Overuse of acronyms can be either amusing or annoying. Most often the latter. Acronyms are generally not helpful to anyone outside of the person dropping them into their presentation, lecture or Friday night after-work technology debate. Sure, there are some acronyms that we all understand without using brainpower; FAQ, ETA, BBC, ATM, NATO, LCD, LED, etc. And there there are some that we might use every day without being aware of the underlying terminology (or pronunciation), such as JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group), AM (ante meridiem), PM (post meridiem), DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), RSVP (Répondez S'il Vous Plaît)… There's even the relatively recently invented and organically growing group of social networking acronyms developed by teenagers the world over to communicate without the use of actual words, sometimes for the purposes of pulling the wool over Mum's eyes, e.g. NIFOC (Nude In Front Of The Computer).

So yeah, acronyms are rarely helpful. Unless that acronym is a mnemonic, by definition a 'learning technique that aids information retention' rather than just a string of letters that allows us to talk faster. The distant cousin of cockney slang, mnemonics can also be short poems or phrases that prompt recall, e.g. every good boy deserves fruit (use in music education), red sky at night: shepherd's delight (amateur weather forecast), thirty days hath September, and so on. Which brings me to my favorite mnemonic (finally) for developing and testing the definition of one's goals, equally applicable to business or personal objectives..

SMART(ER)

If you're reading this post then chances are you already know what SMART stands for and refer to it regularly. Then again, there are a few different versions kicking around out there! The SMART concept was developed in the early 80s (such a great decade) as a reference model for management of business objectives. It is now used widely alongside any number of other acronyms and mnemonics, and is particularly popular in digital marketing because it is often easier to measure and track targets online than it is offline. Here are some of the most common SMART criteria combinations:

Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely

I don't like this version. Achievable and Realistic raise the same questions for me, and Timely is not always something we can control - we'd all like our marketing objectives to occur at the most favorable and opportune time, but that's not always predictable.

Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound

Once again, Attainable goals are the same as Realistic goals, and Time-bound is too restrictive for the online world.

Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, Time-limited

Still not there...

Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-based

Almost.

Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, Time-based (Evaluate Re-evaluate)

Yes! We lose the implication of whether a goal is realistic or not (what's the point of setting a goal if you don't believe it can be achieved?) and go beyond that to ensuring the goal can produce positive change and action. Each goal should be relevant to the overall business objectives, because there's not point acquiring leads for the sale of oranges if you only sell apples. A goal related to time creates incentive and ensures overall objectives are met at the same pace as your market. Evaluate and re-evaluate your goals over time, just as you should your website content, user experience and USP.

Wikipedia gives a number of alternative criteria terms for SMART, and there's no reason that any combination of these couldn't be customised for a particular type of business or section of a business.