Measurable goals refer to goals that can be tested in order to assess progress. This may include quantifiable measures, such as percent of progress toward the end goal, or qualifiable measures, such as self-professed feelings or attitudes.
The idea that our goals should be measurable is most prominently found within the SMART Goals framework by George T. Doran (1981).
The S.M.A.R.T framework presents an acronym for five features that all goals should contain:
- Specific: The goal should not be vague. It needs to be clearly and specifically stated, which prevents us from moving the goalposts or becoming confused about what needs to be achieved.
- Measurable: You need to be able to measure your progress, such as through clearly identifiable milestones or regular testing.
- Achievable: The goal must be realistically achievable. Consider the goldilocks principle: it shouldn’t be too easy, or you will not achieve progress; but it should not be unrealistically hard, or you will not ever get there, and likely give up.
- Relevant: The goal needs to have relevance to your broader organizational, personal, or educational aims. For example, a goal in the workplace needs to be related to your job, and not to your weekend hobbies.
- Time-Bound: Without a clear end date, you’ll find it hard to pace yourself or set personal accountability. You should set and end date, but could also consider time-bound milestones where you can measure progress at a regular cadence along the way.
At the end of this article, I’ll share a SMART Goals template that you can print and use for yourself. For now, let’s zoom in on the ‘measurable’ aspect of goal setting.
Measurable Goals Examples
The following goals are written based on the SMART framework, with a special focus on measurability. Note, however, that you’ll want to use my SMART Goals template to expand on these to match all five elements in-depth. As you expand on your chosen goal, make it suitable for your specific circumstances.
1. Public Speaking: “Join a local Toastmasters club and give at least one speech per month over the next year (You could aim for having given 12 speeches by next year).”
How I’d Measure It: Keep a log of each speech you deliver and the feedback received.
2. Reduce Carbon Footprint: “Aim to reduce household energy consumption by 10% over the next year by implementing energy-saving practices (You could set your goal to use 10% less electricity by the end of the year compared to the previous).”
How I’d Measure It: Compare monthly energy bills to track progress.
3. Mental Health: “Incorporate mindfulness meditation into your daily routine for at least 10 minutes a day over the next month (Aim to have meditated 300 minutes in a month).”
How I’d Measure It: Use a habit-tracking app to track your daily meditation sessions.
4. Community Service: “Volunteer at a local shelter or food bank for a total of 48 hours over the course of a year (You could aim for 4 hours per month on average).”
How I’d Measure It: Keep a record of hours served.
5. Spiritual Reading: “Engage in a spiritual reading (it could be religious texts, philosophical books, or any spiritual-authored books) for 30 minutes daily for the next six months (By July, you should have read for a total of 5,400 minutes).”
How I’d Measure It: Track your daily reading time and record what you’ve read.
6. Spiritual Retreat: “Attend a weekend spiritual retreat twice a year to deepen your spiritual understanding and practice (This might mean booking a retreat for Spring and Fall).”
How I’d Measure It: Date mark the attended retreat and note the main insights and learnings.
7. Self-Confidence: “Speak in front of a group at least once a month to develop self-confidence in public speaking (That means twelve public-speaking occasions within a year).”
How I’d Measure It: Keep a record of each speaking engagement you attend along with notes on your performance.
8. Waking Up Earlier: “Wake up at 6:00 AM every weekday for the next month (You will have achieved early-rising for twenty weekdays).”
How I’d Measure It: Record your wake-up time over the month to track your adherence to your goal.
9. Learning a Musical Instrument: “Learn to play ten songs on the guitar in the next six months (Assuming you are new to it, your goal might be to play the full melody and chords of ten songs by the end).”
How I’d Measure It: Track your progress by recording yourself playing the songs at the end of each month.
Workplace and Career Goals
10. Advance Professional Skill: “Learn to use Excel at an advanced level by completing an online course in the next two months (You may look for a Microsoft-endorsed online course that ensures proficiency level upon completion).”
How I’d Measure It: The grade at the end of the course will be my measure of success.
11. Professional Education: “Complete a professional certification in your field within the next six months (For example, you enroll in a Project Management Professional (PMP) course in January and aim to pass by July).”
How I’d Measure It: Earning the certification will make this goal tangible.
12. Professional Networking: “Reach out to at least five new professional contacts per month to expand your network (You could set a yearly goal to have made contact with 60 professionals by the end of the year).”
How I’d Measure It: Maintain a list of people you have connected with and track progress monthly.
13. Enhance Leadership Skills: “Attend a leadership workshop or seminar every quarter in the coming year to improve leadership skills (You could aim to have attended four different leadership events by the year-end).”
How I’d Measure It: Keep a record of the events attended and skills learned.
14. Job Promotion: “Aim for a promotion in your current role within the next 18 months by expanding your skills and consistently performing at a high level (You might begin by identifying the skills you need to acquire in January and aim to have accomplished a promotion by June of the following year).”
How I’d Measure It: Evaluate your progress through performance reviews and feedback from supervisors.
15. Professional Writing: “Improve your professional writing skills by writing one article or report per month related to your field of work for one year (This could mean 12 pieces of writing by year end).”
How I’d Measure It: Keep a folder of your accomplished works and consider showing them to a mentor for feedback and improvement.
16. Negotiation Skills: “Attend one negotiation training workshop or seminar within the next six months to improve salary and contract negotiation (I recommend booking the training session now, hence, completing it before July).”
How I’d Measure It: You might use an upcoming contract renegotiation or business deal as a benchmark for improvement.
17. Broaden Professional Knowledge: “Subscribe to and read one professional/career development book per month for a year (This implies a total of 12 professional books read by the year’s end).”
How I’d Measure It: Catalog every book you’ve completed and consider writing a brief summary or review.
18. Networking: “Attend two industry conferences or events each year to network and stay current with industry trends (You could aim for one conference around mid-year and another near the end of the year).”
How I’d Measure It: Keep a record of events attended and meaningful connections established.
19. Improve Physical Health: “Lose 10 pounds by following a diet and exercising for 30 minutes every day for the next three months (A weight loss program initiated in January could aim for a 10-pound reduction by end-April).”
How I’d Measure It: Keep a calendar recording how many minutes I exercised each day.
20. Running: “Run a 5K in less than 30 minutes within the next six months by training consistently three times a week (By June, you should be able to complete the distance within the target time).”
How I’d Measure It: Keep a log of your running duration and distance.
21. Strength Training: “Increase your deadlift weight by 20 pounds over the next four months, safety permitting (You might start with a baseline max weight in January and aim to increase it by May).”
How I’d Measure It: Track the maximum weight lifted in each session.
22. Flexibility: “Increase your hamstring flexibility by being able to touch your toes without bending your knees within the next three months through daily stretching (Your end goal is to reach your toes by the end of the period).”
How I’d Measure It: Use a measuring tape to quantify your progress in inches.
23. Cardiac Health: “Lower your resting heart rate by 5 beats per minute in the next six months through regular aerobic exercise (A wearable tracker, like a Fitbit, will provide your initial rate and track the change).”
How I’d Measure It: Regular monitoring of your heart rate via a fitness tracker device.
24. Body Composition: “Lower your body fat percentage by 3% over the next half year through a balanced diet and regular exercise (You can get an initial body composition analysis and set monthly checkpoints).”
How I’d Measure It: Regular body composition measurements with a body fat monitor or caliper.
25. Healthy Eating: “Integrate five servings of fruits and vegetables into your daily diet for the next two months (You aim to consistently meet the recommendation every single day).”
How I’d Measure It: Keep a food diary or use a food tracking app.
26. Yoga: “Achieve the headstand pose in yoga within the next five months through regular practice and strengthening exercises (You may begin with easier poses and gradually advance to the full headstand).”
How I’d Measure It: Document your progress through photos or videos.
27. Hydration: “Drink eight glasses (2 liters) of water each day for the next month to improve hydration (The end goal is 30 days reaching the recommended daily water intake).”
How I’d Measure It: Record your daily water intake in a diary or app.
28. Exam Grades: “Aim to achieve an A in Calculus this semester through systematic study and problem-solving practice (This could mean raising your average grade to an A by the end of the term).”
How I’d Measure It: Grade tracking with each report card or progress report.
29. Expand English Vocabulary: “Learn and use 20 new English words each week for the next three months by using flashcards and reading books (You could aim to have a list of 240 new words by the end of three months).”
How I’d Measure It: Keep a journal where you record the new words, their meaning, and usage in a sentence.
30. Improve Reading Speed: “Increase your reading speed by 50 words per minute over the next month through regular practice (Take a reading speed test now, and aim to increase it by the end of the 30-day period).”
How I’d Measure It: Regularly measure your reading speed using online tests.
31. Master a Subject: “Fully understand and be proficient in Biology by teaching the subject twice a week for a month via a study group (You could aim to confidently teach all the Chapters by the end of the month).”
How I’d Measure It: Gather feedback from your study group or quiz yourself online.
32. Perfect Attendance: “Attend every class for one semester without any absences (Your end goal is to have perfect attendance by the semester end).”
How I’d Measure It: Monitor your attendance record.
33. Join a Club: “Join a debate club and participate in at least three debates over the next semester (Your goal might be to have documented participated in at least three events).”
How I’d Measure It: Keep a record of your participation in each event.
34. Study Habits: “Study without distractions for two hours each day for the next month (You should be able to evidence 60 distraction-free study hours by month-end).”
How I’d Measure It: Use a timer or an app that tracks focused study time.
35. Improve Writing Skills: “Write one essay per week on various topics to enhance your writing skills (This translates to four essays per month or 48 essays in a year).”
How I’d Measure It: Keep a log of each topic or theme and perhaps get your work reviewed for feedback.
36. Learn a New Language: “Reach A2 proficiency level in Spanish within one year by enrolling in an online course and practicing regularly (You plan to have an A2 certification, or equivalent competency, by the end of the year).”
How I’d Measure It: Track your improvement with regular assessments in the language course.
37. Higher Degree Admission: “Prepare for and score 320 or above in the GRE within the next six months to get into a good graduate school (Beginning your preparation now for taking the test in July).”
How I’d Measure It: Your score on the GRE will be the measure of success.
38. Build an Emergency Fund: “Set aside $5000 in an emergency fund within the next year (You could aim to save about $417 per month).”
How I’d Measure It: Monitor your bank account balance each month.
39. Control Spending: “Reduce unnecessary expenses (eating out, entertainment, etc.) by 15% each month for the next six months (You might start with an overview of your current spending habits and aim to see a drop by June).”
How I’d Measure It: Regular monitoring of your monthly expenses from bank account or credit card statements.
40. Increase Income: “Increase your monthly income by 10% within the next nine months by finding additional income sources such as a part-time job or a freelance gig (Calculate your current income and set your new monthly income goal).”
How I’d Measure It: Track your monthly earnings from all income sources.
41. Pay Off Debt: “Pay off a credit card debt of $3000 in 12 months (You could aim to make monthly payments that total to $3000).”
How I’d Measure It: Review your debt balance each month.
42. Invest in Stocks: “Invest $1000 in a diversified stock portfolio within the next two months (Your end goal may vary, but you can start by investing a minimum of $1000).”
How I’d Measure It: Monitor your investment portfolio’s value.
43. Retirement Savings: “Increase your retirement savings contribution by 2% of your salary over the next year (For example, if you earn $50,000 annually, you aim to increase your contributions by $1,000).”
How I’d Measure It: Check your retirement savings statements regularly.
44. Buy a House: “Save $20,000 for a down payment on a house in the next three years (This might mean saving about $555 per month).”
How I’d Measure It: Regularly review your savings account balance.
45. Credit Score: “Improve your credit score by 50 points within the next year through consistent, timely bill payments and debt reduction (This goal could begin with a current credit score and aim to see improvement by the end of the year).”
How I’d Measure It: Regular monitoring of your credit score through credit score report checks.
46. Lower Insurance Costs: “Reduce car insurance expenses by 10% within the next six months by shopping for discounts or a better policy (Find out your current spending on car insurance and target the desired savings).”
How I’d Measure It: Compare new car insurance costs with previous bills.
47. Better Financial Management: “Save $200 each month for a year to build an emergency fund (By December, your savings should total $2400).”
How I’d Measure It: At the end of each month, I’ll see how close I got to the $200 goal.
48. Family Outdoor Activities: “Plan a once-a-month family outdoor activity such as hiking, picnic, or cycling for the next year (Set a goal of 12 outdoor activities for the year).”
How I’d Measure It: Maintain a calendar recording each activity.
49. Family Budgeting: “Implement a family budget and stick to it for the next three months (Create a budget that caters to all family members’ needs and aims to follow it until the end of the trial period).”
How I’d Measure It: Regular monitoring of family expenses and comparison with the set budget.
50. Family Book Club: “Start a family book club where each member reads the same book and discuss it once a month for the next six months (Set six books to be read and discussed for the duration).”
How I’d Measure It: Keep a record of the books chosen, who participated, and the discussion’s main points.
51. Family Meals: “Cook and eat dinner as a family at least three times a week for the next six months (This could mean a total of 72 family meals together in the six months).”
How I’d Measure It: Keep a log of the dates and meals cooked.
SMART Goals Template
The Benefits of Measurable Goals
Having ways to measure your goals can be beneficial in a range of ways, including:
- Improved Accountability: Measuring your goals allows you to take responsibility for your progress (For instance, if an employee has a goal to increase sales by 15% over the next quarter). You can examine your progress at any point and assess whether you’re on track to meet your targets. Without a measurable aim, it’s far too easy to slack off and lose focus (Davis, Mero & Goodman, 2007).
- Tracking Improvements over Time: Measurable goals give you the ability to track your improvements and make necessary adjustments (Writers, for example, might aim to write 1000 words per day. If they consistently fall short, they can seek ways to enhance their writing speed). Concrete measurements serve as an indicator of progression, allowing you to identify when things aren’t going as planned and implement changes sooner rather than later. Furthermore, because your goal is time-bound, you can assess if your progress is fast enough for you to rise to the challenge. (See more self-improvement goals here).
- Provides Motivation: Not does measuring goals hold you accountable and encourage improvement, it also provides motivation (Consider a woman who sets a goal to lose 20 pounds in three months. Every pound lost is a victory, encouraging her to keep going). The ability to see progress is incredibly motivating, and this motivation serves as the driving force that encourages ongoing effort.
Overall, making your goals measurable is crucial because it allows for accountability, facilitates improvement, and boosts motivation. Equipping yourself with quantifiable objectives empowers you to track your advancement, make necessary adjustments, and continue striving toward your desired outcomes. This focus on measurability lays a robust foundation for successful goal attainment.
Davis, W. D., Mero, N., & Goodman, J. M. (2007). The interactive effects of goal orientation and accountability on task performance. Human Performance, 20(1), 1-21. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/08959280709336926
Daw, N. D. (2015). Of goals and habits. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(45), 13749-13750. doi: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1518488112
Doran, G. T. (1981). There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives. Journal of Management Studies, 70-75.
Ehrlich, C., & Milston, S. (2021). Happiness through goal setting: A practical guide to reflect on and change the reasons why you pursue your most important goals in life. London: Routledge.
Latham G.P., Locke E.A. (2018) Goal Setting Theory. In The SAGE Encyclopedia of Industrial and Organizational Psychology. London: SAGE.
Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (2013). New developments in goal setting and task performance. London: Routledge.
Nordengren, C. (2021). Step Into Student Goal Setting: A Path to Growth, Motivation, and Agency. New York: Corwin Press.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]