Reduce stress with S.M.A.R.T

  • Evidence-Based

There are many reasons we are feeling stressed. One reason is that we are overwhelmed by poor goal setting. This way, stress is the inevitable outcome, increasing the possibility to quit. A natural way to reduce stress is through S.M.A.R.T goal-setting method.

# 1: Specific

The more specific our goals are, the more we are motivated to pursue them. Our vague goals confuse us. When we set a goal we want to either reinforce or weaken some behavior. But we need to be very specific about how this will happen. For example, if I want to start exercising I will say “I will exercise twice a week” instead of saying “I will start exercising next week”.

Practical benefit: Because the goal is specific, we do not constantly wonder what we are trying to achieve.

# 2: Measurable

If you want to increase your exercise time, for example, how will you know that you are achieving your goal? The goal needs to be measurable so you know if and when progress is being made. So, if you want to exercise more, the measurable and specific goal will be: “I will exercise 4 hours per week”.

Practical benefit: We can monitor our progress, constantly feeling that we are moving forward or working towards a goal, even when our days are almost identical.

# 3: Achievable

How realistic and achievable is my goal? To increase the chance of achieving the goal, “break” the big goal into smaller ones. Thus, you will have the satisfaction that your goal is achieved and you enjoy the path leading to your goal. This approach reduces the likelihood of the goal being abandoned and frustration. For example: “I will exercise 1 hour in the morning and 1 hour in the evening”.

Practical benefit: Because we have evaluated our goal and how to achieve it, we also know what to expect. This alleviates daily stress and allows us to focus on the bigger picture.

# 4: Relevant

We are more likely to repeat behaviors that we know will benefit us and to commit when we know we will enjoy something. How relevant our goal is to our general aspirations in life is a matter of self-awareness. For example, is the goal something that is related to your talents, abilities, aspirations and ambitions? When you achieve it, how do you imagine you will feel, what will you gain? Think about how and to what extent the goal contributes positively to aspects of your life.

Practical benefit: When life upsets our plans, instead of giving in to stress, we know that it is okay to change our goals and make them relevant to what we are experiencing now. Survival precedes. We can continue from where we left off.

# 5: Timely

The timeframe of the goal will increase your motivation because you focus on a single object (monotasking and multitasking) and reduce procrastination.

Practical benefit: A schedule pushes us forward and keeps us focused, removing anxiety and doubt, as we know when we need to work towards our goal.


Goal setting creates a structure that allows us to visualize our success and alleviate daily performance stress. Obstacles and problems are not considered detrimental to our progress, but part of a journey to our success. And this knowledge greatly minimizes stress.


[1] Doran, G. T. (1981). There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives. Management Review. 70 (11): 35–36.

[2] Weintraub, J, Cassell, D, DePatie, T,. (2021). Nudging flow through ‘SMART’ goal setting to decrease stress, increase engagement, and increase performance at work. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, διαθέσιμο:

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