learning and development

Short-Term and Long-Term Goals Examples: A Goal-Setting Guide

Discover key goal-setting strategies, get examples of short-term and long-term goals, and actionable tips to set successful goals.

Kinjal Dagli

Sr. Content Marketing Manager at Together

Published on 

November 24, 2023

Updated on 

Time to Read

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Setting goals is the first step to accomplishing anything meaningful.

While most people set goals in their personal and professional lives, few end up achieving them.

In a recent survey, roughly 70% of respondents said that they were likely to set goals for the new year. But only 48% of goal-setters said they’d document their goals, and roughly the same number planned to create an action plan to achieve them.

That means that last year, half of the people ended up with vague goals and no actionable plans to achieve them. While the other half had clearly defined goals and actionable plans.

Which group is more likely to achieve their goals?

Our vote goes to the ones with written down, specific goals.

Clearly defined short-term and long-term goals, which are precise and detailed, eliminate ambiguity and provide a clear roadmap. When these goals also present a level of challenge, they engage and motivate us, leading to enhanced performance. That’s why goal setting is the first and most important step towards achieving your dreams.

What is goal setting?

Goal setting is the process of identifying what you aspire to achieve and outlining a path to reach that destination.

It's a method of deciding what is important for you to accomplish in your life or career and establishing measurable targets and deadlines to make those achievements a reality. It is an effective way of bringing about positive change in our lives.

Goal setting isn't just about achieving business success or personal milestones. It's also about personal growth. With the help of short-term and long-term goals, individuals create a balanced approach to career growth. Short-term goals help them make progress as they work their way towards their long-term goals.

What are short-term and long-term goals?

Short-term goals are the stepping stones to our grander ambitions. They are those objectives we set to be achieved relatively quickly — usually within a few weeks, months, or one year. Short-term goals are specific and are often designed to be highly actionable, guiding us towards immediate progress. 

In contrast, long-term goals are the ones we envision for our future selves, mapping out where we hope to be several years down the line. They are broader, more encompassing, and, by nature, less detailed than short-term goals. These are the kinds of objectives that demand patience, persistence, and a strategic approach. 

Think of the famous long-distance runner, Eliud Kipchoge. Kipchoge is known for setting both short-term and long-term goals in his training and career. In the lead-up to major marathons, he sets short-term goals like improving his time in specific training runs, increasing his weekly mileage, or focusing on recovery techniques. These short-term goals are integral to his larger ambition of winning races and breaking records. Kipchoge's approach exemplifies how short-term goals can effectively contribute to achieving major, long-term objectives in a professional context.

Short-term goals are measured in tangible, quantifiable achievements, while long-term goals are gauged by milestones that mark significant progress towards a broader life or career vision. 

Setting SMART goals

When it comes to achieving your ambitions, not all approaches to goal setting are created equal. One standout method that offers clarity and direction is the SMART goals framework, a technique widely embraced for its effectiveness.

SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. This criterion transforms vague intentions into clear, actionable plans. 

Let's break down each component:

  • Specific — Your goals should be clear and concise. Instead of saying you want to "improve sales," a specific goal would be "increase sales by 10%."
  • Measurable You need to be able to track your progress. If your goal is to "increase networking opportunities," make it measurable by aiming to "attend two industry events per month."
  • Achievable — While it's great to dream big, your goals also need to be realistic. Ensure you have the resources and time to achieve the goals you set.
  • Relevant - Your goals should align with your values and long-term objectives. If you're aiming to climb the corporate ladder, a relevant goal could be to "take on a leadership role in a major project."
  • Time-bound — Set a deadline. A time-bound goal compels action and helps prioritize tasks. Instead of "learn to code," try "complete a coding course in the next three months."
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Applying SMART principles to short-term and long-term goals

By integrating SMART criteria into your goal-setting strategy, you create a solid foundation for both short-term wins and long-term successes. This method not only clarifies what you're working toward but also enhances motivation as you're able to celebrate each milestone along the way.

For short-term goals, SMART principles help you create a focused pathway to immediate success. 

For example, a project manager might set a goal to "reduce team overtime by 15% in the next quarter." This goal is: 

  • Specific
  • Can be measured by hours tracked
  • Is achievable with the right strategies
  • Is relevant to job performance
  • Has a clear time frame

On the flip side, long-term goals benefit from the SMART framework by offering a long-range vision with milestones. 

Let's say you aim to "become a published author within five years." To make this SMART, you could start with "write a 50,000-word draft in year one." This plays into your broader goal by giving you a specific target to achieve within a set period.

3 examples of short-term goals 

Short-term goals act not only as stepping stones but also as powerful motivators, offering quick wins that keep us driven.

Here are three examples of short-term goals that can make a significant difference in an individual's personal and professional growth.

1. Improve time management

Improving time management is a common short-term goal that many professionals set to enhance their productivity. 

By committing to finishing tasks within the workday and avoiding overtime, individuals can achieve a healthier work-life balance. This could involve using a digital planner to organize and prioritize daily tasks and setting specific time limits for each activity. 

2. Enhance project management skills

Another short-term goal that offers tangible benefits is the enhancement of professional skills. For instance, a professional might aim to complete an online course in project management over the next two months.

By allocating an hour each weekday to engage with the course material and participate in weekly assessments, the individual can incrementally build new expertise. 

3. Grow professional network

Expanding one's professional network can be a vital short-term goal, especially in today's interconnected world.

An individual might set a target to grow their professional network by adding 50 new connections within a month. This could be achieved by actively attending networking events and engaging with industry professionals on platforms like LinkedIn. 

3 examples of long-term goals             

When we set our sights on the horizon, long-term goals guide our journey. They're not just targets but powerful motivators that propel our personal and professional growth. 

Let's explore three such goals and the profound influence they can have on one’s life.

1. Achieving an executive position

Achieving a senior role in a company means making wise career moves, learning consistently, and becoming a strong leader

By meeting performance goals and taking opportunities to lead, an individual can steadily climb the corporate ladder, gaining professional recognition and financial rewards along the way.

2. Attaining financial independence

The path to financial freedom is typically charted through disciplined saving, savvy investing, and living within one's means. 

This long-term financial goal can lead to a life less tethered to financial stresses, allowing more freedom to pursue personal interests and passions.

3. Publishing a book

For those with a story to tell, committing to writing and publishing a book can be a dream with years in the making. 

It requires regular writing, maybe taking writing classes, and lots of patience. But the payoff is a work that shares one’s voice with the world, potentially opens doors to new opportunities, and offers a profound sense of personal achievement.

Tips for creating short-term and long-term goals

Embarking on a journey towards achieving your aspirations, whether personal or professional, requires a roadmap. Without a plan, it's easy to get lost or sidetracked. To ensure your goals aren't just wishes, you need a strategic approach to make them a reality. 

Here is a practical guide to long-term and short-term goal setting, along with tips to stay motivated.

1. Define your vision 

A study by Gail Matthews at Dominican University showed that individuals who write down their goals are 42% more likely to achieve them than those who don't. 

Setting a clear vision is more than just daydreaming, it’s a documented way to increase your chances of success. By envisioning your success, you provide yourself with a source of motivation that's both personal and powerful.

Take, for example, Jim Carrey, who wrote himself a check for $10 million for "acting services rendered," post-dating it by five years. By the time those five years had passed, he was indeed commanding such fees for his film roles.

2. Break it down 

Breaking your long-term goals into short-term, actionable steps will help you achieve them faster. This makes your goals more digestible and provides you with a clear path forward.

By establishing monthly or quarterly targets, you create a rhythm of success. Each small goal you meet builds your confidence and propels you towards the next, making the journey towards your long-term aim a series of attainable steps rather than a daunting leap.

3. Set SMART goals 

As we discussed in an earlier section, your goals must be SMART. Incorporating SMART elements into goal setting adds clarity to your objectives. 

Being specific eliminates confusion, measurable metrics offer a clear progress metric, achievability maintains motivation, relevance aligns goals with broader objectives, and time-bound deadlines add urgency and accountability.

4. Track your progress 

The journey towards your goals is a continuous process that benefits greatly from regular review and adjustment. By monitoring your progress, you can celebrate your successes, understand where you might be falling short, and make necessary adjustments. 

For instance, runners and cyclists use apps like Strava to track their training, which not only helps them stick to their training regimen but also improves their performance by providing detailed feedback on their progress.

5. Celebrate small wins 

Celebrating small wins is integral to achieving long-term goals as it involves breaking down larger objectives into manageable milestones and acknowledging achievements along the way. 

By maintaining a focus on these smaller victories, one can cultivate a positive mindset, sustain momentum, and enhance their commitment to the overarching goal. Moreover, celebrating small wins offers opportunities for learning and adaptation, allowing you to refine strategies based on what has contributed to the success.

Empower teams to attain their goals through a mentoring program

Setting clear, actionable goals gives you a clear roadmap to follow, ensuring you're always moving in the right direction, whether in your career or personal life. But achieving these goals doesn't have to be a solo journey. 

This is where mentoring software like Together can make a significant difference. 

Together facilitates meaningful connections with mentors who offer guidance, insights, and support tailored to your specific goals. It provides a structured environment for tracking progress, setting reminders, and reflecting on achievements, making the process of reaching your goals more interactive and engaging.

Whether you are just starting to set goals or are looking to refine your strategy, remember that success lies in clear planning and seeking the right support. A mentoring program can provide that extra layer of guidance and accountability needed to turn your goals into reality.

Together can help you launch a world-class mentoring program. Book a demo to see how.

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