How to Write a SMART Goal [+ Free SMART Goal Template]

Do you often find yourself setting goals, only to lose motivation and give up halfway through? Or maybe you achieve your goals, but they don‘t seem to have the impact you hoped for. If this sounds familiar, you might be setting the wrong goals.

That‘s where SMART goals come in. SMART is a framework for setting goals that are:

  • Specific: Clearly defined and unambiguous
  • Measurable: Quantifiable, so you can track progress
  • Achievable: Challenging but realistic given your resources
  • Relevant: Aligned with your values and long-term objectives
  • Time-bound: Have a specific deadline for completion

By crafting your goals with each of these elements, you‘ll have a much higher chance of achieving them. In fact, a study by the University of California found that people who wrote down their goals were 42% more likely to achieve them than those who didn‘t.

But knowing the SMART framework is one thing – actually applying it to your goals is another. That‘s why we‘ve created a free SMART goal template to walk you through the process step-by-step.

Why Use a SMART Goal Template?

Setting effective goals is a skill that takes practice. It‘s easy to fall into the trap of setting goals that are too vague, unrealistic, or disconnected from your bigger picture. A SMART goal template provides a structured process for crafting goals that are clear, achievable, and impactful.

Using a template also saves you time and mental energy. Instead of starting from scratch each time you set a goal, you can simply fill in the blanks and follow the prompts. This is especially helpful if you‘re setting multiple goals across different areas of your life or business.

Some other benefits of using a SMART goal template include:

  • Clarity: Helps you get specific about what you want to achieve and why
  • Focus: Keeps you on track and prevents you from getting sidetracked
  • Motivation: Gives you a clear target to aim for and celebrate when you reach it
  • Accountability: Holds you accountable to your commitments
  • Alignment: Ensures your goals are connected to your broader vision and values

How to Use Our Free SMART Goal Template

Ready to start turning your dreams into reality? Download our free SMART goal template and follow these steps:

Step 1: Brainstorm Your Goal

Start by brainstorming the goal you want to achieve. Don‘t worry about making it SMART just yet – just focus on what you want. It could be a personal goal like "get fit" or a business goal like "increase sales".

Write your goal at the top of the template under "Initial Goal".

Step 2: Make it Specific

Now it‘s time to get specific. Use the prompts in the template to drill down into the details of your goal:

  • What exactly do you want to accomplish?
  • Why is this goal important to you?
  • Who will be involved in achieving this goal?
  • Where will you work on this goal?

For example, instead of "get fit", a specific goal might be "lose 20 pounds to feel more confident and energetic".

Refine your goal in the "Specific" section of the template.

Step 3: Make it Measurable

Next, define how you‘ll measure progress and success. Use the prompts to identify the metrics you‘ll track:

  • How will you know when you‘ve achieved your goal?
  • What quantifiable results will you aim for?
  • How will you track your progress along the way?

Building on our fitness example, a measurable goal would be "lose 20 pounds in 6 months by tracking calories and working out 5 times per week".

Add the measurable elements to your goal in the "Measurable" section.

Step 4: Make it Achievable

It‘s important to challenge yourself, but your goal also needs to be realistic. Consider:

  • Do you have the necessary skills, resources and time to achieve this goal? If not, what do you need to acquire?
  • Is the goal too easy? If so, make it more challenging.
  • Is the goal too difficult? Break it down into smaller milestones.

Maybe 20 pounds in 6 months is achievable, but 50 pounds is not. Or maybe you need to invest in a gym membership or nutrition course first.

Refine your goal in the "Achievable" section based on your current resources and constraints.

Step 5: Make it Relevant

This is where you check that your goal aligns with your bigger picture. Ask yourself:

  • Why is achieving this goal important to you? What will it mean for your life, career, relationships, etc.?
  • How does this goal fit with your other goals and priorities?
  • Is now the right time to pursue this goal, or are there more pressing things to focus on?

Losing weight might be relevant if your bigger goal is to have more energy for your family or perform better at work. But if your top priority is finishing grad school, now might not be the best time.

Ground your goal in your values in the "Relevant" section of the template.

Step 6: Make it Time-bound

Finally, give your goal a deadline. This creates a sense of urgency and prevents procrastination. Consider:

  • What‘s a realistic timeframe to achieve this goal given everything else on your plate?
  • Are there any key milestones or checkpoints along the way?
  • What will you commit to doing today, this week, this month to make progress?

Continuing with our example, a time-bound goal would be:
"Lose 20 pounds in 6 months to feel more confident and energetic by:

  • Working out for 30 minutes 5 times per week
  • Tracking calories and macros daily
  • Planning and prepping healthy meals each Sunday
  • Checking progress monthly and adjusting plan as needed
  • Celebrating milestone of 10 pound loss by March 1st"

Add your deadline and key checkpoints to the "Time-bound" section of the template.

Step 7: Refine and Rewrite Your SMART Goal

Now that you‘ve gone through each element of the SMART framework, it‘s time to pull it all together into a clear, concise goal statement.

Use the "SMART Goal" section of the template to rewrite your original goal incorporating all the components you‘ve defined.

Continuing our example:

Initial goal: Get fit
SMART goal: Lose 20 pounds in 6 months to feel more confident and energetic by tracking macros, working out 30 mins 5x/week, prepping healthy meals, and checking progress monthly. Celebrate 10 lb milestone by March 1st.

Step 8: Make a Plan and Take Action

Congratulations, you‘ve crafted a SMART goal! But the real work is just beginning. A goal without a plan is just a wish.

Use the "Action Plan" section of the template to break your goal down into specific, weekly action items. What will you do each day and week to make progress?

Some other tips for achieving your SMART goal:

  • Write your goal down and put it somewhere you‘ll see it daily
  • Share your goal with a friend or accountability partner
  • Anticipate potential obstacles and create a plan to overcome them
  • Celebrate your progress along the way
  • Be willing to adjust your approach if something isn‘t working
  • Keep your bigger "why" front of mind for motivation
  • NEVER GIVE UP!

SMART Goal Examples

Still not sure what a SMART goal looks like in practice? Here are a few more examples from different areas of life:

Financial:
Save $10,000 for a down payment on a house in 18 months by automatically transferring $550 to a high-yield savings account each month and reducing discretionary spending by 20%. Review progress quarterly.

Health:
Run a 5k in under 28 minutes by July 1st by following a 12-week 5k training plan, running 3 times per week, cross-training twice a week, and getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Do a practice 5k halfway through training to gauge progress.

Career:
Earn a promotion to senior software engineer by Q4 by completing 3 stretch projects, mentoring 2 junior teammates, increasing code quality scores by 30%, and presenting learnings at 2 industry conferences. Meet with manager monthly to discuss progress and get feedback.

Relationships:
Strengthen marriage by planning two date nights and one family outing per month, having a weekly 30-minute check-in with spouse, reading one book on healthy relationships per quarter, and attending a couples retreat in the fall. Assess state of relationship every 90 days.

The key is to be as specific and actionable as possible, while still keeping the goal realistic and relevant to your life. Don‘t be afraid to dream big, but also give yourself permission to start small. Remember, progress is more important than perfection.

Conclusion

Setting SMART goals is a powerful way to turn your dreams into tangible, achievable realities. By following the SMART framework and using our free template, you can gain clarity, focus and momentum to achieve things you never thought possible.

But don‘t just take my word for it. Give it a try for yourself. Pick one area of your life or work that you want to improve, and use the SMART template to set a clear, compelling goal. Then take consistent action until you reach your target. I think you‘ll be amazed at the results.

Here‘s to your success!

Download Your Free SMART Goal Template

Sources:

  1. Gail Matthews – Dominican University of California
  2. Edwin Locke – University of Maryland
  3. Leigh Buchanan – Inc. Magazine
  4. James Clear – Author of Atomic Habits