4 Things to Remember That Will Make Setting SMART Goals Easier

You are currently viewing 4 Things to Remember That Will Make Setting SMART Goals Easier

Setting SMART goals means making your goals Specific, Measurable, Ambitious, Realistic, and Time-Bound. But there are some downsides to this system that you need to be aware of.

Looking at these potential stumbling blocks can make it a little bit easier, which will make you more likely to use it to reach your goals.

For success when setting SMART goals, you need to remember a few things about the SMART framework. Keep in mind that it won’t be easy at first, it’s meant to be flexible, the idea began almost 40 years ago and might need some updating, and that you can use lead and lag indicators to cut the amount of time it takes to set SMART goals in half. 

Sometimes we charge forward with an idea, like setting SMART goals, without taking the time to consider the roadblocks that might get in the way. But when we make an effort to recognize what’s stopping us from being successful, we open up the road to achieving things far more easily than we previously thought possible.

This is part of what it means to set realistic goals, which is a component of the SMART framework. In other words, you need to be real with your goals, and also with the experience of setting SMART goals itself.

Word Math

Remember: have in or be able to bring to one’s mind an awareness of (someone or something that one has seen, known, or experienced in the past).

SMART Goals: SMART goals = a set of principles or procedures which provide an essential supporting structure for effective goal-setting.

Easier: achieved without great effort, presenting few difficulties.

We start with:

[Things to] Remember [for] Easier SMART Goals


Have in or be able to bring to one’s mind an awareness of something known that makes creating a set of principles which provides an essential supporting structure for effective goal-setting achieved without great effort, presenting few difficulties.

That’s a little complicated. Let’s switch it up a little bit to make it more clear:

Bring to one’s mind an awareness of knowledge that makes the creation of the essential supporting structure for effective goal-setting achievable without great effort.

And rearranging everything for even more simplicity:

[This article] will teach you what you need to be aware of about SMART goals that will decrease the effort it takes for you to make your own effective goals with this supporting structure.

Now that you’ve got a better understanding of what’s really going on here and how this can benefit you, let’s dive right into these principles!

1. Setting SMART Goals Won’t Be Easy at First, but It Will (Probably) Be Worth It

The SMART goals framework involves using an acronym to help you make better goals and plans to achieve them. Although they’ve changed over time, typically, the letters of SMART stand for something like this:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Ambitious
  • Realistic
  • Time-Bound

This means that every time you set a goal, you need to check these five requirements to see if it meets them if you want it to be SMART. That’s a lot of work for one goal! And you’ll probably want to do it with four or five!

So it’s not easy, and it’s not usually enjoyable. But that’s why most people won’t do it and thus don’t achieve their goals. By using it, however, you will set yourself apart and reach your goals better than anyone else you know.

That’s why it will be worth it to take the time to make sure that your goals are SMART. 

But I’m going to show you a nifty hack you can use to cut this in half and fix this problem in a moment. 

2. SMART Was Made by Managers Who Meant For it to Be Flexible

“It should also be understood that the suggested acronym doesn’t mean that every [goal] written will have all five criteria. However, the closer we get to the SMART criteria as a guideline, the smarter our [goals] will be.” 

– George Doran, who, with his company, created SMART goals

Not every goal has to have all five components of the SMART framework. Some of your most important goals shouldn’t have certain elements of it.

Take your relationship goals, for example. Is there a good way to measure how much your relationship with your wife or son has improved? Of course not, but that shouldn’t stop you from setting a goal that would bring you closer together. 

Usually, the most significant changes we want to make in our lives are difficult to measure. But you can still introduce at least some level of this factor by asking yourself, “how have I [insert objective here]?”

You might, for instance, ask yourself, “how have I grown closer to my son?” or “what’s improved about my relationship with my wife?”

It’s also important, on this same note of flexibility, to recognize that the idea of setting SMART goals originally came from managers and was for managers. That means that it might not be as applicable in your life as you think.

In other words, you can and should use the system in whatever way helps you the best. Don’t worry so much about being strict with it.

3. The SMART Framework is Over 40 Years Old

SMART goals came about in 1981 and were possibly around even before then. For some context, The World Wide Web became live in 1991, a whole decade later. Since then, the rate at which we release new technology has only accelerated. 

We’ve had Facebook, Netflix, Smartphones, and dozens of other significant advancements that have made our world ultra fast-paced. This is making our attention spans worse, which also makes it hard to focus on setting SMART goals long enough to get it right

What’s more, there have been many breakthroughs in the world of productivity that try to drown out the importance of setting goals in general. Many of these are crucial to success, but you can’t lose sight of the difference that SMART goals can make in your life.

If you want to accomplish your goals, one of the best ways is the SMART framework.

4. You Can Set Smart Goals in Half the Time With Lead and Lag Indicators

A lead indicator is an action you take toward achieving your final goal. That result you’re striving for is called a lag indicator because it lags behind your efforts.

Let’s say you want to lose 12 pounds in 12 weeks, or one pound a week for about three months. To accomplish this, you determine that you will exercise for 30 minutes a day, four days a week. 

Your action step, or lead indicator, is exercising for 30 minutes a day. 

The result you desire of losing one pound a week is your lag indicator. That’s because it comes after, or lags behind, your exercise.

Now let’s see how many of the requirements of SMART goals this fulfills:

  • Losing 12 pounds and exercising 30 minutes each day is very specific.
  • You can measure whether or not you exercised each day and lost one pound a week. 
  • Whether or not this goal is ambitious is up to you, but I think anyone that loses 12 pounds in 12 weeks deserves some major recognition!
  • Determining if this goal is realistic also depends on your situation. However, from what I’ve experienced, losing one pound a week is doable.
  • And finally, the words “week,” “day,” and “30 minutes” indicate that this goal is indeed time-bound.

Now consider that setting SMART goals by going through each of the five components of the acronym takes five steps. 

But using lead and lag indicators takes only two steps: 

  1. Identify the weekly outcome you want (lag indicator).
  2. Determine the daily action steps (lead indicator) you’ll take to get there.

Now you have the big secret of cutting the process of setting SMART goals in half! You’ll be well on your way to reaching your goals in no time!

What’s Next?

To be honest, although it’s useful, I don’t think about the SMART framework much when I set goals. 

That’s partly because it’s old, was initially meant for managers, and can be tedious to go through.

Instead, I simply ask myself what I want to accomplish and how I’ll get there to set up a lead and lag indicator and end up making my goals SMART anyway. 

If you follow this same pattern and remember these four principles, I’m confident that you’ll set SMART goals and change your life!