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SMART Goals are DUMB

SMART Goals are DUMB

. 2 min read

You may have heard of the popular goal setting template 'SMART'. They're dumb, and here's why.


Firstly, can anyone get a solid definition of what the letters stand for? It's like everyone has gone to the same seminar and forgot their notes.



Attainable. Wait no, achievable... or was it actionable? Assignable? Agreed upon?! Ambitious?

Relevant, Realistic?

Time-bound - Timely, Time-based, Time-...related?

These are all examples from a Google Image search. However, the original article, from the Management Review journal, gave the definition,

SMART: Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, Time-related

It seems, over time, the context of SMART goals have shifted from managers setting objectives for employees to personal self-development, explaining the confusion around some of these terms; its particularly DUMB to have to clarify who is assigned a goal when you are making them for yourself!

Although the acronym definition has shifted to fit the context (resulting on some confusion) there are still some grievances that stem from how the technique is applied.


Here are two examples of SMART goals, see if you can tell which one is DUMB:

  1. For one month, write a blog post for 1 hour per day.
  2. Improve average organic search traffic by 20% by 09/04/2021.

The first goal is time-related, measurable, and realistic. Perhaps not very specific but a content calendar could help with that. Overall though it is clear what you need to do.

The second goal, again, is is time-related, measurable, and realistic. However I can imagine readers going two ways here: either it is very specific (there is no ambiguity about the metric) or not specific at all (there is no clarity about action).

So which one is DUMB?

The second goal is outcome oriented, it keeps you focused on the results. In my opinion it is much more motivating; the goal is the reward. I get excited about increasing my search traffic but sitting down and writing for an hour, every day?UGH.

The lack of clarity about action is actually an advantage for the second goal. The tunnel vision that an action oriented goal like our first one here blinds us to alternative, more effective opportunities (such as implementing a social-media strategy). Yes, it may not be immediately obvious what needs to be done in order to achieve an outcome goal but that extra step of consideration may be exactly what is necessary to put you on the right track!

The Take-away

Do yourself a favor and make your goals... S.M.O.R.T

SMORT: Specific, Measurable, Outcome Oriented, Realistic, Time-related

It sounds DUMB but you'll thank me for it!

Doran, G. T. (1981). "There's a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management's Goals and Objectives", Management Review, Vol. 70, Issue 11, pp. 35-36.