S-M-A-R-T Goals: How to Set Them

word "goal" written with chalk

“I am going to lose weight this year!”

“I will get a bonus from my boss!”

“This year is going to be when I travel around the world!”

We all have dreams, goals, visions for ourselves. For some reason, though, we often fail to achieve them. A doughnut eaten after 6 pm, bonus given to another colleague, long days at home dreaming of adventure and suddenly our dreams are not as doable. Why do we fail at reaching our stars? We are capable of doing it, and most of the time, our dreams are not so hard to grasp. So what interferes with our way to a better future?

The problem is a poorly planned goal. To keep up your motivation and focus, you need a very detailed statement and a realistic plan to achieve what you want. That is why people came up with the SMART technique. SMART is an abbreviation that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bounded. This technique makes sure that a person achieves their goal. Let’s look at how you can use the SMART technique to achieve your goals.

Person writing down S-M-A-R-T goals


Your goal should be clear and very detailed. You should be able to envision it using the description you have given it. Don’t leave anything to imagination. Everything you want, you need to write down on paper so it helps you focus on it. When you write S-M-A-R-T goals, try to answer these questions:

  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • Why is the goal important to you? What does it bring emotionally, physically, financially, etc?
  • When do you want to achieve it?
  • Where is this goal located? (For example, if you want to move somewhere.)
  • What actions will you take?
  • What resources do you have? (time, money, network, etc)

Let’s look at an example:

Poorly structured goal: I want to lose weight.

Specific goal: I want to lose 5 kg by the 31st of May of 2022. I will go to the gym near my house 3 days a week to do weight training with an instructor, drink 3 litres of water every day, and get rid of dairy and bread from my diet. 


Now that you have described your goal in detail, you need to make sure it is countable. What will signal that you reached your goal? Without clear numbers, it is unachievable by default. Tracking numbers and setting mini-deadlines in between will ensure that you slowly but surely move towards reaching your dream. The questions you can use to check your goal are:

  • How many/much? (How much money do you want to gain? How much weight do you want to lose?)
  • What is my indicator of progress? What are my mini-deadlines?

In our example, 5 kg is our final goal. 3 days a week and 3 litres of water every day help us understand what we need to do a week. However, we lack progress deadlines.

Progress deadlines: By the 1 March, I will have gone to the gym 24 times. 

These deadlines will not only help us know if we keep up with our goal, but it will also bring a sense of satisfaction. Deadlines and measurable quantities help to see the progress, even if you don’t see it in your life yet.

A woman checking how many calories she lost after exercises


Can you achieve your S-M-A-R-T goals? They should be challenging enough, so you need to fight for them, but not unreal so they are impossible to get. You need to have resources to know how you are going to achieve your goal.

Questions to consider:

  • How will you achieve this goal?
  • Do you have the resources to do it (time/money/people)?
  • Has anybody done it before? If not, then what stopped them? Will you be able to overcome it?

Example: Do I have the money to pay for a personal trainer? Will I have time to go to the gym three times a week? Has anybody lost 5 kg over 6 months?


Your goal is supposed to be realistic. You cannot expect yourself to lose 5 kg in a week (don’t believe advertisements!).  Now you need to look at everything you have written and tell yourself honestly if you are being over-optimistic. 

No, move to the next step.

Yes, you need to adjust your goal. You may need to extend your deadline, so you can gain what you want or if you have a fixed deadline, making your goal smaller. Adjusting does not mean that you are giving up on your dream. Not at all. Instead, you bullet-proof your plan, so you don’t have to regret not achieving it later.

Example: I realized that 5 kg is a lot to lose in six months considering my health, so instead, I propose to lose 5 kg in 8 months. My new deadline is the 31st of August.

Person checking the deadline for their S-M-A-R-T goals


Your S-M-A-R-T goals should have a start and end date. You don’t want to drag it over the years and hope that on Monday you are going to start again. Set yourself a clear deadline and follow it through. 

Question: What is your deadline?

Example: By the 31st of March, I have to lose 5 kg.

Overall your S-M-A-R-T goal should look approximately like this:

I want to lose 5 kg by the 31st of March of 2022. I will go to the gym near my house 3 days a week to do weight training with an instructor, drink 3 litres of water a day, and get rid of dairy and bread from my diet. 

Mini deadlines:

1 March – 24 sessions at the gym

We are sure that using the S-M-A-R-T system you will be able to achieve any goal you set for yourself and no new year’s resolutions will be able to scare you again.

Good luck!

Read more: 9 Helpful Books for Online English Teachers

The post S-M-A-R-T Goals: How to Set Them appeared first on The TEFL Academy Blog.

I have been traveling and teaching ESL abroad ever since I graduated university. This life choice has taken me around the world and allowed me to experience cultures and meet people that I did not know existed.

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