Setting goals or targets in life is important. It allows you to aim your focus in a certain direction whether that’s towards studies, implementing lifestyle changes, athletic pursuits or within the workplace. But you need to make sure your targets are relevant – and that’s why I think using “SMARTER” targets is a good way to set your targets or goals.

What Are “SMARTER” Targets?

For those of you who have studied physical education, you may have come across some of the “SMART” or “SMARTER” target principles. Here is what “SMARTER” stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Bound
  • Evaluate
  • Re-Adjust

By using these principles you can set targets which are easier to use to track your progress. Not only that, this is quite literally a smarter way of setting targets in whatever area you choose.

I’ll break down each principle below.

“S” – Specific

When setting SMARTER targets, the first thing you want to be is specific. What is it you want to achieve? Don’t make it broad – narrow it down to what you actual target or goal is. For example, a broad target could be to run a personal best in 1500m whereas a specific target would be run to 1500m in 4:20 during the Summer or to qualify for a national competition.

This is important because it helps to make the target clear in your mind of what you want to achieve. A specific target helps to tailor your focus towards it e.g. training for 1500m at 4:20 pace in order to reach that target. Setting specific targets makes what you want concrete in your mind. Don’t have an obscure target – have a specific one.

“M” – Measurable

The target you’ve set for yourself needs be measurable. This allows you to track your progress and ensure you’re on your way to achieving your targets, or allows you to make changes to help you achieve your targets.

Some examples of ways of measuring your targets include:

  • Doing competitions each month in athletics and analysing your results
  • Achieving better average grades in your studies
  • Counting e.g. keeping tabs on how much money you’re spending to try and save money

It’s important not to focus on individual measurements such as one result in a race as this could’ve been a ‘bad’ race for you. Instead, it’s better if you focus on your results as an average as this gives a better indicator of where you are.

“A” – Achievable

Your target needs to be something you can achieve within a reasonable amount of time. Can you improve your 1500m time by 20 seconds in a year? Quite possibly. Can you run 1500m a whole minute faster in a year? Probably not if you’re already running sub 5:30 for 1500m.

If your target isn’t achievable then you’re setting yourself up for failure. This is because you won’t feel like you’re coming close to achieving your target and this will begin to demotivate you.

Set yourself an achievable target to help keep yourself motivated.

You can set yourself long term goals, but keep them in contact and with direct relevance to several short term goals which are set to set yourself for success in your long term goal.

“R” – Relevant

The target you set yourself needs to be relevant to your focus. If you run 10k race and decide to set yourself a goal of throwing a 5kg hammer 20m, what use is that? Make the goal relevant to what you want to do so that you can keep focused on it.

Ensure your goal is in line with your core values, pursuits and desires. If your target isn’t in line with these things then you won’t find yourself motivated to achieve your target.

“T” – Time-Bound

Make sure you set yourself a time within to achieve your target. This will help to keep you constantly seeking progress towards it.

You could have a target in which you want to run 1500m 30 seconds faster than your personal best from last year – but when do you want to achieve that?

Making your targets time-bound helps to create a sense of accountability as to when you want to achieve your targets.

Combining this principle with “M” – measurable allows you to measure your progress to see whether you will be able to realistically achieve it within the defined time period you have set yourself. If you don’t think you can achieve your target, not to worry – onto “E” and “R”.

“E” – Evaluate

Step number 6 is to evaluate your progress in achieving your target. Are you on track to achieving your target? Are you motivated? Evaluating your goals daily and weekly will help you to assess the progress you are making towards achieving them. This is important because longer-term goals can easily be forgotten about unless you evaluate your progress on a regular basis.

And for the end when the defined time period in which you set out to achieve your target draws near, you can ask yourself these questions:

  • Have you achieved your target?
  • Have you not?
  • Why haven’t you?
  • And just as importantly, why have you?

These questions will allow you to evaluate the targets you have set yourself and will help you to set better targets for yourself in the future. What factors helped you to achieve your targets and what held you back? Did you give yourself enough time to achieve your target? These are examples of what you could reflect on when evaluating at the end.

“R” – Re-Adjust

Last but not least, if necessary don’t be afraid to re-adjust your SMARTER targets. If you feel like you’re not making progress towards the target you’re chasing, you may need to re-adjust one of the SMARTER principles so you can achieve your target. This could include giving yourself more time, reducing the difficulty of the target (or even increasing it) or changing it so that the target is relevant to what you want to do.

For example, an 800m runner could set themselves a target of running 100m in 12 seconds to improve their speed for 800m. However, to make it more relevant they might change their target to be to run 400m in 50 seconds as this distance is closer to 800m and therefore more relevant to the event they are performing in.

This doesn’t mean you restart on your quest to reaching your target, it just means you shift your focus slightly so that you get there or reach a more achievable target.


Do you set yourself SMARTER targets? If you found this article useful please share with friends, peers and other athletes!