Goal setting is not a new concept, but its methods are being continually improved as we all learn more about its value. It is estimated that 74% of Americans set some type of goal at the beginning of this year and that number is projected to rise in the coming years. Many people are discovering how important setting and achieving goals can be, but others are still missing out on the value of setting goals for themselves.
To learn about the importance of setting short-term, long-term, and lifetime goals, how to set them, and learn about what tools can help you achieve your goals — read on.
The Importance of Setting Goals
Setting goals is important because they help you achieve direction and purpose in your life. Goals also provide a way for you to expand your skill set, increase your knowledge, push your comfort zone, boost your career, and find more fulfillment in your daily life.
Goals help you become a better, more well-rounded person. If you find that there are areas in your life that you want — or need — to improve, goal setting is a great way to address those areas.
Many of the goals you set will be aimed at changing current behaviors that don’t align with “future you”. Perhaps you’re always running late for appointments or work? Setting a goal to be up and ready 15 minutes earlier every day can help you start to change from chronically late to an on-time — or even early — person. With enough motivation, it can be done!
Goals can help you become more:
When you set goals, you’re preparing to elevate into a better version of yourself.
Common Goal Types
The thought of setting personal and professional goals can be both exciting and overwhelming. You’re looking forward to making changes in your life while also feeling unsure about where to start. Setting and achieving goals is a time investment in yourself and your future, so it makes sense that your goal types will revolve around time.
Personal and professional goals can be broken down into three time-based categories:
- Short-term goals — These are goals that you can complete within a few months to a year. The ever-popular new year's resolutions would be considered short-term goals.
- Long-term goals — Long-term goals take anywhere from a year to five years to complete and usually involve completing smaller short-term goals on your way to achieving the bigger goal.
- Lifetime goals — Any goal that takes you five years or more to achieve is considered a lifetime goal. These goals can occur anytime in your life and are typically comprised of short- and long-term goals
Many goals that you set for yourself can build off each other and push you even further. For example, if you set a lifetime goal to graduate college with a business degree, your short-term goals may include researching colleges, taking necessary tests, and applying for your chosen school. Long-term goals could include graduating with honors or a specific GPA.
Other goals can be stand-alone goals that can easily be accomplished on their own. Perhaps you simply want to get a professional massage as a form of self-care. Once you’ve made the appointment and had the massage, your goal is complete; it doesn’t need to build toward another goal.
Professional Goals for Growth
Professional goals can be goals you set for yourself to advance your career or they can be business-related goals that your company wants you to achieve. Some of your personal goals can even tie into professional goals. For example, if you have a personal goal of getting eight hours of sleep every night, this can tie into a professional goal of being able to finish more work tasks by being better rested.
Professional goals can fit in the following categories.
- Company output
- Time management
- Professional growth
Professional goals are a little more nuanced for your career trajectory or your company’s plans. But you can still set a variety of professional goals in your life.
Personal Goals for Growth
While having too many short, long, and lifetime goals at once can certainly be challenging, it is possible to pursue goals in every aspect of your life. Here are some common categories where people often find it helpful to set personal goals:
Your goal options are endless. If you find that you want to change or improve something in your life, you can set a goal to do it.
How to Set Personal and Professional Goals
Now that you know why setting and achieving goals is important, you need to know how to set your goals. People typically face two main problems when trying to set goals: doing too much at once, and making goals too broadly defined.
The best way to combat these issues is to focus on setting S.M.A.R.T goals.
What Are S.M.A.R.T Goals?
S.M.A.R.T is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely. This goal concept was first introduced in 1981 by George T. Doran, who wrote about it in the November issue of Management Review. Doran originally created these concepts for businesses and companies to help them set and achieve business-related goals; however, S.M.A.R.T goals have become a standard goal-setting technique for personal goals and professional goals.
Let’s look at how S.M.A.R.T goals are broken down to help you learn how to set goals.
When you set a goal for yourself, you should have a clear, specific idea of what you are trying to achieve. If a goal is too broad, you will have a hard time focusing your efforts on it and you may give up on the goal altogether.
Be intentional about your goal to understand what you want to accomplish, why it’s important to you, and how you can complete it.
If your goal isn’t measurable, you can’t track your progress and see how well you are doing. Being able to see your progress and know how close you are to the finish line is one of the best ways to actually complete a goal.
Analyze your goal to assess whether it has specific steps or quantifiable metrics. A goal to save money isn’t measurable, but a goal to save $1,000 helps you track your savings and monitor how close you are to the savings goal. A lofty goal with no separate steps or means for progress measurement is a goal that likely won’t be achieved.
Goals are meant to push us to be better, meaning they are usually things that are slightly out of our comfort zone. However, any goal that you set still needs to be achievable. If you set a goal to find a better job, do you have the time to apply for new jobs and go to interviews? Do you have enough money in savings to hold you over during the job transition? Getting a new job is possible, but if you can’t take the steps to get there, the goal may not be achievable for you right now.
Keep in mind that you don’t want your goals to be dependent on anyone else. If your goal is to get a promotion, you are at the mercy of the hiring manager. Instead, make short-term goals that get you closer to a promotion, like completing training courses, shadowing those already in the position, and whatever else you can do to put you in a better position for a promotion in the future.
A relevant goal is one that matters to you and helps you move forward in your life. Ask yourself whether the goal is appropriate or realistic; does it match the desired direction of your life, and is it achievable considering your current time and financial resources?
Perhaps your goal is to learn a new type of coding language, even though you currently work in sales. Is this goal relevant to your current career or professional goals? Probably not. Follow-up questions might include: Do you have the time to fit coding classes into your schedule? Do you have the financial resources to pay for a coding course or purchase coding programs? Be sure to ask yourself these types of questions when deciding if a specific goal is relevant and possible in your life.
It is often said that a goal without a deadline is just a wish. This means that if you don’t put an end date on your goal, you are less likely to achieve the goal. When you put a deadline on a goal, you know how long you have to work on it. You can break it down into smaller pieces, working on it a little bit every day to help you achieve the goal in time.
If you want to plan a vacation to Europe for your next birthday, you now have a deadline for when to be there. As you break that goal down into smaller steps, you will have smaller deadlines for when to buy plane tickets, book lodging, plan your itinerary, and have enough money saved up.
Now that you know what kind of goals to make and how to make them, it’s time to achieve your goals! A highly effective way to make your goals more real is to write them down. When you put your goal down on paper, it takes a conscious effort, you feel more motivated to complete it, and you gain more focus toward your goal.
A planner is a great place to write down your goals and track your progress toward them. There are many benefits of using a planner for your goal setting and tracking; you can visually see your goals written down every day, schedule goal check-ins and deadlines, and note progress, changes, or adjustments that you make toward any of your goals.
Paper vs Digital
In a world where many people use their phones to organize every aspect of their lives, is there still a need to use a paper planner to track your personal and professional goals?
The answer is yes. Digital apps present information in a streamlined, organized way, which can trick your brain into glossing over important information while handwritten notes are associated with stronger neural encoding, memory retrieval, and triggers more robust brain activity according to Psychology Today.
There are 6 advantages of paper in a digital era.
- Paper is conducive to fostering attention and engagement.
- Paper provides a unique sensory experience.
- Paper creates a more personal connection between individuals.
- Paper may be better for our bodies and mental faculties than screens.
- Paper is associated with better reading comprehension and mental acuity.
- Paper note-taking is more fun and effective.
Writing things down on paper is tactile, creative fun! When you put your goals on paper, you can easily color-code similar goals, add little doodles, include important notes, and more. Using a paper planner helps make your goals more personal instead of being just another list in an app.
If your employer has created team or company goals that everyone needs to focus on, you could recommend getting a team whiteboard. With one of these boards, your team can easily write down goals for everyone to see as well as mark progress on the goals. Whiteboards are a great way to help everyone achieve professional goals together. Don’t forget to grab whiteboard accessories as well. You and your team will need markers, erasers, and more to write out your goals or rework them as needed.
For teams that have employees all over the world, you need a way to share team or company goals with everyone. You could suggest that each team member print out the goals and keep them at their desk.
Another suggestion for smaller teams that are spread out is to use project management software. This software allows you to create documents and collaborate in them, no matter where you are. Your manager can create a file of team or company goals that everyone can see and contribute toward, which helps everyone see the goals and stay on track with them.
Set — and Achieve — Your Goals
Setting goals helps you create a plan for improving your life in many different ways. Whether you’re setting personal goals or professional goals, you can make S.M.A.R.T decisions and use goal-setting tools that set you up to successfully achieve those goals. The feelings of pride, confidence, and accomplishment you get after reaching one of your goals give you the boost and motivation to continue setting and achieving new goals.
Have fun setting personal and professional goals and achieving them as you work toward your best self.