How to Set Yourself Objectives — the SMARTEY Way

Why you want to set yourself objectives at work using the SMARTEY method

Once you have identified a personal goal or a work objective, it will make all the difference how you actually articulate it so that you are clear about your target and you feel energized to keep working towards it until you finally get there.

I want to show you how setting so-called ‘SMART goals’ can help you do that. There is no official definition of this very famous acronym so this is my reading of it but I hope it will be helpful to you.

  • ‘S’ is for ‘Specific’.

Let me illustrate this with an example: let’s say you set as your goal: “I want to lose weight”. Now how what about if you said instead: “I want to lose 10 pounds between by the end of June”? What is the difference between these two sentences?

Simply put, the main difference is that, with the second sentence, you have told yourself what things will have to look like so that you can know that you are losing weight. So being ‘specific’ when setting an objective is about answering the question: “what does my objective look like for me?” and fleshing out what starts off as a vague discomfort (here around the current weight) or a loose aspiration into something tangible and therefore real. In that way, your goal goes from one which is shared by millions to one which belongs only to you.    

When you have a specific target, you are clear about what it is in your mind but you also feel it in your gut. A sense of capability emerges; you feel that you will be able to achieve your goal! This is why I also think that ‘S’ stands for ‘strong’ because when you set a specific goal for yourself, you will most likely feel imbued with the strength to pursue it! A last point here: When setting objectives, do keep them short (another ‘S’!) and to the point. Too much of a good thing, like detail, can become too much because it could muddle the waters.

  • ‘M’ is for ‘Measurable’.

If you have set a specific goal, you may actually already be ticking this box. Indeed, the measure of my weight loss will be that I can see that I am 10 pounds lighter.

But with more complex objectives, ‘Measurable’ means answering the question “how will I know that I’m really done?” It is close to but not similar to the question I suggested earlier. It makes particular sense in a work context where so-called ‘metrics’ or ‘KPIs’ (Key Performance Indicators) may be used to assess whether an objective has been reached or not, and if so, in what way. In this work context, the question to answer can become: “how do I prove to my manager that I achieved that specific work objective?”

I personally also think of ‘M’ for ‘Milestones’ because you will need to develop a way to track your progress so that you are able to know that you are moving towards your goal and how well – and if you need to make any correction in your plan.

  • ‘A’ is for ‘Achievable’.

The current buzzword for work objectives is ‘stretch’. Managers and team members are being asked by the HR departments to set ‘stretch’ objectives – but what is that? Well, my answer is “I don’t know” so I won’t go there. But let me tell you where I went – and still go – when I set objectives: I make sure that they are right for me AND I push my b.u.t.t – actually the word I use begins with ‘a’ and has 2 ‘s’ but hey kids may be reading!

What I mean is that I find it most rewarding to achieve a goal which challenged me on the way. If there is no challenge, I simply get bored. The achievement feels hollow. I have no sense of victory – you know, that ‘yes’ moment?

But what is challenging is a very personal matter so there are no universal recipes here for what ‘achievable’ – and ‘stretch’ – will mean for you. But when looking at your goal, ask yourself whether it feels right for you, and whether you feel you have the resources and skills necessary to achieve that particular goal. In that sense, and although we are not at the letter ‘R’ yet, your goals also have to be realistic. Unrealistic goals are just dreams.

  • ‘R’ is for ‘Recorded’.

It may seem like a small thing but write your goals down. Just holding your goal in your head simply won’t work. I could give you several reasons why that is but, in the interest of time, please take my word for it: there is something about the act of committing objectives to paper that gets the intention out of your head and into existence in the physical world where it can happen.

So do make sure you write your own goals down. And if you are employed and in the process of listing your work objectives, the good thing is that you will be asked to absolutely write your goals – usually in an HR-monitored system – so be careful what you commit to!

A last tip: write your goals down AND keep them where you can see them often! Things will get in the way so having your goal nearby will help you manage possible distractions.

  • Nearly done! ‘T’ is for ‘Timed’ or ‘Time-Bound’.

This is another ‘must do’: include a completion date. Otherwise, your goal is merely an intention, a ‘someday’ goal that is just sitting out there in the future – like the unrealistic goal, the ‘someday’ goal is a dream!

So: even if you are not sure of the time frame, put a due date in – you can always lengthen or shorten the timeframe once you are clearer about what is involved in achieving your objective. Having a target date keeps you on your toes and in motion though remember your deadline is not set in stone: it can be changed if along the way if it turns out to be unrealistic.

Now we should be done, shouldn’t we? Ah but you see I like to use the SMARTEY acronym where:

  • ‘E’ is for ‘Energized’!

My hope is that, having set yourself SMART goals, you will feel energized about starting out. Setting yourself objectives the SMART way can become a catalyst for action whereas being unsure about one’s goals, what they look and feel like, leaves you feeling uncertain and a bit blue. Do you see now why I suggested that ‘S’ might also mean ‘strong’?

  • ‘Y’ is for ‘Yours’.

This is actually a core element because the degree to which you will be motivated enough to work through and achieve a goal which isn’t yours is likely to be low. And this is a key point when you think that many of our goals originate with others – family and friends but also line managers.

And at work, if might be difficult to refuse an objective, so it will be helpful for you to make this goal absolutely yours, to buy into it. In that fashion, the goal becomes important to you personally. When you think of your objective as important to you, this mindset will help you stay committed to this goal and help you do the things you need to do in order to continue working on it, make progress towards it and eventually achieve it.

In summary, a SMARTEY goal will focus your attention and help you mobilize your energy to start working on your goal but also to sustain your efforts along the way and eventually achieve your goal.

Setting yourself objectives using the SMARTEY process is a simple yet powerful way to help yourself achieve your goals so try it out!

Let me know what you thought about this post by leaving a comment (see above). Or, if you’d like that better, don’t hesitate to write me at with comments or questions!

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