A Guide to Setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Developing sound goals is critical to managing one’s own and employees’ performance. Each year employees are ask to set goals for the upcoming evaluation period. Please use the Goals and Objectives Form to document and evaluate progress toward previously established Goals, and to record agreed upon Goals for the coming year. Supervisors and employees are encouraged to utilize the S.M.A.R.T Goal approach.

A S.M.A.R.T. Goal is defined as one that is specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-based.


Goals should be well-defined, detailed, focused, straight-forward, and actionable. A specific goal should clearly define what you are going to do and has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal. To set a specific goal answer the six "W" questions:

  • Who: Who is involved?
  • What: What do I want to accomplish?
  • Where: Identify a location.
  • When: Establish a time frame.
  • Which: Identify requirements and constraints.
  • Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.


What exactly am I going to do?
Why is it important to do this?
How am I going to do this?
Is it clear who is involved?


Identify and document ways to measure progress toward the achievement of each established goal. Goals should be measurable so that you can have tangible evidence that the goal has been accomplished or the progress made towards the completion of the goal.

Measurable criteria could be:

  • Quantity Timeliness
  • Cost Effectiveness
  • Quality
  • Date(s)
  • Percent Changed


How will I know when this goal has been achieved?
What measurements can I use?
When do I want this to be completed?
Can these measurements be obtained?


Goals should be achievable and realistic but, should challenge the employee. Most goals could be accomplished when a plan with action steps is put in place, and a time-frame is established for the employee to carry out those steps.

Attainable goals:

  • Can actually be accomplished
  • Detailed
  • Well-defined
  • Action-oriented
  • Can really do within the time frame
  • Focused
  • Straight-forward


Is this possible?
Why is it important to do this?
How am I going to do this?
Are there factors beyond my control that need to be considered?
Has anyone else done this successfully?


A relevant goal should be consistent with the University’s Mission, Vision, and Strategic Initiatives. Identify goals that are most important and relevant to your Division/School/Department/Unit. A goal must represent an objective that the goal-setter is willing and able to work towards. Where appropriate, link the goal to a higher-level department or organizational goal.

A relevant goal will usually answer the following questions:

Do I have the resources (skills, funding, equipment, staff, etc.) to accomplish this goal?
Do I need to rearrange my priorities to accomplish this goal?
Is it possible to complete this goal?


Goals should be linked to a timeframe; goals should have a starting point and an ending point. Complex goals should be broken down into smaller pars with dates for completion.


What is the earliest, yet achievable and realistic date for this to be completed?
Have I included this date in the statement of the objective?
When and how often do I need responses, reports, summaries, agendas, schedules, status updates?


  • Department Goals link to University Mission, Vision, Core Values and Key Strategic Initiatives.
  • Managers and Supervisors’ Goals support Department Goals
  • Employee Goals align with Department Goals
  • Aligned goals help employees see how their day-to-day activities contribute to the success of the University
    • Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable/Achievable, Realistic/Relevant, and Time-Bound

It is also critical for ensuring good communication between employees and supervisors so there are no surprises during annual performance evaluations.

Goals are not limited to things you take on as extra credit above and beyond your day- to-day job and can include both ongoing program responsibilities and any new projects, assignments, priorities, or initiatives that are specific to this performance cycle. For most employees, the majority of their goals will articulate ongoing responsibilities and may not change much, if at all, from year to year.