Many of us struggle to hit our productivity goals, and it feels like the day is over before we’ve completed everything on our agenda. But we can overcome this and boost our productivity by setting goals and tracking progress toward their completion. This helps us appreciate the progress we’ve made but also provides a way to keep us on track to achieve what we want rather than getting lost in distractions.
This detailed look at the goal-setting process is backed by research on how team leaders, CEOs, and project managers get more done in less time. For example, we’ll examine what smart (and SMART) goals are and how to use them. By following the advice laid out below, you’ll be able to make consistent progress towards your goals.
- Importance of Goal Setting
- Common Goal-Setting Challenges
- Goal-Setting Strategies and Techniques
Importance of Goal Setting
Setting goals is one of the best ways to achieve your project objectives. If they’re set just right, goals provide a realistic roadmap to success, removing some of the stress associated with uncertainty and allowing you to manage your time better. Goals also provide accountability that can help foster better work and personal habits.
Types of goals
Each type of goal has a role in ensuring you accomplish what you set out to do. Incorporate these common goal types into your strategy, and you’ll quickly see how they complement one another and boost your productivity.
Short-term versus long-term goals
Short-term goals need to be done immediately or in the near future. For example, finishing a task on a project could be a short-term goal.
Long-term goals, or future goals, involve the bigger picture. For example, completing a specific project might be a short-term goal, and you might use the boosted revenue from the completed project to grow your company as a long-term goal. Short-term goals help in achieving the ideal future.
Personal versus professional goals
One of the easiest ways to fail at achieving goals is to get burnt out. This happens when there isn’t enough work-life balance. If you focus too much on one area of your life, the other suffers.
When this happens, productivity can drop, and mental health can decline. Personal goals may seem like they’d interfere with your professional life, but in reality, they help to keep your motivation for career goals high.
Balance pursuits like leadership goals with more personal goals to round out your efforts.
Benefits of goal setting
Goals can be intimidating. Some people wonder if the stress of placing a goal on themselves is worth it. Once you start setting goals and tracking their progress regularly, you’ll find that they motivate rather than demotivate you.
Focus and direction
Goal setting allows you to plan your day and hold yourself accountable to that plan. Properly organized goals provide you with an outline of what you must do.
This approach makes it easier to focus on the present task and avoid distractions as you move from one task to the next. Even better, this type of direction is an easy way to increase productivity.
Motivation and commitment
As you work through your goals, you’ll feel good about yourself every time you complete one. As one finishes and the next begins, the desire to have the feeling again will help provide the motivation you need to buckle down and get work done.
Measuring progress and success
Without setting goals and measuring progress, it’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you’re spinning your wheels. Sometimes, we accomplish a lot and don’t give ourselves credit for it.
But when you set goals and try to keep them, it provides a way to look back on what you’ve done. You’ll often find it’s more than you had thought. This can help prevent negative attitudes from killing motivation.
Common Goal-Setting Challenges
A poor planning process when setting goals can hurt your motivation rather than bolster it. Below are a few things that can go wrong when setting goals and how to counteract them to get that positive feeling that effective goals provide.
Lack of clarity
If you don’t put careful consideration into planning your goals, you can create overly broad goals. When it comes time to sit down and accomplish such a goal, you lack the direction that a well-planned goal provides.
When setting your goals, always write goals that are clear and easy to understand. You want to know exactly the goal’s start and end points so that you can accomplish it efficiently.
As you begin setting goals, you may find that you don’t know your capacity well. This can result in setting goals that are well beyond what you can achieve for the day. Without realistic goals, you’ll find yourself falling behind on your schedule or running the risk of becoming demotivated or burnt out.
Always set goals that you can achieve in the time you’ve allotted for yourself. You may not know your capacity right away. In these instances, err on caution and set smaller goals for yourself.
Poor time management
Even if you manage to stay on task and work on your goals, you cannot complete the important things. Chances are, you have a lot of goals of varying importance. Your time is best spent on the important ones first.
By prioritizing your goals, you can make sure the important tasks are always completed, and you’re making the best use of your time. Many techniques we’ll discuss later help you prioritize your goals based on their importance.
Goal-Setting Strategies and Techniques
The problems we discussed earlier are not new. They are challenges that goal-setters have been facing since goals have been set. The good thing about that is that there are many methods you can use to counteract them. Here, we’ll introduce a few goal-setting techniques you can use to create more effective goals.
1. Set SMART goals
The SMART goals framework is a goal-setting technique designed to ensure you create goals you can achieve. Goals that will help to keep you motivated rather than take your motivation away. The name SMART is an easy-to-remember acronym:
SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound
These five factors make up a goal that maximizes the chance of success. Let’s examine each of them:
- Specific: A specific goal has no ambiguity. When you start the goal, you should know exactly what needs to be accomplished
- Measurable: You need to be able to track the progress of your goal. Measurable goals answer questions like: How much? How many? For how long?
- Achievable: We’ve already discussed the importance of achievable goals. They prevent you from setting your sights too high and failing
- Relevant: The goal you set should be relevant to you, and any overarching themes in your goals
- Time-bound: By giving you a time frame to complete them, time-bound goals help you maintain a sense of urgency while still prioritizing your progress
2. Decide your priorities
Earlier, we discussed how a goal may be urgent, important, or both. Urgent goals must always be completed on time, so it’s important to have some framework for prioritizing your goals. A common method is called the Eisenhower Matrix (or Urgent-Important Matrix).
It’s a goal-setting technique that defines four quadrants depending on the urgency or importance of the goal. The quadrant a goal goes into tells you how you should handle it.
The Eisenhower Matrix
- Urgent and important: If a goal is both urgent and important, it should be on the list of things you do immediately
- Not urgent but important: Important goals that don’t need to be completed right away should be scheduled based on their importance
- Urgent but not important: A goal deemed urgent but not important may need to be completed immediately, but not by you. Delegate responsibility for these
- Not urgent and not important: A goal that’s neither urgent nor important should be eliminated entirely from your to-do list
3. Use continuous monitoring systems
Goals work by helping you track your time and motivating you to complete them. But without constant monitoring, that motivation might not happen. There are several goal-setting templates that can help you set and monitor goals.
Go digital with goal setting and monitoring
The best way to monitor your goals is through a goal-tracking app. With ClickUp, you get a full-featured goal-tracking app alongside a complete productivity platform.
ClickUp Goals allows you to assign and track specific Targets for a comprehensive goal-monitoring solution, complete with a weekly scorecard. Breaking large Goals into smaller Targets provides flexibility that helps keep you on track. For example, you can celebrate wins, develop a growth plan when you want more structure, or stay aware of how much progress you’ve made.
4. Apply the Get Things Done method
Sometimes, you have so many ideas floating around your head that it’s hard to know where to start. David Allen developed the Getting Things Done (GTD) framework to help get those ideas out of your head and organized. The core philosophy is to capture all the tasks and ideas that come to you and then arrange them in a way that makes them easy to manage. A GTD template can help you sort through the method.
The five steps of GTD
The GTD framework consists of five steps. When you work through the process, you’ll end up with an organized list of projects that should be worked on and those that can be cast aside.
- Capture: Collect every task, idea, project, or other commitment and record them using your method of choice
- Clarify: Process what each item means. Decide if it’s worth pursuing or not. If it is, decide on the next step and the outcome
- Organize: Place all the actionable items into categories. How you categorize them is up to you
- Reflect: Regularly review your lists to refresh your memory and keep your focus on the right tasks for the moment
- Engage: Once your tasks and lists are clear, begin working your way through them using your task management software of choice
5. Try Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)
Breaking the tasks into a set of objectives and key results is among the best goal-setting techniques for an entire organization. It helps simplify challenging goals and provides a way to track a company’s strategic objectives using measurable results. There are several OKR software projects that can help companies make the most of this framework.
Principles of OKR
OKRs involve objectives, which are qualitative and action-oriented goals. They should be clear and easy to remember. Each objective should align with your company’s vision and strategy.
Because goals should always be measurable, the second half of OKRs are the key results. These metrics will be used to measure progress toward the goals.
OKRs are meant to push boundaries and are designed to be highly ambitious while still being attainable. Because of this extra difficulty, a 60-70% success rate is usually considered good. If you fall short of your goal, use your OKRs to explore process improvement methodologies so you can continue striving for your preferred outcome.
This is also why these are organizational-level goals. OKRs work best to create team goals and measure progress. If they were used as individual performance metrics, the temptation to simplify them for fairness would be too strong.
6. Deal with scope creep through project forecasting
Some projects, particularly in software, have a habit of growing to unmanageable sizes. The team comes with more great ideas than can be implemented in the time required, and trying to do so results in missed deadlines and delayed launches.
Project forecasting tools can help plan the duration of a project, but this problem is better addressed at the goal-setting stage.
The MoSCoW method
This method deals with projects that balloon in size by ranking the importance of tasks. Tasks are ranked into four categories: must have, should have, could have, or won’t have. It gets its name from the first letter of each category. Here’s what each means:
- Must have: These tasks are non-negotiable requirements of the project. This includes compliance with legal requirements, critical functionalities, or key deliverables
- Should have: These are important but not critical tasks. They are high-priority and should be included if possible because they’ll contribute greatly to the end result
- Could have: These are the less important but still desirable items that can improve the project but can be more readily cut if time constraints arise
- Won’t have: These tasks have been considered but won’t make it into the final product. This could mean that they are good ideas, but they need to be delayed for a future release
Meet Your Goals With ClickUp
ClickUp provides your organization with all the tools required to set and meet goals. The ClickUp Goals feature has a long list of use cases, but the software is more than goal-tracking. ClickUp offers multiple productivity and project management tools that will help you improve work performance across every aspect of your business.
Try ClickUp for free today to see how it can improve your efficiency and help you meet your project objectives in a timely manner!