Finance - Top Tips - Setting SMART objectives

Setting SMART objectives

This document is designed as a quick reference guide to setting SMART objectives.

This will enable you to gain knowledge of a particular skill, task or process.

This means you can quickly find the key information that you need and refer to it on an ongoing basis whenever you need to refresh your knowledge.



Nothing happens until we plan and good plans have goals and objectives.

Setting goals and objectives correctly goes a long way in helping in the achievement of them.

Before we dive into how we go about setting SMART objectives we need to be aware of the difference between goals and objectives. Goals relate to our aspirations, purpose and vision. For example, you may have a goal of becoming financially independent, this is a goal. Objectives are the battle plan, the stepping stones on the path towards the achievement of the goal.

Therefore, a goal may have one or many objectives that you would need to fulfil to achieve the goal. For example, to become financially independent you need to 1) get out of debt, 2) improve your saving and 3) start a business.


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Finance - Top Tips - Setting SMART objectives

What you need to know

The most well-known method for setting objectives is the S.M.A.R.T. way.

S.M.A.R.T refers to the acronym that describes the key characteristics of meaningful objectives, which are:


     Specific (concrete, detailed, well-defined),

     Measurable (numbers, quantity, comparison),

     Achievable (feasible, actionable),

     Realistic (considering resources)

     Time-Bound (a defined time line).


LetŐs look at these characteristics in more detail. SMART objectives then are the stepping stones to the achievement of our goalsÉ



Specific means that the objective is concrete, detailed, focused and well defined. Specific means that itŐs results and action-orientated. Objective must be straightforward and emphasise action and the required outcome. Objectives need to be straightforward and to communicate what you would like to see happen. To help set specific objectives it helps to ask:


     WHAT am I going to do? These are best written using strong, action verbs such as conduct, develop, build, plan, execute, etc. This helps your objective to be action-orientated and focuses on whatŐs most important.

     WHY is this important for me to do?

     WHO is going to do what? Who else need to be involved?

     WHEN do I want this to be completed?

     HOW am I going to do this?


ŇThe successful man is the average man, focused.Ó - Unknown



Diagnostic Questions

     What exactly are we going to do, with or for whom?

     What strategies will be used?

     Is the objective well understood?

     Is the objective described with action verbs?

     Is it clear who is involved?

     Is it clear where this will happen?

     Is it clear what needs to happen?

     Is the outcome clear?

     Will this objective lead to the desired results?



Objectives need to be achievable, if the objective is too far in the future, youŐll find it difficult to keep motivated and to strive to attain it. Objectives, unlike your aspirations and visions, need to be achievable to keep you motivated. I do feel that objectives need to stretch you, but not so far that you become frustrated and lose motivation.


Diagnostic Questions

     Can we get it done in the proposed timeframe?

     Do I understand the limitations and constraints?

     Can we do this with the resources we have?

     Has anyone else done this successfully?

     Is this possible?


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Finance - Top Tips - Setting SMART objectives

What you need to know


Objectives that are achievable may not be realisticÉ However, realistic does not mean easy. Realistic means that you have the resources to get it done.

The achievement of an objective requires resources, such as, skills, money, equipment, etc. to the task required to achieve the objective. Whilst keeping objectives realistic, ensure that they stretch you. Most objectives are achievable but may require a change in your priorities to make them happen.


Diagnostic Questions

     Do you have the resources available to achieve this objective?

     Do I need to revisit priorities in my life to make this happen?

     Is it possible to achieve this objective?



If the objective is measurable, it means that the measurement source is identified and we are able to track the actions as we progress towards the objective. Measurement is the standard used for comparison. For example, what financially independence means to me may be totally different compared to what is means for you.

As itŐs so often said if you canŐt measure it, you canŐt manage it! ItŐs important to have measures that will encourage and motivate you on the way as you see the change occurring, this may require interim measures. Measurements go a long way to help us to know when we have achieved our objective.


Diagnostic Questions

     How will I know that the change has occurred?

     Can these measurements be obtained?


Time-bound means setting deadlines for the achievement of the objective. Deadlines need to be both achievable and realistic. If you donŐt set a time you will reduce the motivation and urgency required to execute the tasks. Timeframes create the necessary urgency and prompts action.


Diagnostic Questions

     When will this objective be accomplished?

     Is there a stated deadline?