Are you tired of setting goals you don’t achieve? The reason that many people don’t succeed is because they don’t know how to set effective goals. This free SMART Goals Template will show you how to set goals that you will actually achieve step-by-step.
Setting goals and creating a clear roadmap for how you’ll reach each goal increases your chances of success. It enables you to decide on a plan and prioritize your time and resources to make progress and eventually reach your goals.
When you set a goal, make sure it is SMART.
S – Specific (What will be accomplished? What actions will you take?)
M – Measurable (Can you measure the outcome?)
A – Achievable (Is your goal attainable? Do you have the necessary skills and resources?)
R – Realistic (Is your goal realistically achievable within the given time frame and with the available resources?)
T – Time-bound (Have you set a time limit?)
SMART goals have a higher chance of success since they are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Every goal can be made S.M.A.R.T. and as such, has a better chance of becoming reality.
Click on the button below to convert any goal into a SMART goal.
The following SMART goal template will help you write down clear and measurable goals to work toward. Research shows that when you put your goals in writing, you will be much more likely to achieve them. Our free goal-setting template printables will help you set your goals step-by-step in writing.
SMART Goals Template with Action Steps
The PDF version is editable and you can type on it. However, if you prefer working with Excel, then select the goal-setting template Excel format. The Word version is helpful if you want to edit the template.
Click on the button below to convert any goal into a SMART goal.
SMART Goals Worksheet
Use our free printable SMART goals worksheet PDF to ensure that your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. The SMART goals template will help you ensure that your goal is SMART and thus increase your chances of success. If you want to work on more than one goal, then make a few copies of the printable goal sheets.
Goals that are well-defined, detailed, and clear, have a much greater chance of being reached. To make a goal specific, try to relate to the five “W” questions:
- What do I need to do?
- Where will I reach this goal?
- When will I reach the goal by?
- Who needs to be involved to achieve this goal?
- Why do I want to achieve this goal? This is important to keep you motivated and on track and to ensure that the goal is meaningful and worth your time and energy.
Example of a vague or non-specific goal: I want to lose weight.
Example of a specific goal: I want to lose 14 pounds within the next three months by eating clean food only and working out at the gym five days a week. I will feel much better about myself if I lose this weight.
Use the SMART goal sheet to answer each of these questions.
A goal must be measurable so that you can measure your progress and determine if you are on track. You should be able to tell when you reach your goal.
Example: My goal is to lose 14 lbs and to work out five days a week.
The goal should be challenging and require work and not be too easy. It should be attainable with some effort on your part. Ideally, your goal should require you to stretch a little outside of your comfort zone.
Take your available time, skills, and financial situation into account, and whether you can achieve the goal with reasonable effort. Don’t set goals that are too difficult or overwhelming. If your goals are too big, then break them up into mini-goals or baby steps.
Example: I know I can lose 14 lbs since I have done it before. I have also worked out 5 times a week before, so I know it is achievable.
If that sounds overwhelming, then set a goal to lose 2lbs only. When you reach that goal, you will set another goal.
A goal must be realistically achievable within the given time frame and with your available resources.
Example: Since it works out to be about 1 lb a week which is a realistic weight loss my goal is realistic.
A goal must have a start and finish date. You must also have the time to do each of the steps you will need to take.
Example: I will start now and reach my goal in 3 months. I will exercise five times each week and lose about 1 pound each week for 3 months.
It is important that your goal is positive. You want to focus on what you want to do and not what you don’t want to do. What you focus on, increases. So when you focus on not doing something, then that will increase too.
Download the SMART goal-setting worksheet template in black and white or the color version above.
Who developed the concept?
The SMART goals acronym was first developed by George Doran in a 1981 article “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management goals and objectives”. The article explains how managers understand that the most critical steps in a company’s management process are the establishment of objectives and the development of their respective action plans. However, most managers cannot write meaningful objectives. The author acknowledges that writing objectives was a major source of anxiety. Therefore, he suggested people just think of the acronym SMART in order to write effective objectives and simplify the process.
Why is it important to put your goals in writing?
According to a study done by Gail Matthews at Dominican University, those who wrote down their goals accomplished significantly more than those who did not write down their goals. In another study by psychology Professor Dr. Gail Matthews, those who wrote down their goals and actions had a success rate that was 33% higher than those who didn’t.
In the book “Goals” by Brian Tracy, the author describes a Harvard University study done in 1979. In the study, researchers asked recent Harvard MBA graduates if they had set any specific goals they wanted to achieve in the future. Only 13% of the graduates had set clear goals and a mere 3% had written their goals down. 84% of the graduates had no goals at all. The researchers followed up with the graduates 10 years later. The graduates who had set themselves goals were making twice as much money as those who hadn’t (on average). And those graduates who had written those goals down were earning 10 times as much (on average)!
How to decide which goals to set for yourself?
To reach your goals, you need to know what they are and you have to write them down clearly but how do you come up with your goals in the first place?
Sit down somewhere quiet and devote time to the process. Think about all your dreams. Include all aspects such as your career, personal development, health, wellness, fitness, family, relationships, financial situation, etc.
Brainstorm and create goals across all areas of your life to ensure that your life is balanced. If you don’t consider all areas, you might find that you have reached your goals but you are still not happy. For example, if your goal is to succeed at work but you put all your time into work and neglect your family or health, then even when you reach your goals you won’t feel fulfilled. You won’t feel happy and content. Therefore, make sure that your goals are balanced to make your life balanced.
Review and revise
A few days later, go over your list.
Think about why you want to reach each goal. What benefit will it bring you? You need to be sure that a goal will benefit you or someone you love to make sure that it will be worth your time and effort. If a goal doesn’t benefit you, then take it off the list.
Ask yourself if you are willing to put the effort into reaching each goal.
If you don’t know why you want to achieve a goal or you are not willing to put in the work required, then take it off your list.
Rank your goals
You should now be left with a list of revised goals.
Take each goal and rate it in order of importance in your life.
Ask yourself, if I were to achieve the goals on this list, which one would have the greatest positive impact on my life?
- 1 isn’t that important and wouldn’t have much impact
- 10 would be your dream life
Take the top four goals that have the highest ranking and start working on those. In the book “How to Get the Most Out of Your Life” By Zig Ziglar, the author explains that four is the maximum number of goals anyone can realistically juggle. That doesn’t mean that you won’t work on your other goals. You will just put them on hold until you’ve achieved one of your top four goals.
Benefits of SMART Goals
Why should your goals be SMART?
Setting goals forces you to think about what you actually want in life
So many people live their lives on autopilot. They don’t even stop to ask themselves what they want out of life they just “survive”. They might have a vision but as the saying goes “a vision without a plan is just a dream”. If you want to turn a dream into reality, you need to sit down and plan. You need to clearly define each goal and create a plan to reach it. Setting SMART goals forces you to give thought to what you want to achieve and if you are willing to do what it takes to achieve them. This reflection process is essential to living the life that you want. Some people set goals that they don’t really want or don’t matter enough to them. They might think they do or maybe society or their parents might have influenced them. Once they sit down and devote time to writing their goals they might decide to change them to achieve things that are more important to them. Setting SMART goals enables you to devote time to reflection and ensure that your goals are really what you want to achieve.
Increase your chance of reaching your goals
Setting goals and achieving them will enable you to live the life you want. However, you need to know where you want to end up before you create a plan of action. Most people don’t reach their potential. They are frustrated by their lack of progress in their career, personal life, or relationships. For some reason, they cannot seem to live their dream life. Why do some people achieve amazing accomplishments and others stay stuck their entire lives? The reason most people don’t reach their potential is that they don’t believe they can and they haven’t taken the time to decide exactly what they want and how to get it. In fact, most people don’t even know how to set goals properly and have never actually set defined goals.
SMART goals make you more efficient
Even if you set goals but your goal-setting process is not effective, then the chance that you achieve your goals is not nearly as great. Moreover, you might even find yourself working really hard to reach your goals but if you are not working effectively toward your goals it might not get you where you want to go. When you set SMART goals and an effective action plan you will find yourself becoming a lot more efficient. You will spend your time on the things that matter (i.e. the things that will advance your goals).
SMART goals save you time
Once you have clearly defined goals, it will help you stay focused and prevent you from becoming distracted or focusing on things that won’t help you reach your goals. This is because a SMART goal has clearly defined outcomes so you will be in a better position to understand exactly what you need to do to achieve your goal.
It might take time to sit and define your goals but in the long run, you will save a lot of time so it is worth it. Once you have defined your goals you can eliminate many activities that don’t promote your goals and you will focus on those that do. This will make you more effective. You will also enjoy your time more since you won’t be wasting time on things that don’t lead you to your goal.
How to Reach your SMART Goals
Create an Action Plan
Break your goal down into small manageable targets. Set action items to reach each target. How do you do this?
Write down all the action items you can think of that you could do to achieve your goal. Include the steps you will take, the resources you will need and the knowledge you will need to acquire. Keep adding to this list until it is complete. You will find yourself adding things later on that you suddenly realize you need. That is great. Be flexible and revise your list whenever you need to. Our free goal planner will help you do this.
Organize your list into an action plan. List every single action item you will need to complete in order to achieve your goal. You can use our free checklist template to do this. Try to organize the list in the order you need to complete the tasks as it will help you be more organized and systematic. The order should be determined either by priority or by the things that need to be done first to allow other things to be done. I always like to focus on the 20% of the tasks that will account for 80% of your success. However, it isn’t always clear which of the items are in the 20% group. If you can identify them, then focus on them first.
Once your action plan is ready, get to work! Start today and do something every day to move you toward the achievement of your goals. Keep going every single day. When you do this, you trigger the “momentum principle” of success. It may be hard in the beginning but, eventually, it becomes a habit, and reaching your goals will get easier and easier.
Hold yourself accountable
Print our free goal planner and map out the milestones that will lead you to achieve your goal in the monthly planner. Each week, schedule the tasks that you will need to complete in your weekly and daily planner. At the end of each day, spend a few minutes on reflection. Did you reach your goals for that day? If not, what can you do the next day to reach them? Plan your goals for the next day ahead of time. Either do it first thing in the morning if you have time or the night before if you don’t have time in the morning.
Reaching your goals takes hard work and determination. If you don’t put in the work, you won’t get where you want to go. You also need to understand that anything worth getting is going to take time. Keep at it. Don’t give up. Even those people who are considered extremely successful have encountered obstacles. Work hard and you will get wherever you want to be, reach your potential and live your dream life.
Stay motivated and determined
How do you stay motivated to reach your goals?
Determination is what will keep you doing whatever you need to do to reach your goals. Determination is probably one of the traits that separate those who succeed from those who don’t. If you are determined to reach your goals then you will reach them. When you encounter an obstacle, you will overcome it (see turn lemons into lemonade). If your motivation and determination start fading, then try the following:
• In your goal planner there is a section to record why you want to reach each goal. Read this over and remind yourself why you are doing this. This will help motivate you and make you more determined to reach your goals.
• Positive thoughts can materialize into reality, so stay positive (see how to manifest your goals). As soon as people encounter obstacles, many start with negative self-talk. They persuade themselves that they cannot achieve their goals and there is no use. Try using positive affirmations to offset negative self-talk and limiting beliefs (see how to write affirmations). You might want to create positive affirmation cards and put them all over your home to remind yourself that you are totally capable of reaching your goals.
• Try visualization to imagine yourself reaching your goals. You might also want to create a vision board to have a visual picture of where you are going.
- There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives – George T. Doran – Management Review (1981)
- Achieving your goals: An evidence-based approach, John Traugott, Michigan State University Extension – August 26, 2014
- Why You Should Be Writing Down Your Goals, Forbes
- Goals! (2003), Brian Tracy