Learn to Work S.M.A.R.T.er – not Harder

Have you ever heard of S.M.A.R.T. goals? If not, today's your lucky day! S.M.A.R.T. is an mnemonic for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. Here's how to start being less busy and more productive by setting – and achieving – S.M.A.R.T. goals.


The first term has to do with the need for a specific goal rather than a more general one. Your goal must be clear and unambiguous.

A specific goal will usually answer the five "W" questions:

  • Who: Who is involved?
  • What: What do I want to accomplish?
  • Where: Identify a location.
  • When: Establish a time frame.
  • Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.

A general goal would be: “Get more clients.” A specific goal, however, would be: “Give monthly seminars at my local churches and community colleges to bring in 20 new clients this year.” Also, state goals as declarations of intention, not items on a wish list: "I will do XYZ" as opposed to "I'd like to do XYZ."


You need to have concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of your goal. If a goal is not measurable, how do you know whether you're making progress towards it? Measuring progress helps you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience the satisfaction of achievement that will spur you on to reach your ultimate goal.

A measurable goal will usually answer questions such as:

  • How much?
  • How many?
  • How will I know when it is accomplished?
  • Remember: if you can't measure it, you can't manage it.


Your goals must be realistic and attainable. "Attainable" does not mean “easy”: your goals should require effort to attain, or they probably aren't worthwhile. Too difficult and you set the stage for failure, but too low sends the message (to yourself and others) that you aren’t very capable. So set the bar high enough for a satisfying achievement! When you identify the goals that are most important to you, you'll begin to figure out ways to achieve them.

An attainable goal will usually answer the question: How can the goal be accomplished?


You need to choose goals that matter. A CDFA's goal to "Paint the kitchen by 6:00 p.m. tomorrow" may be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, and Timely, but lacks Relevance in terms of the CDFA's career. "Contact five divorce lawyers by 2:00 p.m. today" checks all the S.M.A.R.T. boxes.

When met, relevant goals drive you forward. Any goal that supports or is in alignment with other goals would be a relevant goal.

A relevant goal can answer "yes" to these questions:

  • Does this seem worthwhile?
  • Is this the right time?
  • Does this match our other efforts/needs?
  • Are you the right person to achieve this?


You need to assign target dates to your goals. A commitment to a deadline helps you focus your efforts on completion of the goal on or before the due date; a goal without a deadline is just a dream that's unlikely to ever come true. Deadlines help to prevent goals from being overtaken by the day-to-day crises that invariably arise at the workplace and in life.

A timely goal establishes a sense of urgency and will usually answer the question: By when? Timely questions to ask yourself include:

  • What can I do six months from now?
  • What can I do six weeks from now?
  • What can I do today?

If your goal is to bring five new clients into your practice, when do you want to have their signed retainer agreements? Anchor your goal within a timeframe: “My goal is to bring five new clients into my practice by June1st”. Now you can work backwards and see what it would take to bring in those five new clients.

Finally, if you want to add a couple more letters to the S.M.A.R.T. mnemonic, choose "E" and "R" -- for Evaluate and Reevaluate, respectively. Six months (or a year, or five years, whichever is appropriate in terms of your specific goal), evaluate whether your goals are still the same --and if so, how close you are to achieving them. Reevaluate your S.M.A.R.T. goals on a regular basis.

Working S.M.A.R.T.E.R. will help you to achieve your goals in a way that working harder (or longer) never will.

For more help creating your S.M.A.R.T. goals, download the S.M.A.R.T. Goals Worksheet here.