Effective Goal Setting

Keys to Effective

Although seems to be a fairly simplistic task, it can have significant negative implications if not do effectively. Many people fall short of achieving their goals simply because they make one or two mistakes which could have been easily avoided.

Below are six keys to effective goal setting strategies that often make the difference between accomplishing your goals and not.

  1. Write It Down
  2. Make it SMART
  3. Set Challenging Goals
  4. Break it Down
  5. Have an Action Plan
  6. Be Flexible


Effective Goal Setting Techniques

Write Down Your Goals

One of the best strategies for achieving a goal is to write it down. It sounds simple, but most people who say they set goals for themselves do not write them down. They simple think about what they want to achieve and work for a while towards achieving it. Before long these people get distracted and move onto something else. Writing them down helps you stay focused on achieving what you want.

Research has shown that people who write down there goals are significantly more likely to achieve those goals. Writing them down shows commitment and increases motivation. So write them down even if it is just on a Post-it or sticky note.


Make it SMART

Properly set goals can be great motivators for you. To be done right, you should ensure that your goals have some basic criterion. This basic criterion can help structure your goals so they are easier to achieve. Thus, when writing your goals down, use the SMART Goals formula for maximum effectiveness.  Many people believe writing SMART goals is the key to effective goal setting.

SMART is an acronym that stands for:

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Achievable

R – Relevant

T – Time-bound


The criteria for SMART Goals:

Specific – Your goal should be detailed and state the exact level of performance expected.

Measurable – Your goal should contain a measurable indicator to assess the amount of your progress and to definitely determine if the goal has been achieved.

Achievable – Your goal should challenge you and stretch your abilities, but realistically be able to be attained.

Relevant – Your goals should be important to you and motivate you.

Time-bound – Your goal should specify when the result(s) will be achieved.



Set Challenging Goals

Goals should be challenging. They should challenge you to step up your abilities and reach outside your comfort zone. You may not always reach your goal, but the more you stretch your abilities, the more abilities you will have in the future. It is better to aim high and come up a little short, than to aim low and never test your capabilities or reach your potential.

Research shows goals that are challenging motivate and increase persistence. Also, the more challenging a goal, the greater the satisfaction and reward in achieving it.

Setting challenging goals requires a careful balance to ensure it will be challenging, but yet still attainable. Goals that are either too easy or too difficult will negatively affect your progress and performance. If the goal is too easy, you may get bored and lose motivation. On the other hand, goals that are too hard can cause frustration with the lack of progress. Hence, take time to set challenging goals suited to realistically stretch your capabilities. The best goals are the ones that really challenge you without frustrating and demotivating you.



Keep them Flexible

Goals should be flexible enough so they can be revised if necessary. Circumstances may change and you will need to adapt to those changes.   For example, you may have a goal to run a full marathon within a year. However, if you get injured during the course of training, it may be better to adjust your goal to running a half marathon.   Achieving the lesser revised goal is better than not achieving the original goal.

Also, you may set a goal which you later find to be too difficult and need to revise it to better match your abilities and increase you chance of success. It is better to modify your goal, than to quit and or not achieve your goal at all.



Break it down

Break down your long term goals into smaller more easily attainable short term goals. This helps to visualize smaller more manageable chunks, rather than one difficult end goal.

Think of the goal setting process like running a marathon. Your ultimate goal is to reach the 26.2 mile marker (long-term goal), but you are best to think of the race in terms of sections or chunks. Therefore, break the race into segments or a series of short term goals (5 mile, 10 mile, 15 mile, etc…). This way you are focused on just achieving one short-term goal at a time. Without short-term goals, you can lose sight of your long term goals, and get frustrated and demotivated.

Have an Action Plan

The last key to effective goal setting is to create a plan of action to achieve your goals. Your action plan should be broken down into specific tasks with timeframes associated with each task. Like a checklist, you will be able to check off each task as you complete it.

Having an action plan helps you mentally see the goal as very achievable. By breaking the larger goal down into smaller goals and specific tasks, makes the larger goal seems more easily achievable. However, do not just create a plan, track and monitor your progress. You what to periodically review your progress to ensure you are on track to achieving your goal. Therefore, once a week or so, take out your plan and check your progress. Identify challenges and make adjustments as needed to increase your effectiveness. These regular assessments allows you to ensure you remain on track, motivated, and committed.


Additional Links

Types of Goals

Goal Setting

Goal Setting Overview

Goal setting 10-steps

Setting Goals


SMART Goals Worksheet

Performance Goals


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