Achieving S.M.A.R.T. Goals with Asana

I came across SMART goals a couple of years ago as a way to set realistic goals that address the problems of ambiguity and irrelevance. SMART stands for:

  • Specific – Target a specific area for improvement.
  • Measurable – Quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
  • Assignable – Specify who will do it.
  • Realistic – State what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
  • Time-bound – Specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

Rather than setting a goal like:

Be the best Ruby on Rails Developer in [Insert your city].

You will set a goal like:

Become a competitive Ruby on Rails Developer in [Insert your city] by learning the foundations of Ruby & Ruby on Rails to adequately build a web app for clients. Success in this goal will be a few completed projects to show, 1 or 2 in the works, and a few in the pipeline two years from now.

When I started using Asana, a project management tool for teams, I quickly noticed that it was a system built with this idea in mind.

‘S’ for Specific – Map Goals to Actions

In Asana, when I have a long term project that I am working on, I create a project list for it. Within it, I categorize the tasks into sections.


From there, I can break large tasks into smaller subtasks, in order to make it more manageable. This takes all of the planning out of my head and puts it into a list. Coworkers can collaborate by adding and modifying tasks. This results in taking a goal and mapping it into concrete actions.

‘M’ for Measurable – What does success look like?

Making a goal measurable requires you to work backwards from the end to the beginning. What do you expect to see when you achieve your goal? What will it take to achieve that? Clearly set measured results that you want to see in the end.


  • 5 leads a month from our new website within 1 year
  • A few completed projects to show, 1 or 2 in the works, and a few in the pipeline two years from now

‘A’ for Assignable – Areas of Responsibility

Asana as a company sets Areas of Responsibility. Each AoR defines what every team member — manager or not — is responsible for. They’re inspired by Apple’s DRI(Directly Responsible Individiual).

“Any effective meeting at Apple will have an action list. Next to each action item will be the DRI.” – Former Apple Employee

In Asana, each task is assignable to one team member. This puts one person as the lead to each step it takes in achieving your goal.

The assigned lead of a task can break it down into subtasks and assign those to other team members.

‘R’ for Realistic – Is it doable?

After you specify, plan, and assign every task needed to complete a project, it becomes obvious whether or not a goal is clear. If your team learns that the goal is not achievable in the time planned, maybe it’s time to widen your options.

‘T’ for Time-Bound – When do you expect results?

All tasks in Asana can be given a due date. Making a goal time-bound gives priority & value to a task, allowing you to know how much effort should be put into completing it. Schedule when you expect major chunks to be completed, and this will help you when measuring the success of your project.

Putting It All Together

After all of the planning is set, it’s time to go to work on achieving your goal! The project leader can find and mitigate roadblocks by helping to break down large tasks and reassigning tasks/subtasks for team members. A Bonus with Asana: Rather than spending hours in team planning/update meetings, each member can instantly be up to date and communicate on progress/issues through Asana.(And you’ve just collectively saved several hours of team time to be used more productively.)

Take advantage of Asana for your team, and you will learn how to work & communicate together in a more productive way.


About Alex Kitchens

I am a principal software engineer at Stitch Fix working remotely from Amarillo, TX. Talk to me about anything Rails, Ruby, Rust, or coffee.