Everybody has dreams and aspirations – in both their personal and professional lives – yet many people struggle to create goals and stick to them.
Meanwhile, others have remained ambitious and seen their goals through. You’re probably wondering, what’s the key to their success?
Before we answer this question, we need to establish the difference between short-term and long-term goals.
Short-term vs. long-term goals
A short-term goal is a goal you want to achieve in the immediate future (less than 12 months).
E.g. saving money on a weekly basis
A long-term goal is something you want to accomplish in the distant future (12 months or more).
E.g. buying your dream home
The distinction between short-term and long-term goals is important because short-term goals can become part of a long-term goal.
Using our examples from above, saving money on a weekly basis would be a productive step towards buying your dream home because you will build up your savings.
Now that we know the distinction, we need to create a system that helps us build towards our goals, both in the short-term and long-term.
So how can you build effective short-term and long-term goals?
For Short-Term Goals
Set SMARTER goals – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, timely, evaluate, readjust.
Specific: Your goal needs to be precise so that you know how to complete your objective. Think about what you want to achieve and how to achieve this.
Measurable: By creating a quantifiable goal, you are creating a timeline for your progress, helping you achieve this goal. A measurable goal helps you notice when you haven’t been completing your target.
Achievable: Your goal needs to be feasible to complete in a given timeframe. Set your goal just big enough to push yourself into reaching your goal.
Relevant: Each goal should ideally have a reason behind it that makes it worthwhile. Consider whether this goal links with a long-term goal you want to accomplish in the future.
Timely: Your goal must be time-bound – with a start date and a deadline – so there is a sense of urgency that will motivate you to complete your goal.
Evaluate: Continuously evaluate your goal along the way – whether daily, weekly or monthly – so that you stay focused up until the end. Once you have completed your goal, evaluate your overall performance by thinking about what worked well and what went wrong. Take this insight into the next goal you set for yourself.
Readjust: If you keep encountering problems, stop and readjust, so you can move forward and achieve your goal.
This framework originated from the acronym SMART. Coined by George T. Doran in his 1981 paper, ‘There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives’, he suggests that creating business management objectives based on these five areas will bring management excellence to an organisation.
So if this works in a business environment, why not expand this thinking to other areas of our life, so we can “manage” our own goals?
An example of a SMARTER short-term goal would be:
I will set up my WFH (Work From Home) office space over the weekend before I start my new job.
Specific – The goal of setting up an office space is well-defined.
Measurable – The goal can be measured through completing smaller tasks: picking a location in the house, clearing the space of unnecessary items etc.
Achievable – The goal can realistically be completed before the new job starts.
Relevant – The goal must be completed because the new job is a remote position.
Timely – The goal will be completed over the weekend.
Evaluate – The goal can be evaluated after completing each of the smaller tasks.
Readjust – The goal can be readjusted if any issues arise.
If the SMARTER method is ideal for a short-term goal, how can you prepare for long-term goals?
For Long-Term Goals
Long-term goals require a lot of time and planning. Therefore, it can be beneficial to prioritise your goals before deciding which goal to pursue.
Prioritisation is the act of deciding what is most important to you right now.1
By making this choice, you can focus all your time and energy on a particular goal.
Spend some time researching, speaking to a life coach or other people about your goal, so you understand how to progress through your goal.
Research allows you to prepare for any potential setbacks that may occur along the way.
To create a detailed plan, break down your long-term goal into a series of short-term goals, so you can visualise what steps to take to reach your goal.
Keeping a record of this plan – in a journal or on an online document – will give you the flexibility to alter your plan if something changes!
To answer our question from earlier, building effective goals requires a lot of preparation beforehand – in both research and planning – so that when you feel demotivated and close to giving up, there is a plan to fall back onto when things get tough.
If you need more guidance in building successful goals, Ceed can help you – a life coach will be on hand to help you set up your goals for success.