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Support: Dealing with Stress in the Workplace

S.M.A.R.T. and RACIN Objectives

Setting up objectives, whether for the management of a project or the supervision of an employee, requires a clear understanding of anticipated actions and expected outcomes. Employees who understand what is expected of them and when it is expected can manage their time wisely to achieve success and reduce frustration. A successful objective helps motivate staff members.
The S.M.A.R.T. objective system can be used to develop clear objectives that allow employees to work effectively.
S.M.A.R.T. objectives are:
Specific (concrete, detailed, well defined)
Measurable (numbers, quantity, comparison)
Achievable (feasible, actionable)
Realistic (take into account your resources)
Time-Bound (a defined time frame)


Specific means that the objective is concrete, detailed, focused, and well defined; it is results-and action-oriented. Specific objectives must:
Emphasize the desired action;
  • Emphasize the required outcome; and
  • Communicate what you would like to see happen.
Specific objectives use focused action verbs, such as “conduct,” “develop,” “build,” “plan,” or “execute.” The reason for the activity is explained and the expected results are made obvious. The person responsible for the activity is identified, as well as any helpers or supporters. The actions required to complete the objective are described and the time frame is provided.

To determine whether your objectives are specific, ask these questions:
  • What task will be completed, with or for whom?
  • What strategies will be used?
  • Is the objective well defined and obvious?
  • Is the objective described with action verbs?
  • Is it clear who will be involved?
  • Is it clear where the activity will occur?
  • Will the objective lead to the desired result?


To develop measurable objectives, identify what action or thing will be measured, how it will be tracked or compared, and what time frame for comparison will be used. The measurements used must be stated in explicit language to ensure that there is a common understanding. Build in small, achievable steps to keep motivation high until the larger goal is reached. Interim measurements can identify whether a mid-course correction is required.
To determine whether your objectives are measurable, ask these questions: 
  • Have I fully explained what I am measuring?
  • Is there a rating system?
  • Can these outcomes be obtained?
  • How will I know that the desired change has occurred?


Objectives must be achievable to maintain motivation. If the objective is far off in the future, build in some intermediate benchmarks along the way.
To determine whether your objectives are achievable, ask these questions:
  • Can it be completed in the proposed timeframe?
  • Are there roadblocks we need to avoid or plan for?
  • Have we incorporated pathways around foreseeable problems?
  • Do we have the resources we need?
  • Are there examples of best practices that we can incorporate? 


Setting realistic objectives means providing necessary resources, i.e., staff time, the right skills, and equipment. You may need to prioritize your use of available resources to be successful.
To determine whether your objectives are realistic, ask these questions:
  • Do I have the resources I need to achieve this objective?
  • Do I need to revisit priorities to make this happen?
  • Is it possible to achieve this objective? 


Time-bound means setting a deadline for achievement of the objective. Deadlines must be achievable and realistic. The development of time frames for each step of the process increases the motivation and urgency required to execute each task.
To determine whether your objectives are measurable, ask these questions: 
  • When will the objective be accomplished?
  • Is there a stated deadline?
  • Is there a way to build in efficiency? 

The RACIN Questions

Objective and goal development can be enhanced by adding other key questions, in addition to the S.M.A.R.T. questions. They help alleviate workforce stress by providing management information for each objective. Advocates for Human Potential, Inc. developed the RACIN questions, which can be integrated into each objective to clarify key stakeholder roles:
  • Who is Responsible?
  • Who must Approve?
  • Who must be Consulted?
  • Who is simply Informed?
  • Who is Not involved?
By incorporating the RACIN questions into the development of each objective, the employee has role clarity, guidance, and sufficient understanding to reduce confusion over objectives for personal or project goals.

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