How to Set and Utilize SMART Goals for Project Management

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Every project manager’s primary responsibility is the strategic planning and execution of various tasks in a project cycle. An essential aspect of this planning includes setting goals. However, these are not your run-of-the-mill goals; these are SMART goals.

What are SMART goals?

SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Unlike most goals, SMART goals are not limited, as they consider all the steps in detail that lead to the successful attainment of the goal at hand.

1. Specific

SMART goals are not vague. It states what are the objectives, who is responsible, where it is to be done and why.

That’s for example rather than “cut down project expenses”. A SMART goal could be to “cut down transport costs on the project by 15% in six months”.

2. Measurable

When will you realize that your goal is achieved? SMART goals are quantifiable. They are meant to be monitored and evaluated.

For instance, “to increase customer satisfaction” can be expressed in a measurable and relevant S.M.A.R.T goal as “achieving a 90% customer satisfaction score from customer feedback surveys within the subsequent quarter”.

3. Attainable

SMART goals are realistic. These are difficult to predict but push project managers in a direction they would otherwise not consider.

4. Relevant

SMART goals are in line with the overall objectives and strategic directives. They aid in growing the business towards better success.

5. Time-Bound

SMART goals come with deadlines and timescales. The team is hence forced to pledge themselves to strive towards realizing these objectives in the specified duration.

SMART goals vs. Normal goals:

However, SMART goals are specific, complete, comprehensive, measurable, and time-bound. The trailing nature of these smart goals is what makes them one of the best choices for goal-setting in project management.

Why are SMART goals crucial for project managers?

One would ask why SMART goals in project management? Here lies in their nature. ‘SMART’ is an acronym that makes sure that your goals are specific, measurable, achievable, and time-bound. These are some of the qualities that play an integral part in realizing why a project was established and its objectives. No doubt the use of smart targets lifts project management to another level of efficiency.

To begin with, SMART goals provide a well-defined image of how one should go about it. Outlining what is required of them enhances your team to understand clearly their roles and responsibilities.

Secondly, the quantifiable dimension of SMART goals furnishes project managers with an excellent monitoring and control process. This is similar to having a preinstalled navigation system where you keep track of progress, point out deviations and make necessary corrections.

Third, the team is empowered by the attainability attribute. It gives reality to the goals and makes them doable. It creates a conducive environment in which team appreciates the possibility.

The link between SMART goals and project management is that they bind the project’s objective. This will also make it possible to direct all the efforts towards realizing the main goal of the project. The ineffective activities, that do not serve the purpose of the undertaking, can be identified and eliminated, thereby improving the project as a whole.

The final point is that the time-bound factor provides for effective time management. It motivates against procrastination and imparts an urgency about tasks. This helps promote accountability while working towards set deadlines.

SMART Goals vs. SMART Objectives: Mini-steps to get to the point.

Usually, it is difficult to distinguish between smart goals and smart objectives. However, it is crucial to differentiate them, although they appear alike. Goals are long-term targets, a bird’s eye view of where you will end up. On the other hand, objectives serve as staircases that lead to your target.


    1. Direction – SMART goals offer a specific direction on the entire project path. They are like a compass.
    2. Long-term View – This is a SMART goal that is established as a long-term objective. It defines what the project is for.
    3. Outcome-based – SMART goals concentrate on the end product/outcome.
    4. Broad – These goals are applicable to entire projects or major sections.

However, SMART goals that have already been set normally need only a few revisions.


SMART Objectives

The SMART goal is the destination and the objectives are the step-by-step route that takes us to it – navigational tools. They are tactical actions.

  1. Short-term View – The steps toward the goal are smaller milestones which are SMART objectives. They have short durations.
  2. Task-based– these are the special steps or action of things that help one attains the goals.
  3. Specific – Objectives are more specific or fine-grained than goals.
  4. Revisions likely – Compared to goals, the objectives are more adjustable and flexible while the project is ongoing.

When setting SMART goals and SMART objectives, you create a chemistry that results in a project completed within deadline. Therefore, understanding the differences between goals and objective help you to improve your project management.

How to Set SMART Goals

The process of setting SMART goals is a methodical one and involves step-by-step consideration of each element of the SMART acronym.

1. Specific

A goal must be specific. In project management, this may mean specifying the tasks that need to be accomplished, the resources required, and the personnel involved.

For example, instead of aiming to “improve client satisfaction”, a project manager might aim to “reduce client support ticket resolution time by 20%”. This specificity provides a clear directive for the team. It eliminates ambiguity and provides a clear roadmap for the task.

2. Measurable

Goals should be measurable; otherwise, it’s tough to determine whether or not you’re making progress towards achieving them. For a project manager, this might mean setting key performance indicators (KPIs) or other measurable benchmarks. Continuing from the previous example, the measurement here could be the average resolution time per support ticket.

However, to set measurable SMART goals, you need to be aware of your current performance levels. If you’re not already tracking this, start doing it. It’s a crucial part of being able to set realistic and achievable goals.

3. Attainable Goals

The principle of “Attainable” in setting smart goals is pivotal in project management. An attainable goal takes into account the resources available and is realistic. Managers want to inspire their teams to aim high, but setting goals that are clearly unachievable will only lead to demoralization and failure.

In project management, this refers to understanding the resources available, including the time, money, and manpower, and not stretching them beyond their capabilities.

For example, suppose you are planning a software development project. An attainable goal might go something like, “Develop a minimum viable product within nine months using the current team size and software tools available.”

4. Relevant Goals

Keeping your goals ‘Relevant’ means ensuring they align with business objectives. In project management, relevance could relate to the overall business’s mission, vision, and strategic plans. Goals that are not relevant to the bigger picture will likely end up being low-priority and may even conflict with other goals.

For instance, if the company’s goal is to expand sales to European markets, a relevant team goal could be computing an efficient shipping plan or developing a localized sales strategy.

5. Time-Bound Goals

Lastly, having ‘Time-bound’ goals means that there is a deadline or particular time frame set to achieve the goal. This aspect helps teams prioritize tasks, manage their workload, and provides a sense of urgency. Time-bound goals are crucial in project management, where sticking to timelines is often directly tied to costs and resource management.

An example of a timebound goal would be: “Increase software testing efficiency by 20% to decrease overall project testing time by two weeks.”

By ensuring goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound, project managers can dramatically improve their teams’ performances, ensuring projects will be completed efficiently and effectively. Remember to use the SMART criteria to guide goal setting and make your project management processes smarter and more successful.

Examples of SMART goals for project managers.

Here are some SMART goals for project managers in real life. The SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

Example 1: Project On-Time Rate of 90%.

: Achieve a project completion rate of 90%. It is clearly defined and focused.

Measurable: Tracking the completion rate of projects helps to measure progress and evaluate success of goal in the given period of time.

Attainable: This is possible if project management methodologies and tools are used correctly and the team works together.

Relevant: This aim straight relates to the ultimate efficiency of project management.

Time-Bound: This goal is set to be achieved in a given financial year.


Example 2: Reduce Project Overruns by 20%

: The aim should reduce project overruns by 20%.

Measurable: To determine success, one can compare the number or percentage of overruns from last year to the present year.

Attainable: It is only achievable through effective project planning, tracking and re-forecasting methods.

Relevant: Any project management team or company should consider cutbacks on project overruns to increase its profitability and reputation.

Time-Bound: This should be achieved by the end of the year.

Example 3: Increase Stakeholder Satisfaction by 15%

Specific: The objective is to raise stakeholder satisfaction by 15 per cent.

Measurable: Before and after projects or at regular intervals, stakeholder surveys can indicate how success is measured.

Attainable: These can be done by immediately satisfying the stakeholders’ concerns, offering periodic reports and meeting project delivery deadlines.

Relevant: Happy stakeholders lead to successful projects and future collaborations.

Time-Bound: It is to be achieved in a pre-determined time frame.

Example 4: Obtain two new project management certifications.

Specific: The aim is to acquire two additional pertinent project management certificates.

Measurable: The attainment of the certifications will signify success.

Attainable: With a well-planned study schedule and by taking the necessary examinations, this can be achieved.

Relevant: Obtaining additional certifications is a way of growing as a person and increasing knowledge of the project.

Time-Bound: It should be achieved within a given period (for instance, within a year).

Example 4: Introduce a new Project Management tool.

: To achieve this, a project management tool has to be adopted in the organization.

Measurable: One can see success in the successful adoption and application of the tool in projects.

Attainable: It is possible if the company can offer sufficient resources, training and support.

Relevant: Proper use of tools helps to increase work efficiency and project success rates.

Time-Bound: The objective is to accomplish this within a specified period of time, say six months.

Such examples give a concrete idea on how SMART goals appear in project management perspective. These are general examples, but SMART goals must be customized to fit the unique needs and realities of your team and organization.


Therefore, setting SMART goals is crucial for a project manager to determine what they want, how they will achieve it and the time it will take. It also brings into limelight the importance of setting difficult and achievable objectives.

Project managers can create a roadmap for strategic outcomes by applying SMART goals to individual project objectives. Being a project manager you should learn on what is SMART objectives, the first step towards your success.

This is a task and project management system built for project managers who need a strong, flexible, and simple way to handle their tasks. It enables them to have more control of their tasks as well as the ability to gauge employee performance. Try TimeChamp today.

Examples of project management projects can range from launching a new product to restructuring an organization. These projects all require a clear set of objectives, a well-defined scope and deliverables, and thorough planning and organization. Smart goals can greatly aid in such projects by providing a structured approach.

SMART goals in project management are objectives that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Setting SMART goals helps project managers to focus their efforts, clearly define objectives, and enhance the chances of achieving the goals within a specific timeframe.


Setting SMART goals is a five-step process. First, the goal has to be Specific in the sense that it clearly describes what is to be done. Second, it should be Measurable so its progress can be tracked. Third, the goal should be Attainable, that is, it should be realistic and achievable. Fourth, it needs to be Relevant to the project’s overall objectives. Finally, the goal should be Time-Bound with a clear timeline assigned.

SMART objectives are smaller, more immediate milestones that help in meeting the overall SMART goals. Without SMART objectives, the SMART goals may seem overwhelming and unachievable.


An example of a SMART objective could be: “Reduce the software’s loading time by 15% over the next quarter.” This objective is Specific (reduce software loading time), Measurable (by 15%), Achievable (through optimization and engineering efforts), Relevant (contributes to improved user experience, a key project goal), and Time-Bound (to be achieved in the next quarter).

The 5 SMART goals in project management refer to the implementation of goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. They ensure clarity, feasibility, and timely completion of project objectives.


SMART goals for managers are objectives that are clear, quantifiable, feasible, in alignment with the organization’s objectives, and capable of being achieved within a set timeframe. These can be applied across various management areas, including project management, human resource management, or strategic planning.


SMART goals can bring several benefits to project management. They provide clarity on what needs to be achieved, create alignment between individual tasks and overall business objectives, enable measure of progress, and set realistic expectations regarding goal achievement. Moreover, SMART goals also foster accountability, as they clarify who is responsible for what and by when.


In the context of the SMART framework, goals are the broader outcomes that you hope to achieve. Objectives are the steps or milestones that get you closer to achieving those goals. Goals are long-term, while objectives are typically shorter term.


Yes, TimeChamp’s Task and Project Management System can help in setting and tracking SMART Goals. It has features of employee time tracking, productivity tracking, and project management that can help project managers to effectively coordinate, monitor, and achieve their SMART goals.