Everyone has objectives they want to achieve, and taking the time to establish parameters around them can help you increase the odds of achieving them. Goal setting can help provide employees with clear direction and focus on what needs to be accomplished, serve as benchmarks for employee performance, motivate workers and align with organizational objectives. Working toward goals also allows employees to develop new skills, knowledge and capabilities, which fosters professional growth and advancement.

Psychology professor Gail Matthews found that people are 42% more likely to achieve their goals just by writing them down.

When documenting your goals, be sure they are “SMART”—specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. The clearer and more achievable a goal is, the more likely you will be able to achieve it. Here is how the SMART framework applies to goal setting:

  • Specific—A specific goal is simple and strategic. It’s something you can easily conceptualize. Think about what needs to be accomplished, who’s responsible for it and what steps must be taken to achieve it.
  • Measurable—A measurable goal is quantified. You’ll be able to see if you’re making progress as you go and will know when you’ve reached the finish line.
  • Achievable—An achievable goal is realistic and attainable. Think of it as a reality check. This step involves considering if the goal is something you can reasonably accomplish. It’s OK if it’s not; adjust, if possible, or have a discussion about potential roadblocks.
  • Relevant—A relevant goal needs to make sense or be appropriate to you. You want your goal to truly matter to you, your team and the organization. Timing is equally important, so ensure this is the right time to tackle the goal.
  • Timely—A timely (or time-bound) goal is accomplished within a specific time frame. You can adjust this period as needed and make new goals or deadlines after achieving the first one.

For example, a SMART goal for a customer service representative could be to improve customer satisfaction ratings by 10% within the next quarter by enhancing their communication skills, resolving customer complaints more efficiently, and monitoring customer feedback and satisfaction surveys with the ultimate goal of enhancing the company’s reputation and fostering customer loyalty.

To begin setting goals, collaborate with your manager or supervisor to set goals aligned with organizational priorities and personal development needs. From there, you can apply the SMART criteria to the goals and, if needed, break down larger goals into smaller or more manageable milestones. It’s also critical to track progress to maintain momentum and celebrate achievements. You may also need to review and adjust the goals due to changing circumstances, feedback or new priorities. Keep in mind that a SMART goal can be big or small; it just has to matter to you and your role or career aspirations.

By utilizing the SMART framework, you can effectively set and achieve meaningful goals that contribute to your professional development and success.