Updated: Apr 10, 2020

Sitting down to write out some goals most of us automatically think SMART. It has been embedded in our brains. But we are going about it all wrong.

Ditch smart goals and learn a straightforward and simple, yet effective, way to set goals.

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I actually hate "SMART" goals.

Yes, I said it. SMART goals are essentially the backbone of Occupational Therapy. But that doesn't mean I have to like them. Don't get me wrong, I am a strong advocate for goal setting, but trying to write out a SMART goal is painful and confusing for most people. Let's try.

You have decided that you want to....


Now what?

Head out for a run? Get some new running gear? Buy a gym membership? Forget all about exercising by next week?


This goal is VAGUE. Let’s tweak it.

Using the SMART method we all love to hate...

SPECIFIC: Start jogging after work 3 afternoons a week for 30 minutes.





Confused? Me too. I help clients set goals for a living and struggle with this acronym…clearly.

Personally, I find it somewhat redundant but unclear at the same time. I agree 100% that goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely, however, this is helpful as a check once the goal has been written, not when trying to develop and write out the goal.

Let's scrap it for now.

I n s t e a d . . .

WHAT: What is it you want to do? Be specific.

WHY: Why did you pick this goal? How motivated are you? If you can't determine why or if it is not meaningful to you stop here and pick a new goal.

WHEN: When do you plan to start?

HOW: Be specific about how you will do it? For example how often? how long? With who? Where will you fit it in? Who will hold you accountable?

REVIEW: When and how will you review and/or progress your goal?


Using the "get in shape" example

WHAT: Start jogging.

WHY: I enjoy jogging and being outdoors, and it is good for my health.

WHEN: I will start tomorrow.

HOW: I will jog for 30 minutes, 2x a week (Tuesday/Thursday) after work.

REVIEW: I will review and aim to progress to 3x per week in 3 weeks.


"Starting tomorrow I will run two times per week (Tuesday and Thursday after work) for at least 30 minutes. In three weeks I will evaluate my progress and aim to start running 3x per week for at least 30 minutes."

Bang. Done. That was easy.

NOW let's use the SMART acronym to check it.






It makes sense to use SMART here, but when developing the goal it is just confusing!

Lets try another example.

WHAT: Drink less pop/juice.

WHY: I realized I drink a lot and it is excess empty calories and refined sugar my body doesn't need.

WHEN: I will start today.

HOW: I will drink pop/juice no more than 2x per week. I will otherwise drink water, fruit flavoured soda water or unsweetened herbal tea. I will record each consumption in my calendar and my husband will hold me accountable.

REVIEW: In three weeks I will review my progress and aim to reduce to 1x per week.

"Starting today I will reduce my consumption of pop/juice to no more than 2x per week and drink water, fruit-flavored soda water or unsweetened herbal tea instead. In 3 weeks I will review my progress and aim to reduce to 1x per week." I will record each consumption in my calendar. Dave will hold me accountable.

SMART CHECK: Yes it meets SMART criteria.

One more example for good measure.

WHAT: Start using natural laundry soap.

WHY: I realized my regular laundry soap is full of harsh chemicals and fragrance I don't want my family exposed to.

WHEN: I will start within the next week. I will research options today and purchase new soap tomorrow.

HOW: I will wash all laundry with the new soap.

REVIEW: In one month I will evaluate how well the soap works and either continue or try a different one.

"Within the next week, I will research, purchase and start using a more natural laundry soap. In one month I will evaluate how well the soap works and either continue or try a different one."

SMART CHECK: Yes it meets SMART criteria.

Make sense?

Here is the template again. Hang on to this!

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Goal Setting Made Easy Template

For additional assistance setting goals head to my designated goal setting page. You can also subscribe for two free goal setting worksheets.