smart goals

How To Use SMART Goals To Set Yourself Up For Project Management Success

Project management is all about taking a goal and breaking it down into actionable steps. As leaders, project managers are responsible for the successful outcome of these projects. They work diligently to keep their projects on track and meet specific objectives and goals. But what makes a good goal and how can project managers help their teams seamlessly hit the target objectives that have been outlined?

The best way to create a detailed project objective is by implementing SMART goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Setting your goals up using the SMART way is a great process that can help you measure, gauge, and course-correct your success. This blog post will discuss what SMART goals are and how to use them in your project management plan.

The foundations of SMART goals

If you’re a project manager, or even if you’re just starting to get into the field, learning about and implementing SMART goals is essential to your success. SMART is an acronym for the five characteristics you should follow to create effective goals. They are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

Let’s look at each of these in more detail and understand how they work for goal planning.


A specific goal is well-defined and precise. It answers the questions of who, what, where, when, and why. When creating your goal, be as specific as possible so that there is no room for interpretation. For example, you could say, “I’m going out tonight,” or “I’m going out at 6 pm with Susan to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner.” While both of these examples work to describe your end goal, offering more details paints a clearer picture of your plan and provides more information to those who could benefit from it. In project management, the more specific your goals are, the easier it is to track your progress and ensure you’re on the right track.


A goal should always be something you can track and measure progress towards. Setting this phase helps ensure that you are making the necessary steps to complete your goal and allows you to see how close you are to the end. For example, if your goal is to “lose weight,” a measurable component could be “lose two pounds per week.” This way, you have a number in mind that you’re working towards and can easily track your progress.


An achievable goal is realistic given the resources available to you. It’s important not to set goals that are impossible to reach, leading to frustration and discouragement. When choosing an achievable goal, make sure it’s something that challenges you and something that you know is possible with the time and resources you have. Using the previous example of weight loss, an achievable weight loss goal could be 2 pounds a week – but an unachievable goal would be 10 pounds a week. You can do the same with your project – setting up smaller chunks of plans that you know you can hit – vs. one significant, almost pie-in-the-sky goal.


A relevant goal aligns with your organization’s mission and vision. It will add value to the project, even if its addition might require additional resources or investments. Don’t cut corners here. Pursue goals that will make sense – and abandon those that don’t. Revisit your goals regularly and determine if they are essential to the project’s success. A goal that you may have once deemed indispensable to the project before might be eating up valuable resources or not significantly impacting the business. Take the time to benchmark, track and revisit your goals.


A timely goal has a specific deadline attached to it. This helps to ensure that you are held accountable for completing your goal and creates a sense of urgency. When setting a deadline, make sure it’s realistic given the project’s scope. You don’t want to set a deadline that’s so tight that it’s impossible to complete the goal, but you also don’t want to set a deadline that’s too far out, as this can lead to complacency. More of a goldilocks and the three bears dilemma, you need to find a time that is just right to fit your plan and your team.

SMART goals vs. regular goals

Aren’t all goals SMART? Not necessarily. SMART goals differ from their “regular” counterparts in what they want to achieve. The five characteristics that makeup SMART goals are specific and can get extremely granular. They include specifying particular tasks needed to achieve your goals, such as timelines, deadlines, and potential risks. “Regular” goals are typically that – a singular goal.

For example, you could set a goal for yourself: “complete my project by the end of the week.” Unfortunately, this goal is vague and could get lost within the shuffle of your day-to-day or even bumped to the following week. However, if you set up that same goal using SMART, it would look like this: “I will complete my project by Friday at noon EST.” Again, this goal is specific, has a deadline of Friday, and created a time-bound requirement of noon.

You can see how adding these extra details makes the goal more manageable and achievable. When you have all the necessary information, it becomes easier to take the steps needed to complete your task.

Implementing SMART goals

When creating goals, start by thinking about what you want to achieve and then work backward. Once you have a general idea, fill in the details using the SMART framework. Then, for each goal, ask yourself:

  • Is this specific?
  • Can I measure progress?
  • Is this achievable?
  • Is this relevant?
  • When do I want to achieve this by?

If you can answer all of these questions, you have a SMART goal. If not, go back and adjust your goals until they fit the criteria. Remember, these goals are meant to help you and your team- so make sure they are working for you and not against you.

Using SMART goals with project management software

Project management is all about taking a goal and breaking it down into actionable steps. This is where SMART comes into play. When mapping out your project, be sure to set specific milestones that are achievable, relevant, and have a set timeline. This will help to ensure that your project stays on track and meets its deadlines.

However, with all of these specific steps, it can be a challenge to keep them in alignment and know where you are in the process at any given time. Using a project management program like Hive can help streamline your goal setting and manage your SMART goals.

With Hive, you can create task lists, assign deadlines, and track your progress- all in one place. This allows you to see the big picture while still focusing on the individual steps needed to complete your project. When using Hive for project management, you can be smart about your SMART goals.

If you’re looking for a way to take your project management to the next level, give Hive a try. With our free trial, you can explore all of the features and see how we can help you achieve your SMART goals.

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