20 Tips on How to Set Goals at Work
This article will help you to gain a better understanding of how to set goals at work.
Topics include defining goals, importance of setting goals, working towards your goals and examples of goals and SMART goals in the workplace.
You can quickly skim all the 20 goal setting tips on the table of contents below and then click on any tip to read further details. Please enjoy reading. Thank you.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Definition of a goal
- Definition of goal setting
- Benefits of setting goals
- SMART goals
- Achievable or attainable
- Realistic, Relevant or Results-Oriented
- Timely, Time-based or Time-bound
- Examples of goals at work
- SMART goals examples for work
- Writing down your goal
- Visualizing the end result
- Breaking down goals into small steps
- Challenges in accomplishing goals
- Mistakes in reaching goals
- Reviewing goals and monitoring your progress
- Celebrating achieved goals
- Stretch goals
- How Managers can support employees to meet goals
1. Definition of a goal
What do you want to accomplish? A goal is a target, aim or objective that you would like to achieve.
A goal serves as a compass, road-map or blueprint. It outlines the end result that you want to accomplish and guides you as you navigate towards your desired objective.
A goal focuses your efforts towards a particular direction in order to arrive at a desired destination.
2. Definition of goal setting
How will you accomplish your goal? Goal-setting is the process of creating an action plan that will help you to achieve your goals. It outlines the steps that you will take.
The first step is figuring out the goal then the second step is to identify a path for how to reach the goal.
In theory, when you do the items in your action plan you should be able to get closer to your goal.
Among other things, the plan of action helps to organize steps or things to be done in a sequence to promote efficiency, think through gaps, figure out how to address gaps and assign responsibilities for handling different tasks.
A simple action plan can highlight and even help you to answer the following questions:
- What do you want to achieve? (What is your goal?)
- Why do you want to achieve the goal?
- When do you want to achieve the goal?
- What do you need to do to accomplish your goal?
- What resources will you need to reach your goal?
- Which skills are important or necessary?
- What are your key assumptions?
- When will you start working on the goal?
- When will you finish?
- How long will it take to achieve the goal?
- Where will you work on your goal?
- Who will help you?
- How will you monitor your progress?
- What challenges might you face?
- How will you overcome barriers?
- How will you measure success?
- How will you know you have succeeded?
3. Benefits of setting goals
Why should you have goals? It is better to have a goal than not to have a goal. Goals add more meaning and direction to what you are doing. They give you a sense of purpose and urgency as you work on your tasks.
Benefits of goals entail helping to develop skills to achieve goals, taking calculated risks, persevering, exercising patience, embracing failure and learning from your shortcomings.
Other advantages of having goals consist of the following:
Source of motivation – goals provide vision, inspiration, keep you moving forward and help to motivate yourself and others.
Planning – goals help in planning, organizing, making decisions and also stimulating productivity in the workplace.
Provides focus – goals help in prioritization and time management. They provide urgency for tackling tasks that support the achievement of established goals.
Helps to define success – goals outline what you are trying to achieve.
Offer challenge – goals can stretch you and move you beyond your comfort zone by requiring you to perform tasks at a higher level and even acquire new skills or improve on already existing skills.
Helps in management of resources – when faced with scarcity of resources such as time, money, manpower etc. goals can help you in deciding where to channel your scarce resources.
Accountability – when you set goals or are assigned goals, you have a responsibility of working towards meeting the goals. In turn, goals help to inspire commitment, build momentum, evaluate performance and make corrective action as needed in order to achieve the planned goal.
Performance evaluation metric – goals provide a road-map for what employees will work on and be assessed on over a specific time period.
Personal satisfaction upon accomplishing a goal – an internal benefit of goals is the sense of pride or happiness that you feel when you conquer a goal.
Building character and discipline – meeting goals can require one to follow a routine and a process and keep repeating it over again with each small effort inching you closer to the goal. It takes discipline to consistently stay on track and even get back on track when you derail.
4. SMART goals
What is a SMART goal? SMART goals represent aspirations, plans, objectives or goals that are specific, measurable, achievable or attainable, realistic, relevant or results-oriented and timely, time-based or time-bound.
This helps to make goals more focused, meaningful and geared towards achieving clear results.
SMART goals define goals clearly and point out the path, steps and actions that you will take within a specific time period to draw you closer to your goals.
SMART goals stimulate progress, development and growth. They help to make things better.
Below is a simple framework for setting SMART goals:
What is the goal? (The goal I want is …)
How will I track or measure my progress?
What milestones do I have to complete?
How am I doing?
How will I know I have succeeded?
How will I accomplish the goal? (I will do the following …)
Where will I work on the goal? (Location where I will work …)
Which items do I need? (Resources and skills that I need …)
What challenges might you face?
Who will work on the goal? (Who will do the work? Who will I collaborate with? …)
Why do I want to achieve this goal? (I want to achieve this goal because …)
Can I do this goal from start to finish?
Does it support my other goals or plans?
What is the desired end-result of this goal?
When do I start the goal? (Timeline or deadline for the goal …)
When do I finish the goal?
How long will it take to complete the goal?
What exactly are you aiming to achieve? Take a moment to outline the end-result that you want.
Next ask yourself why you want to achieve the result, highlight some benefits to be attained.
Then identify the skills, resources and knowledge that you will need to reach the goal including who will help you to accomplish the goal.
Figure out what actions you will need to do and sequence the specific actions to obtain maximum efficiency and output from your efforts.
In addition, identify where you will be working or the location to make progress on your goals.
Specificity entails addressing what you want to achieve, why you want to achieve it, what you will do to achieve it, how you will achieve it, who will achieve it, who you will work with, where you will do your work, what you need to achieve your work and when to complete the goal.
Below is a simple framework for making goals specific:
- What? (The goal I want …)
- Why? (I want to achieve this goal because …)
- Which? (Resources and skills that I need …)
- Who? (Who will do the work, who will I collaborate with …)
- When? (Timeline or deadline for the goal …)
- Where? (Location where I will work …)
- How? (I will do the following …)
Example of a specific goal
What? (The goal I want …) Over the next six months, I want to increase my skills in MS Excel from intermediate to advanced so that I can do financial analysis and budgeting much faster and efficiently.
Why? (I want to achieve this goal because …) I want to reduce the amount of time that I spend in analyzing financial data and preparing and reviewing budgets.
Which? (Resources and skills that I need …) The resources I need are online videos on MS Excel and doing lots of practice.
Who? (Who will do the work, who will I collaborate with …) I will watch online tutorials and also seek recommendations from colleagues on good resources to use.
When? (Timeline or deadline for the goal …) The timeline is six months.
Where? (Location where I will work …) Computer at home after working hours.
How? (I will do the following …) I will dedicate two hours in the evening during week days to watch online videos teaching different aspects of MS Excel and do practice exercises regularly.
How will you know that you have achieved your goal? Measurability deals with how to quantify the end result through metrics, yardsticks or indicators that show the goal has been met or progress is being made towards reaching a goal.
Quantity can be measured in terms of how much, how many times, how often, how much time, how much money, how long etc.
Likewise you can use milestones along the way to measure progress such as daily or weekly tasks to do or complete or what you will do on a regular basis to attain your goal.
In theory, the sum total of completing all milestones equals goal attainment.
A few simple measures of quantity can include: number of projects completed, number of tasks finished, number of new customers acquired, number of deadlines met, number of goals completed, quantity of profits made, number of new staff hired, number of new contracts won and number of problems resolved.
Other measures are: number of complaints addressed, number of emails responded to, quantity of expenses reduced, amount of time saved, number of new products or services rolled out, quantity of sales, number of errors or mistakes reduced, performance improvement, efficiency, productivity, new skills acquired or improved, customer feedback and quality of work or outputs.
Methods of measuring how much progress you are making towards your goals consist of: self-assessment, using graphs or charts to map out progress, using a to-do list and checking off items completed and using calendar reminders.
Other measurement techniques consist of using apps for tracking progress, receiving feedback from others, surveys, progress update check-in meetings and regularly reviewing goals and asking the following questions: Where am I now? Where do I want to be? What is the gap? Is the gap getting smaller?
7. Achievable or attainable
How will you accomplish the goal? After you have envisioned your goal and visualized the destination, the next step is to develop a road-map that will enable you to reach your goal.
Create an action plan that identifies steps or tasks that you need to do. Determine when to start working on a specific task and also when each task should be completed.
In addition, identify the resources that will be needed to achieve the goal. Likewise, figure out which skills will be required.
Identify where you will work on the goal and who you will collaborate with. If the goal will be done by more than one person, determine everyone’s responsibilities in advance.
Take time to outline potential challenges that you might face and think of possible solutions.
In the case of big and bold goals, it is likely that you might not have all the action steps figured out ahead of time.
This does not necessarily mean that you should only set goals that you can easily reach; there should be some room to challenge yourself to do more than you are currently capable of by setting higher and more challenging goals.
You can face failure and setbacks as you try to reach your goals, similarly your original road-map might not get you to the goal therefore, there is need to regularly monitor your progress and if you are not getting closer to your goal, take a different path that will get you to the desired end result.
Some skills that support goal achievement include planning, organizing, prioritizing, maintaining high standards of performance, collaborating with others, having a positive attitude, decisiveness, flexibility, problem solving, focus and patience.
8. Realistic, Relevant or Results-Oriented
Why is the goal important? The underlying reason for wanting to achieve a goal would be the driving force that will motivate you and propel you forward towards accomplishing the goal.
Your reasons for wanting to achieve the goal help to spell out how important the goal is.
Your reasons aid in answering questions such as: What will happen if you don’t meet the goal? What is the end-result of the goal? Can I do this goal from start to finish? Does it support my other goals or plans?
9. Timely, Time-based or Time-bound
When will you complete the goal? A critical aspect of a goal is having a deadline, due date, completion date or end date.
A SMART goal should have a time-frame that clearly spells out when the goal starts and when it ends.
In the absence of an end date, a goal can drag on for a long time and similarly there won’t be a sense of urgency towards completing the goal.
In addition, there is a risk of other items taking over or being prioritized instead of the goal.
Having a firm deadline helps to prioritize the goal among your other daily, weekly or monthly tasks. It aids in structuring the goal supporting tasks to do immediately, today, tomorrow, within one week, monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually.
You can simply set deadlines by answering the following questions: When do I start the goal? When do I finish the goal? How long will it take to complete the goal?
10. Examples of goals at work
Work goals can have end results such as to help develop, improve, increase, reduce or learn something.
Below are examples of goals at work including organizational goals and career goals/professional development goals:
10.1 Organizational goals
- Getting more customers.
- Reducing costs.
- Increasing profits.
- Increase sales.
- Improving customer service, satisfaction and retention.
- Launching a product or service.
- Venturing into new markets.
- Hiring more high-performing staff.
- Improving employee engagement, morale and satisfaction.
- Improve processes and efficiency.
- Improving company branding and visibility.
- Increase innovation within the company.
10.2 Career goals/professional development goals
- Getting a job.
- Getting a promotion.
- Asking for a raise.
- Changing jobs.
- Completing a course.
- Improving your skills.
- Increasing your productivity or performance.
- Seeking a mentor.
- Learning a new language.
- Building working relationships/Expanding your network.
- Seeking more feedback.
- Changing careers.
11. SMART goals examples for work
After you have come up with a general goal, the next step is to flesh it out into a SMART goal which adds more clarity to what you are trying to achieve.
Here are a few examples of smart goals:
General Goal: Getting a job.
SMART Goal: Within the next six months, I want to get a Marketing Manager position in a good organization at XYZ city that will help me to grow in the next level of my career and earn a good income.
What is the goal? I want to get a Marketing Manager position in a good organization in XYZ city.
How will I track or measure my progress? I will send 3 targeted resumes every week.
How will I know I have succeeded? When I get interviews leading to a job offer.
How will I accomplish the goal? I will update my resume and cover letter and look for jobs on online job boards, company career websites, recruiting agencies and reach out to my network for referrals.
Where will I work on the goal? I will work on my home computer in the evenings and on Saturdays.
Who will work on the goal? I will work on job searching and ask family and friends to let me know of any suitable positions.
What skills and resources do I need? An updated resume and cover letter showing my work skills, accomplishments and the value I can bring to a company.
Why do I want to achieve this goal? I want to grow in the next level of my career to a managerial position and earn a good income of $XX,000 per year.
How long will it take to complete the goal? Within the next six months.
General Goal: Improve my communication skills.
SMART Goal: Over a one-year period, I will work on improving my public speaking skills to confidently speak and present in front of a group of people by enrolling in a public speaking course, practicing and joining a public speaking support group.
What is the goal? I want to improve my public speaking skills.
How will I track or measure my progress? I will lead one team meeting every month, watch three public speaking videos per month, attend one public speaking course and present in one major conference.
How will I know I have succeeded? When I am able to confidently give public speeches and presentations.
How will I accomplish the goal? I will volunteer to lead a team meeting at least once a month. I’ll enroll in a public speaking course and join a public speaking support group. I’ll additionally watch public speaking videos, practice and rehearse, learn from mistakes, seek feedback from a mentor and make a presentation in a conference or workshop.
Where will I work on the goal? At work and at home.
Who will work on the goal? I will work on public speaking and collaborate with a mentor to guide me.
What skills and resources do I need? Attending a course on public speaking and putting the knowledge learned to practice.
Why do I want to achieve this goal? I want to be able to confidently speak and present in front of a group of people, connect with others and share ideas persuasively.
How long will it take to complete the goal? One year.
General Goal: Increase company revenue.
Smart Goal: To increase the annual revenue for the company by 15% by increasing the number of customers by 120, reduce customer attrition and improve relationships with customers.
What is the goal? To increase the annual revenue for the company by 15% by increasing the number of customers by 120.
How will we track or measure our progress? Acquire 10 new organizational customers every month, send handwritten thank you notes to each new customer and conduct quarterly customer surveys to find out what customers like and dislike.
How will we know we have succeeded? When revenue increases by 15% by the end of the year.
How will we accomplish the goal? Seek referrals from our existing customers, offer presentations to potential customers, provide free trial periods for potential customers, respond to customer requests quickly, listen to feedback from customers and exceed expectations.
Where will we work on the goal? In the office.
Who will work on the goal? The sales and marketing department.
What skills and resources do we need? Selling, marketing and networking.
Why do we want to achieve this goal? To make the company more profitable.
How long will it take to complete the goal? One year.
11.1 Template for Writing SMART Goals
Here is a simple template for writing your SMART goals. Begin by writing your general goal then proceed to answer the SMART questions. Once you have answered all the questions then summarize the most important points to come up with your SMART goal.
Simple Template for Writing SMART Goals
What is the goal?
How will I track or measure my progress?
How will I know I have succeeded?
How will I accomplish the goal?
Where will I work on the goal?
Who will work on the goal?
What skills and resources do I need?
Why do I want to achieve this goal?
How long will it take to complete the goal?
12. Writing down your goal
It is helpful to write down your goal. At a minimum, writing down your goal serves as a reminder of what you are trying to accomplish.
You can look at your goals from time to time to refresh yourself and re-energize yourself.
In addition, writing down your goals can help you to think through the steps that you need to take to achieve your objective.
13. Visualizing the end result
It takes focus, commitment, determination, perseverance, hard work and resilience to see goals to fruition.
Along the way you can face hardships, setbacks and challenges and even encounter naysayers who dampen your resolve to accomplish your goals.
Visualizing the end result helps to motivate you to hang in there or persevere even if it is taking a long time to achieve your goal.
14. Breaking down goals into small steps
It can be overwhelming trying to achieve a goal all at once. Instead, it is better to break down a goal into a series of small steps or little tasks that you need to do.
Each time you finish one little task, it moves you forward.
Accomplishing many little steps helps to build momentum and the sense of accomplishment propels you ahead gradually and eventually you accomplish what you set out to do.
Reflect on each day or each week and ask yourself – Have I done something today or this week that will help me to get closer to my goals?
An additional step that can help you to stay accountable and to keep on track is to report to a trusted friend who encourages you on your progress and reminds you to get back on track if you are slacking off.
15. Challenges in accomplishing goals
There are many challenges, obstacles or pitfalls that could prevent you from attaining your goals.
Challenges can be internal or external. Below are some challenges that could be encountered when reaching goals:
Inadequate skills to reach goals – where you fall short or lack the required skills to successfully attain a goal.
Burnout – where you are working hard on achieving the goal and feeling tired and exhausted from all the work involved.
Lack of enthusiasm – where you have lost the motivation or desire to keep working on your goals.
Loss of momentum – where you are working on your goals in a haphazard manner or a start and stop manner where there are long time intervals between actions causing you to loose momentum.
Distractions – where there are other things that are cropping up or occupying your time or mind so that you don’t fully focus on the goals.
Self-doubt – where you are unsure or doubt that you can reach your goals or lack confidence to courageously pursue a goal.
Naysayers – where you listen to and get discouraged by those who tell you that you can’t achieve your goals.
Fear of failure – where you are afraid or worried that you won’t succeed or be able to reach your goals and get stuck in your comfort zone.
16. Mistakes in reaching goals
Here are a few mistakes that can hinder you from accomplishing your goals:
Procrastination – where you get overwhelmed by the goal and instead postpone taking action.
Impatience – where a goal is taking too long to be realized and yet you want immediate results. Not appreciating that it takes a long time to attain your goal.
Lack of planning – where you have not taken time to think through the steps needed to achieve the goal and are proceeding in an uncoordinated manner.
Too many goals – where you are trying to accomplish many goals at the same time and you have spread yourself too thin to really focus adequately on accomplishing the goals.
Giving up – where you walk away from the goal and feel that it cannot be attained, or giving up when you face challenges.
Vague goals – where a goal is not clearly defined and there are no action steps for meeting goals.
Lack of action – where you have good goals and even have written them down but don’t take any action towards accomplishing the goal. Another aspect of inaction is waiting for the right time instead of doing something.
Lack of deadlines – where there isn’t a specific time period for finishing the goal and the goal drags on and on.
Not tracking progress – where you don’t take time to look back at progress taken and measure results along the way.
Inconsistency – where you don’t prioritize working on your goals and you put in effort in a haphazard way.
17. Reviewing goals and monitoring your progress
An important and necessary part of achieving goals is regularly tracking your performance or monitoring your progress.
From time to time assess how much progress you have made. Compare your progress against your vision and identify areas to improve on.
If you are not on track to meet your goals or if you haven’t made meaningful progress, take time to analyze why you are falling short. Ask yourself if you continue on the same path whether you will reach your goal.
Figure out what you need to do differently to get closer to your goal. In the beginning, you visualized your destination and tried one road to get there, if it does not work try another road. You can change how to achieve the goal or the path to follow whereas the destination remains the same.
You can go an extra step to assess any new challenges that have arisen and how to deal with them.
Make progress monitoring into a regular habit or routine that can entail the following elements: set a goal; set milestones, mini-goals or sub-goals; create reminders; check your to-do list regularly; review progress; make necessary adjustments or improvements; keep going/working and monitor deadlines.
The closer you get to achieving your goals, the higher your excitement and motivation to push you through the finish line.
18. Celebrating achieved goals
Do you move from one goal to the next? If yes, pause a bit and take time to cherish and celebrate once you achieve a goal.
Enjoy the aroma of success, take in the moment and relish the satisfaction of achieving what you had set out to do.
Share the good news with family, friends or colleagues. Give thanks to people who helped you to achieve your goals.
Do something that you enjoy, something that makes you happy. It can be as simple as watching a movie, taking a day off, going out for dinner or buying yourself a gift.
Celebrating your goals helps to build positivity, inspiration and momentum for achieving other goals.
Similarly take time to recognize others who have achieved their goals – congratulate them and celebrate with them.
19. Stretch goals
How can you do more and better? A stretch goal is a much harder and more challenging goal. It is a target that is more difficult to accomplish.
Once you have achieved your goals or if you are constantly setting and meeting goals, it wouldn’t hurt to set for yourself more challenging goals that would really push you as you work towards achieving them.
A simple stretch goal could entail working towards doubling or tripling your current work output.
The new big goals could require you to think of different and even better ways of achieving targets – to think of new possibilities. This could lead to creativity, innovation and even efficiency. It could also encourage reinventing of processes and improvement of current procedures.
Stretch goals can also be a team effort whereby a group of staff work together on a big goal or a big, ambitious breakthrough.
Failure is a possibility when aiming for stretch goals however it should not hold you back or cloud your outlook.
Through failure you similarly get to learn what works and what doesn’t and hopefully with time you can leverage on doing more of what works to achieve big goals.
It’s likewise important to note that you don’t have to achieve a stretch goal in one giant leap, you can implement a series of small steps to get you closer to your objective.
20. How Managers can support employees to meet goals
Below are 11 ways supervisors can support their staff towards reaching goals at work.
Setting goals – creating goals for staff and breaking them down into a few objectives.
Being available – being interested in what the employee is doing and availing yourself to listen to employees concerns, suggestions and triumphs.
Providing resources – ensuring that employees have the necessary materials to do their jobs effectively,
Checking in regularly – meeting with employees at regular intervals and staying up to date on their performance.
Clarifying expectations – making sure that you are on the same page with employees and clearing up any misunderstandings.
Giving feedback – taking time to let employees know how they are doing, pointing out areas where they are doing well and giving praise/appreciation and similarly highlighting areas where the employee has fallen short and recommending corrective action.
Aligning teams – ensuring that teams are fully staffed, each person understands their role on the team and everyone is working harmoniously.
Tracking progress – regularly monitoring the progress being made towards achieving goals.
Resolving problems – helping to solve problems, challenges or bottlenecks that arise and likewise empowering employees to resolve problems on their own.
Measuring results – measuring accomplishments achieved against the goals set.
Rewarding accomplishments – taking time to appreciate, recognize or reward staff members who have accomplished their goals.
Goals help in both personal improvement and professional development.
It is important to have goals that are clearly defined from the beginning of the goal-setting process so that you can be able to channel your energy, focus and attention and invest the proper effort, take calculated risks and generate or identify the resources required to help you to attain your goals.
Goals should similarly help you to stretch and progressively increase your skill level, capabilities and knowledge.
Each time you achieve one goal, take time to enjoy the moment then keep the momentum going by setting more challenging goals for yourself.
Additional Resources on How to Set Goals at Work
- How to Set SMART Goals: Guide for Supervisors and Employees
- 10 Steps to Setting and Achieving Goals at Work
- 7 Examples For Setting Professional Development Goals At Work
- Golden Rules of Goal Setting: Five Rules to Set Yourself Up for Success
- SMART Goals Examples for Work
- The Essential Guide to Writing S.M.A.R.T. Goals
- SMART Goals At Work: Examples For What, How & Why
- 7 Steps to Setting Workplace Goals and Making Them Happen
- 8 Examples of Job Goals
- How to Set and Achieve Goals