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Get SMART About Setting Goals at Work

Bonny Calfy | January 29, 2021

The past year provided a valuable reminder of the sheer unpredictability of life. How many plans made at the outset of 2020 had to be postponed, reimagined or even abandoned altogether?

Yet the ability to establish and execute goals remains integral to success at both the individual and the organizational level.

Of the various goal-setting methods or systems, “SMART” has emerged as one of the most effective. And because the beginning of a new year will always be a great time to think ahead, let’s take the opportunity to break down the components of this easily remembered acronym.


Whether you’re pursuing a new career or looking to advance yourself in your current position, it’s important to make your goals as clear and concise as possible. In other words, don’t just resolve vaguely to “move up in the company;” focus on the specific role to which you seek promotion and incorporate your knowledge of it into your planning.


If you can track your goal statistically or numerically, do it. For example, rather than resolving to merely “improve your portfolio,” commit to adding two new work samples by year’s end. At the same time, keep in mind “measurable” doesn’t have to be taken 100% literally. There are always ways to track progress that don’t involve hard numbers, so don’t be afraid to get creative!


Any worthwhile goal must be tied to the person or people who will be responsible for achieving it. This means clear assignability to an individual or team, who in turn should possess an equally clear understanding of who will be approving the result. As you pursue a goal, you may find that you need to reach out to others for help. Knowing who this person will be ahead of time is important.


Your daily tasks matter. But ask yourself this question: Are your personal goals in alignment with the goals of your team or organization? Returning to the example of adding fresh work to your portfolio, the answer would be “yes” because doing your absolute best on your projects has a relationship of direct relevance to your coworkers’ and company’s broader goals of success.


Clearly, the length or complexity of a project should affect the amount of time allotted to complete it. But as you may have experienced in your professional life, timeframes attached to goals don’t always make as much sense as they should. As you go about establishing goals of your own, pay close attention to the time-related element.

When you add these five elements together, you get SMART. The positive results will be felt in terms of time management, project completion and maybe even aspects of your life that go beyond the workplace. Above all, once you get into the habit of setting goals effectively, you can expect to find yourself better situated on the road to success.

Ready to put some space between you and the rest of the pack? Apply for a position at Paycom today!

About the author
Author picture, Bonny Calfy
Bonny Calfy
As Paycom’s employer brand supervisor, Bonny Calfy oversees all recruitment marketing and employer brand efforts nationwide. Her brand awareness efforts extend over 10 years and have included launching the Paycom Careers blog and social media channels and producing recruitment videos, all to help attract top talent nationwide. Outside work, Bonny enjoys reading; fishing; and spending time with her husband, children and friends.