How To Set Goals (And What To Do When You Achieve Them)

Updated October 11, 2022

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Setting goals is an important skill both inside and outside of the workplace. Knowing how to set a goal and then taking the actions to follow through with it can increase your overall productivity and progress. In a business setting, setting goals can help both you and your team advance in your careers and boost efficiency.

In this article, we define goal setting, explain its importance, describe how to set goals and review what to do once you achieve those goals.

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What is goal setting?

Goal setting involves establishing specific objectives that you intend to complete. Setting goals is an effective way to accomplish the following:

  • Plan and motivate yourself to realize your vision of the future

  • Decide which tasks and achievements you want to accomplish and where you should focus your efforts

  • Organize your resources or improve your skills

Setting goals can contribute to personal development, career advancement and the growth of an organization.

Related: How Do You Set SMART Goals? Definition and Examples

Why set goals?

There are many benefits to setting goals. Here are a few to consider:

  • Clear goals provide direction for where you want to be in life and at work.

  • Goal setting can boost motivation to complete both short-term and long-term projects.

  • Goals give you a definitive idea of what's important and what isn't.

  • Goals can help you stay in control of your future and spend time on activities that move you closer to your desired outcome.

  • Clearly outlined goals can help you change your behavior positively as you strive toward the outcome you desire.

  • Outlining achievable goals and following through on them can improve your overall self-confidence in your abilities both at work and in life.

Read more: FAQ: Why Is Career Goal Setting Important? (Plus Examples)

How to set goals

Here are some steps that can help you outline and set your goals so you can take actionable steps to reach them:

1. Write down your goals

You may be more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down and create a concrete plan for achieving them. This technique can be helpful for both small goals and for long-term projects. Consider writing them down and keeping the list where you can see it daily to help you stay focused and motivated on accomplishing your goals.

Related: How To Successfully Set Goals

2. Be specific

Setting specific goals can help you ensure you know exactly what you're trying to achieve and take the actions to do so. Try envisioning what achieving your objective result might look like. This can help you create a more specific goal and may enable you to create concrete steps for reaching that goal.

For example, your goal is to become a senior manager. Rather than writing “become senior manager” on your goal list, think about the specifics of this goal. You can determine:

  • What are the exact steps you can take to achieve this goal are

  • How long it may take you to accomplish it the goal

  • What your life might look like once you receive the promotion

Related: Setting Goals To Improve Your Career

3. Pick an exact due date

Exact due dates enable you to break your goals down into milestones. With these milestones, you can create markers that are smaller and more manageable and that ultimately lead to your main goal. Rather than saying that you plan to reach a particular goal by next spring, write the exact date, like May 5, by which you plan to achieve your goal.

It's also helpful to choose a date that's realistic and doable. For example, if you want to run a marathon, break your goal down into smaller steps, like running two miles by next month and then four miles by two months from now. Ultimately, you can work your way up to your bigger goal. This can give you a doable timeline by which to track your progress.

Related: Why Deadlines Are Important

4. Determine your motivation

If you've got a strong enough reason for wanting to achieve your goal, you may feel more motivated to succeed. The more specific and value-driven your goal is, the more likely you may be to follow through with it.

For instance, if you want to earn a million dollars, try determining reasons for earning a million dollars that resonate with your core values. Here are a few examples that may help inspire you to complete your goal:

  • Achieving freedom

  • Spending more time with family

  • Contributing to important societal change

Related: How To Get Motivated at Work

5. Choose measurable goals

The more measurable your goals are, the greater chance you may have of achieving those goals because you can keep better track of what you accomplish and the work you still need to do. When possible, it may help to implement a metric for tracking your goal. You might use:

  • Money

  • Time

  • Size

  • Numbers of products

For example, if you're trying to make a specific amount of money, you can measure your progress by comparing how much you've with the amount you set as your goal. If you'd like to lose weight, you can select a measurable amount, such as losing 20 or 30 pounds, then measure your progress by weighing yourself.

Related: How To Write A SMART Goal (And How They Work)

6. Devise a massive action plan

Creating a massive action plan (MAP) is an effective way to maximize your chances of realizing your goals. A MAP can help you focus on the end goal and avoid distractions.

When you're creating your MAP, include details about the steps and strategies you plan to use. The more time you invest in building your MAP, the more effective it may be in helping guide you as you work toward your goal. 

Related: 10 Effective Goal-Setting Techniques for Achieving Your Goals

7. Identify mental objections

Mental objections are challenging thoughts you may need to overcome to achieve your goals. A mental objection may be that you feel you aren't smart enough or capable enough to realize a goal. 

Identify and write every mental objection you may have, then write rebuttals for each. If you had previously thought you weren't smart enough to achieve something, remind yourself of instances in which you achieved something great. This can help counteract your mental objections and help you realize your immense capabilities. 

Related: 40 Tips To Overcome Being Negative

8. Manage your time effectively

An important part of achieving your goals is managing your time effectively. This can help you make constant progress toward your goals. To get the best results, you can use one of the many effective time-management systems. These include:

  • To-do lists

  • Accountability buddies

  • Timers

  • Schedules

Find out which system works best for you and implement it to achieve your goals. You can also invest in time management online training programs to take your time management skills a step further.

Read more: Time Management Skills: Examples and How To Improve Them

9. Monitor your progress and adjust your approach

Things can change while you're trying to reach a certain goal, so it's helpful to evaluate and readjust your approach as you progress. Consider efforts that work well and those that might benefit from revision. You can also adjust the goal itself to ensure it remains relevant and attainable. 

Related: 10 Tips for Being More Goal-Oriented at Work

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What to do when you achieve your goals

After learning how to set goals, it may be helpful to consider what it might be like to achieve those goals. Once you achieve a goal, celebrate your success by treating yourself to a reward or sharing your good news with a friend, colleague or mentor. Particularly for larger goals, taking time to feel proud of your accomplishments can help you energize yourself and maintain motivation in the future. 

You can also reflect on the process of setting and pursuing the goal. Consider the challenges and steps and determine which were most helpful. This can help you decide what goal to set next and what to include in your plan for that goal.

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