly is an important self-leadership skill. It also provides the added benefit of knowing when to say "No" to others and yourself by not taking on more than you can handle.


Where needed add a target date. I have found success in only adding these dates when the situation calls for it.

Examine Our Examples

Two examples have a defined end date and one does not. Both are correct. "Receive an undergraduate degree and complete MCAT", IMO is still a SMART plan, while it excludes the element of time. Being able to focus on and accomplish what will help you grow is most important.

SMART Planning

I am sure that you may have noticed that I did not describe the examples above as smart goals. The reason for that is simple. SMART is a framework, not just an acronym. And like any good framework, we can use it in different places if the principles are correct, as the use of agile in different industries.


A goal is a plan that changes an individual or organization for the better. People define goals in different ways and group them in one of two categories (short-term and long-term). A simpler and more practical definition of a goal is - any plan that changes and individual or organization for the better. Oh, the categories (short-term and long-term) are not all that important.

Objectives/Performance Objectives

Performance objectives help you to keep the lights on. [Performance] Objectives are one of my favorite types of plans since they embody the elusive habit of "be proactive". They are not goals. Let's explore that a little. As a student, employer, employee, or team member, your role at the moment may not be connected to your goals. But you may have several responsibilities associated with the role. By defining performance objectives you can get in front of grades, performance reviews, etc. Simply put, creating performance objectives keep the lights on. Translation, creating and completing performance objectives help you be successful in your current role and reap the benefits (pass the current school year, keep your job, etc.).

Examples of Smart Objectives:

  • Get a "B" in biology class this semester
  • Hire 4 Flutter developers by the end of the 3rd quarter
  • Improve ordering process to accommodate the 15% increase in the quarterly budget
  • Train and coach the two new volunteers on administrative duties in the organization


Test and refine your project to make sure it is SMART. Projects are the one use plan. They can include product launches, home renovations, etc., but that does not mean that SMART does not apply to them. Taking the time to run them against the litmus test of being specific, measurable, attainable, and time-bound will pay dividends.


Applying SMART to your tasks can give you an extra edge. Typically, one off-items, but when you ask yourself if tasks are SMART, it is a real game-changer. Not having clarity into what needs to be accomplished is one reason most tasks sit incomplete. If you look through your current to-do list and you might salvage some of your productivity.