Setting a List of Short-Term Goals

Young businesswoman working on a short term goals list

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Many people develop 10-year plans and five-year plans. These long-term goals are powerful tools to motivate yourself to reach your potential. But, while you are planning your future, don't overlook the benefit of setting short-term goals along the way.

What Is a Short-Term Goal?

A short-term goal is anything you plan to achieve in less than a year. Most short-term goals will be set three to six months in the future. Usually, a short-term goal will be somewhat easier to attain than larger, multi-year targets, for example, “I want to be chief sales officer (CSO) within the next 10 years.”

An example of a short-term goal might be, “I want to increase my commissions by 25 percent within the next six months.” Short-term goals are less transformative than their long-term counterparts, but they are just as significant—and the fact that you can attain them in less than a year is motivating in itself. You can also use short-term goals to propel you along your chosen path. In other words, you need both.

Benefits of Short-Term Goals

When you choose a goal and set yourself a time limit, you increase your odds of achieving that goal—otherwise, you may get sidetracked. Just setting a specific target for yourself helps to motivate you to put in those extra cold calls during your break, to churn out thank-you notes for every prospect, and to perfect your presentation. In each case, your extra efforts move you further along your timeline, and you experience another boost in morale.

A short-term goal might also be a stepping stone to a larger goal. For example, if you want to become a chief sales officer, some reasonable short-term goals might be finishing courses in sales management, applying for sales management positions, and finding a career mentor. If your big goal is to become a millionaire within 10 years, your short-term stepping stone might be to shadow your sales team's best performer and apply their strategies to your sales. Of course, your short-term goals can also be something unrelated to a larger goal; for example, saving enough money to buy a new car within six months.

Compiling Your List

If you are not sure what goals you want to set, sit down and write out some of your ambitions. Be as honest as possible even if you think your dreams are frivolous. There's nothing wrong with a secret desire to tour Peru by jeep or own a fire-engine red Ferrari. Write down anything and everything you can think of, and then set that list aside. After a day or two, read over your list. See if there are any items that you'd like to add or remove from the list, and you'll have your final list.

Don't try to accomplish all of your goals at once, because you'll be splitting your energy in too many directions. Pick two or three goals that are your highest priority and start with those. Write them down, and put that priority list somewhere where you can see it frequently. By your bathroom mirror, for example. On another sheet of paper, write down the steps you will take to reach those goals.

For a career-oriented goal, you might write, “Attend three networking events per month” or “Send out 10 emails to new prospects every morning.” If you are aiming for a major purchase such as a new car, figure out how much money you will need to set aside each week and decide how you will find those funds. For example, switching to a cheaper cable package for a few months. By writing these things down, it will be easier to stick to your plans because there is something about the written word that encourages commitment.