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Not so SMART Goals

Smart goals are defined as:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Timed

Smart goals are often described as the "correct" way to set goals and if you don't set yourself smart goals, you won't achieve good results.

I don't particularly like smart goals.

My first issue is with the acronym. Specific and Measurable are the same thing. Achievable and Realistic are the same thing. So rather than five parts, we really only have three.

My other issue is that it doesn't encourage any level of ambition.

Take for example "my goal is to save £10 into a savings account this year". It is specific and measurable, the required amount of money either made it into my account or not. It is also achievable and realistic, I am very sure I could do it. And it has a timed element.

This goal does meet all the requirements of being a smart goal, but in reality, it is not very useful.

All too often goals that people set, particularly in business or work environments, rely on outcome that is outwith their direct control. As a result someone can fail their goal through no fault of their own.

Perhaps it is not just smart goals I dislike.

I think I have a problem with goals in general because they end up becoming fixed in a world of constant change. Just because it was a good idea to try and achieve something at the start of the year, doesn't mean that it will be a good idea to be working on it in nine months time. Your priorities could have changed and there is something more important to work on. Goals can constrain you rather than letting you adapt to the situation.

I am not sure what the ideal answer is. I know that "what gets measured gets done" and "if you aim at nothing you will hit it every time". If people know that there is a goal or a target, they will usually work harder to achieve it. But sometimes you need to make sure that what you are working on is still the right thing to do.

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