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Short-Term Goals & the Benefits of Quick Wins
When it comes to achieving personal and professional success, one of the most underrated yet powerful tools are short-term goals. Despite their profound effect on the progress that employees make towards their professional aspirations, few even know how to recognize one, let alone how to set one effectively.
If goals are our vision of an ideal future that we hope to eventually reach for ourselves, then we need to have a thorough understanding of, and a refined focus on, short-term goals.
What are Short-term goals?
Any goal you set can be designated as either short-term or long-term depending on the timeline that you plan to achieve it under. While long term goals usually have a timeframe of one to several years, short-term goals can be defined as the actions that you plan to accomplish in a shorter amount of time. This could range from hours, days, weeks and up to months. The critical distinction is that a short-term goal is an outcome that you want to achieve in 12 months or less.
Short-term goals are usually the building blocks for long term goals and are sometimes referred to as proximal goals. For instance, your longer-term goal may be to start your own business, so your short-term goals could be smaller steps working towards that aspiration, such as registering your business name by the end of the month, applying for loans before three months have passed, seek out business partners or potential talent before the year ends, and so on. Because of this, short-term goals tend to be easier to accomplish, simply because they focus on the immediate future with more manageable tasks involved in their completion.
The Benefits of Setting and Achieving Short-term goals
The secret to achieving most of your objectives, whether personal, financial, or professional, is to establish shorter-term desires that are relevant, achievable, easy to measure, and time sensitive.
If you are looking to improve yourself in some way, you should establish a plan and break it into smaller sections so you can work towards realizing it. Short-term goals are the tools you can use to help you see where you are going along the way, so you don’t get derailed before you can accomplish what is it you have set out to do. Some specific benefits of setting and achieving short-term goals include:
1. Improved Focus
Short-term goals help you maintain focus on the path you have set out towards achieving your longer-term target. When you have a shorter action plan, you don’t get distracted or confused on how the goal is progressing. Rather, you can direct most of your focus on the daily/weekly/monthly plan and ensure each of those smaller steps towards the larger objective is completed to the best of your ability.
2. Provide Clarity to Your Overall Plan
Dividing your longer-term aspiration into shorter targets helps you to maintain a consistent and clear understanding of what your overall objective is. When a specific long-term goal is unpacked, and you have a plan of action for reaching it by working your way through the shorter and more manageable action steps, you can address any gaps or issues in your process much more readily and reach your longer-term desire much more efficiently.
3. They Combat Procrastination
No one is immune to the habit of procrastination, though some may find that they fall into the trap more often when it comes to tackling long-term goals, which can seem daunting and unmanageable even to the most experienced employee. Setting short-term goals is one of the best ways to overcome that challenge, largely due to the specific and short deadlines that accompany them. For example, if your long-term goal is to get fit in one year, setting out to accomplish that only with your end goal in mind can make you lose motivation very quickly. Instead, you can commit to exercising for 15 minutes every day for the next month, and then decide your personal mission for the following month, and so on.
4. Gain Insightful Feedback
The instant and insightful feedback you can gain from completing short-term goals is one of their most valuable assets. Rather than banking on the success of your long-term goal, and investing long amounts of time without a clear understanding of whether your efforts will eventually pay off, short-term goals provide you with consistent updates on your progress and can help draw attention to any obstacles that are preventing you from reaching your long-term objective faster.
Making Your Short-Term Goals S.M.A.R.T(ER)
An often-heard criteria for the setting of goals is the S.M.A.R.T (ER) acronym, a memory-aid for the seven features you should aim to build into every goal you set. There are various ways to define these parameters, but S.M.A.R.T(ER) goals are generally understood to be:
- Simple – an outsider should be able to understand your goal without further explanation.
- Measurable – your goal is trackable, either with simple Y/N or clear units of measurement.
- Actionable – the goal begins with a verb that directs the action (e.g. do, read, learn, etc.);
- Realistic – the goal is practical and achievable, and if not, then you have broken it down further or set a process goal.
- Time–Bound – the timeframe of the goal is clearly defined and achievable (e.g. a weekly goal should be doable within 7 days, a monthly goal within 30 days, etc.)
- Exciting – you have laid out methods to inspire and motivate yourself to finish the goal; and
- Relevant – the goal is always tied back directly to your bigger-picture thinking and projects.
If there are projects or goals in parts of your life that you tend to avoid, or that no matter how much effort you put in you don’t see substantial progress in, then there is a good chance some of your steps are missing one or more of these attributes. Aim to measure up every goal you set, whether short-term or long-term, against these standards, and the success rate of your achievement of them will increase tenfold.
Achievable and S.M.A.R.T Short Terms Goals
Some examples of short-term goals that meet the S.M.A.R.T criteria, and are achievable and beneficial to several areas of your life, include:
Short-Term Personal Goals
- Work on a gratitude journal every night for one week.
- Read at least one book per month.
- Donate to charity once a month for four months.
- Complete a personal improvement course in one month.
- Turn off all devices by 10pm each night for two weeks.
- Start a garden within a week and tend to it daily for two months.
Short-Term Financial Goals
- Set up a savings account this month.
- Reduce or eliminate your credit card debt by the end of the year.
- Start tracking your budget this month.
- Save 10% of your income each month towards emergencies.
- Consult a financial advisor within two weeks.
- Download an app for monitoring daily expenditure this evening.
Short-Term Fitness Goals
- Exercise in the gym for three days each week, from 7pm to 9pm.
- Cut off caffeine and drink water instead for one month.
- Purchase workout gear by the end of the week.
- Do a 30-minute yoga session every Sunday.
- Avoid eating out and restaurants and fast food places for two weeks.
- Measure your weight every three weeks.
Short-Term Career Goals
- Finish a relevant online course every two months.
- Attend an online job conference or business convention within 60 days.
- Report to (or log into) your workplace or meeting 10 minutes earlier than usual for one month.
- Keep your workstation organized and declutter it every Friday for one month.
- Earn a professional certificate by the end of the year.
Measuring and Tracking Short-term goal Progress
While some may have a clear understanding of what the organization’s longer-term objectives are, and some may have established personal career goals that improve their own work efforts, managing and tracking the progress towards company results can be difficult for many leaders. Sprigg offers a seamless solution, providing software that helps establish performance expectations through best-practice processes like S.M.A.R.T Goal Setting, or using OKRs (Objectives and Key Results).
Sprigg’s goal-setting process helps you develop a clear picture between employee short-term goals, aligning all objectives to the key organizational results and measuring them against clear business metrics. It also streamlines the tracking and measurement of progress, where the percentage of goal completion can be viewed through the dashboard or real-time update requests.
By transforming your organization’s approach to goal setting, whether short-term or long-term, you are bound to see results that will drive your business towards success. Goal alignment increases employee engagement and improves short-term results, transparency in progress sets clear standards of accountability and ownership, and shorter-term objective results provide valuable, real-time feedback that engages your team and drives better results.