November 22, 2022

What Are SMART Goals? Can They Help With ADHD?

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In my teens and twenties, I always hated when people said I lived in “fantasy land.” But, like – they weren’t wrong Now that I have a handle on my ADHD, I know that my daydreaming, stalling, and procrastination were all consequences of poor goal-setting. There's a big difference between “fantasy goals” and “SMART goals.” Let's learn the difference and chat how you can actually crush the goals you set for yourself.

Why Fantasy Goals Are So Attractive

Believe me, this isn’t a knock to the dreamers and the big thinkers, but learning the difference between fantasy goals and SMART goals was a wakeup call. Need a clearer picture? Here are some examples rookie goal-setting mistakes:

  • “Tomorrow I’m going to clean the entire house.
  • “This month I’m gonna lose 10 pounds.” 
  • “This week I’m going to do $1,000 in sales.”
  • “Next month I’m gonna work on my business.” 

Raise your hand if you’ve ever said anything along those lines. No judgment, I’m raising my hand, too

The thing is, when we set a “fantasy goal” it gives our brain a little hit of dopamine – which makes us feel good! But without outlining exactly how we’ll get from point A to point B, it’s all in vain.

You set the goals, but then the next day, next week, next month rolls around and nothing got done? You beat yourself up. Then a few weeks go by and you feel motivated to set another goal. You don’t meet it. You beat yourself up. And the cycle never stops.

It’s not you. 

It’s not a lack of willpower.

Or brain power.

Or any kind of power. 

It’s just a misguided attempt at setting some (usually very achievable!) goals: 

What are SMART goals?

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, And Time-Bound. In order for your goal to be realistic, for you to stand any chance at accomplishing it, you need to get tough on all 5 pillars.

Keep reading below for 8 questions to ask to turn a fantasy goal into a SMART goal.


  1. Is your goal as specific as possible?

There’s a big difference between “I’m going to start a business” and “I’m going to find 3 suppliers within my budget.”

Here’s another example: “I’m going to clean the house” is not specific enough. Instead, you could say “I’m going to deep-clean the kitchen.”

When you set a goal that’s not specific enough, you set yourself up for failure because your ADHD brain will have no idea where to start and will inevitably lead to paralysis, avoidance, and ultimately not doing anything at all.

Acclaimed professional organizer, ADHD expert, and best-selling author Judith Kolberg writes “To optimize your chances of completing a task from beginning to end, coping with distractions is key. You can accomplish this by making your intentions stronger and your distractions weaker.”

When you have ADHD it’s incredibly easy to get distracted by less important tasks if we’re unclear about where to start. With goals that are too broad or too ambitious, overwhelm will inevitably set in. 

So try this next time: Outline your big goal. Divide the tasks in half. Then in half again. Then, yup, in half one more time. Now you’re working with an eighth of the goal you originally started with.


  1. How will you know when your goal is complete? Does it have an end? Or does it go on indefinitely? 

If it’s something like, “I want to launch a new business,” there should definitely be an end!

But if it’s something like, “I want to journal,” how will you know if you reached your goal?

Most ADHDers have a deficiency in our working memory, so we find it difficult to picture what the end result will look like.

For example, if the goal is a clean kitchen, one way to hack your brain is to save on your phone or print a picture of what a clean kitchen looks like. 

Better yet – the next time you clean your own kitchen, take a picture and save it. Now whenever you need to clean the kitchen again, you can reference that photo so you know what the end result should look like. 

But what if the goal is more abstract? Like, “I want to have strong friendships.” How will you measure that?

One way is to create a habit: 

  • I will text or call one friend every day.
  • I will journal each morning before the kids wake up for 10 minutes
  • I will interview 3 babysitting candidates by next Friday.
  • I will call 10 potential clients a day for 30 days.

If  you want to learn more about creating lasting habits, I highlyyyy recommend the book Atomic Habits. The concept of habit stacking is the reason I was finally able to get a grip on my finances. 

In classic ADHD form, I avoided looking at my bank statements and budgeting because it was too overwhelming. I made my goal much more measurable by attaching it to an existing habit:

Each morning while I wait for my Vitamin C serum to absorb, I check and update my expenses using the RocketMoney app. Doing this takes me 2-5 minutes a day and has saved me hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

Digital + printable planning resource

For a guided template to help you create S.M.A.R.T. goals, check out my ADHD Priority Planner – there are 18 different templates total and 7 of them are designed specifically to help you create S.M.A.R.T. goals. Click here for the digital version and here for the printable version.


At this critical point in S.M.A.R.T. goal setting, you need to get radically honest with yourself about your limitations by asking these questions:

  1. Do I have the skills to complete this task? If not, how can I acquire them?
  2. Can I pass off this task to someone else?
  3. Can I set the bar lower so that I can achieve a different version of this task?

Part of what makes a goal attainable is that it’s within your wheelhouse of skills. If you want to open a restaurant but know nothing about cooking, you will need to outsource. This doesn’t apply as much to chores or errands, but it is a hardddd stop we have to face when planning big life or business goals.

Instead of trying to recreate the Taj Mahal, you may have to settle for a popsicle stick house – and that’s okay. Because it’s still progress. You still produced something.


This one question alone will save you thousands of dollars (and thousands of hours).

  1. Is the goal I’m pursuing relevant to my core values? In other words, is it really necessary?

If your core values are to maintain a clean, healthy home, then deep-cleaning your kitchen a couple times a month probably aligns with it. 

If for example you’re a tax accountant and your goal is to redesign your business card, is this task relevant to your goals? Will it bring you more clients? If the answer is no, don’t bother wasting your time. If the answer is yes but the skill isn’t in your wheelhouse and therefore would take you too much time, outsource.

Maybe you don’t need to launch a podcast to reach your business goals after all. Maybe you don’t need to purchase fancy napkins for your laid-back pizza restaurant. Getting clear on your core values is a huge part of determining how relevant your goals are.

In my ADHD Priority Planner, there are two really effective exercises to help you determine your core values and weed out the things that aren’t relevant to your growth: The Warren Buffet exercise and the Core Values exercise.


These two questions have to do with setting a realistic timeline for your goal:

  1. How much time do you realistically have to complete your goal?
  2. How much time do you want to spend working towards your goal?

One hour? Three hours? 12 years? 

Think about how long it would take to complete your goal. If the goal is “clean the house.” and you know you only have one hour tomorrow, guess what? You’re not gonna clean the house unless it's a very basic gloss-over, which is fine if that’s your goal.

But if you want to deep clean, think about how long it would take to do one room. 45 minutes? Great! Do that and then spend your remaining 15 minutes enjoying a nice hot cup of tea or reading a book. Because guess what? You accomplished more than you would have if your goal was an overwhelming “clean the house.”

More examples:

  • I will deep clean the kitchen for one hour.
  • I will spend 30 minutes creating a content strategy for my social media.
  • I will spend 1 hour creating an infographic for my client.
  • I will spend 30 minutes researching a new water filter and make an informed purchase with whatever I come across.

Regularly attach deadlines to your goals. It will not only help you learn how long things actually take, but it will give you a time limit for your effort, so you can move on to something else. Knowing that there’s a time limit will also usually get your butt in gear.

To recap, here are 8 questions you can ask to turn a fantasy goal into a SMART goal:

  1. Is your goal as specific as possible?
  2. How will you know when your goal is complete? Does it have an end? Or does it go on indefinitely? 
  3. Do I have the skills to complete this task? If not, how can I acquire them?
  4. Can I pass off this task to someone else?
  5. Can I set the bar lower so that I can achieve a different version of this task?
  6. Is the goal I’m pursuing relevant to my core values? In other words, is it really necessary?
  7. How much time do you realistically have to complete your goal?
  8. How much time do you want to spend working towards your goal?

So there you have it! 8 questions to create goals that actually stick. If you’re ready to get down to business, download my FREE daily mindset template! The right goals start with the right mindset, and this free template breaks down some helpful daily habits and well as a daily task organizer. 

Comments +

  1. It’s actually a great and useful piece of information. I’m glad that you just shared
    this useful info with us. Please stay us up to date like this.
    Thank you for sharing.

    • Ana Urban says:

      I’m so glad to hear it was helpful! Often we already have the knowledge within us, all we need is a framework. Wishing you growth on your journey!

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