SMART Goals: How to Set Time-Bound Goals

We live busy lives, juggling work and/or school, and other necessary tasks on a daily basis. So naturally, time is one of our most precious resources. Since time is of the essence, finding the time to set a new goal can feel like a very daunting task, especially when you’re trying to squeeze it into your busy schedule. This is why timeliness can be one of the most important factors when it comes to the goal-setting process.

Timely goals work in tandem with all other components of the SMART goal-setting process, which in the long run, will ultimately set you up for success. Each component of SMART goal-setting serves a unique purpose that helps break everything down in a more concise way.

How “T” works in "SMART"

Finding the specificity, measurability, achievability, and relevance of your goal can help you structure your goal in a time-friendly manner. This is where the “T” (Time-Bound) in the acronym “SMART” comes into play. Here’s a quick review of what each letter stands for in SMART.

Specificity: Knowing exactly what you want to achieve and the necessary steps to get there will help you conjure up a timeframe that’s based off your available time, resources, and abilities.

Measurable: Having a set number or something definitive to strive for will help you break down each step to ensure you reach your end result. For example, if you want to lose twenty pounds in 4 months, you could just break down your goal to lose 5 pounds a month.

Achievable: Pinning down the feasibility of your goal will also help you pin down the time frame. You should also consider how others may have fared striving for a similar goal. What resources do you have that they didn’t? What’s the biggest thing standing in your way?

Relevance: How does this goal fit in the current stage of your life? How long will this goal take you based on the skills and resources you have? The relevance of your goal plays a big part in the deadline you set for yourself. If there’s a goal that’s your sole focus, then you have more time to focus on it, which may stem a quicker deadline.

Time sets the entire course for your approach to any goal you want to set, no matter how big or small it is. It is vital to analyze how you spend your time because, unless time-travel is invented, you can only go forward. Odds are something unexpected will pop up in your life that will disrupt the balance. Some tasks may take longer than you anticipated, and you might even realize that the time spent on that one task wasn’t fruitful in achieving that goal in the long run.  

The unpredictability of what the future holds can seem like a real challenge in regards to the goal-setting process. But even so, being aware of how your time is allocated will help you be time-bound and prepare you for the moments that throw off your trajectory.

Before the Goal

Using all of the other components of SMART and breaking it down to the best of your ability, you need to set sensible deadlines that serve two purposes:

1. To inspire the initial action taken to start a goal, so you recognize that you have a window of where you can achieve it.

This purpose is to trigger some immediacy within you. When you give yourself a deadline, there is a little part in you that will feel more compelled to take action because you’re up against a limitation of time. Start off with a positive and inspiring mindset when creating a deadline. But keep in mind, the deadline shouldn’t feel oppressive but motivating.

2. To have a greater familiarity with your goal and the time requirement needed in order to achieve it.

The second purpose is to help you have greater clarity before you begin the process. When you have a set deadline, you will be mentally prepared for the commitment involved. This will set you up t be more determined to take on the goal and handle obstacles more efficiently.

Knowing the time parameters before you start your goal can help you piece the tasks together and create a clearer path. You can ask yourself various questions such as:

What can I do in the short term?

How can I prepare for the most difficult tasks?

Which aspects of this goal will take the most time?

Having a good time-frame for your goal will help you connect the dots better and anticipate the effort and time necessary for each task. In essence, the more preparation, the better.  

During The Goal

No matter how ambitious the goal is, there’s a good chance there will be time-sensitive factors that we that we didn’t anticipate, such as several additional steps that were unaccounted for when initially planning the goal. Whether your process is stifled or expedited, being aware of what it means to be time-bound when chasing your goal will be pivotal to your success.

If your goal ends up taking longer than you had planned, you may need to rethink your allocation of how you spend your time. Once again, there a couple questions you can ask yourself:

1. How much more time will be needed to achieve a certain milestone?

2. What aspects of this goal need more attention in order for me to get where I want to go?

You may set deadlines for yourself, but of course, life happens. While the SMART goal-setting process may seem rigid, it is simply a tool that should adapt to you, meaning you can always adjust the course of your goal process while keeping things time-bound and within reason to your lifestyle. We can’t possibly prepare for every obstacle that  when chasing a dream, we just have to make the effort. Take a step back and figure out how you’re going to use time effectively, and you will stay focused on achieving your goal.


No matter where you are in the goal-setting process, there’s always room to be mindful of your deadlines and adjust course when needed. Acknowledging time as a valuable resource while chasing your goals can help you unlock the key to success and properly motivate you to stay focused any goal imaginable.