Short-Term vs Long-Term Goals (Examples, FAQs)

Things don’t get done on their own. 

You can’t wish for killer biceps before your nap and expect to wake up in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s body. 

Whether it’s fitness goals or business goals, you’ll have to set both short and long-term goals to achieve anything. 

And understanding the goal-setting process will also help you answer job interview questions like “where do you see yourself in five years?”.

But wait, what’s the difference between short-term vs long-term goals? 

And why should you set both?

In this article, we’ll compare short-term vs long-term goals, and share some career goal examples and tips on setting achievable career goals. We’ll also answer FAQs about short-term and long-term goals.

Goals: Short or long, here we come!

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What are Short-Term and Long-Term Goals?

When setting goals, you have to consider goals for both the short term and the long term. 

A. What is a short-term goal?

A short-term goal is something you wish to accomplish in the near future.

How long are short-term goals?

They’re short-term needs that you can achieve today, this week, this month, or even this year. For example, you can set a career goal like completing a skill enhancement course or a short-term savings goal like setting aside money for an emergency fund.

Short-term goals can also be stepping stones or actionable steps to reach a long-term goal much further down the road.

It’s like running at a level two speed on a treadmill to reach level six speed eventually.

Start at six, and your end goal might just be the ER. Ouch!

Set short-term goals and watch yourself progress to make those life-changing visions come true. 💃

B. What is a long-term goal?

A long-term goal is something you wish to complete in the distant future and takes more time, planning, and patience. You can’t do them in a few weeks and dust off your hands; you might need ten years.

Usually, these goals consist of several mini-goals or steps, which is why it’s important to determine short-term goals alongside your long-term plan.

You can say that long-term goals are normally used to support your short-term goals. 

For example, your long-term goal can be to set up your own business, a savings goal for your retirement account, etc.

See how each one is like a big goal, or a long-term vision, that gives you a sense of direction in life? 

Sure, long-term goals can seem overwhelming or even impossible at times. But when you follow through on each short-term goal along the way, you’ll eventually get there. 💪

What about a goal that’s not short or long enough?

You can split your goals into three: Short, medium, and long-term goals

A medium, intermediate, or mid-term goal comes into the picture when you need a middle ground between short and long-term goals.

While you can usually achieve medium-term goals between six months to less than five years, it can vary from person to person and goal to goal.

Bonus: SMART Goals for Students!

Short Term vs Long Term Goals

What’s the difference between short-term and long-term goals?

The main difference between short and long-term goals is that long-term goals tend to drive direction and strategy while short-term goals are tied to your current situation and tend to be easier to achieve. Of course, the most obvious difference is the amount of time and resources it takes to accomplish each.

Let’s compare long-term vs short-term goals to spot some key differences.

1. Strategy

At its heart, a long-term goal is strategic

You need to make small changes in your everyday life to achieve them. 

That’s why you split a long-term goal into smaller manageable goals and ensure you have some sort of reminder to achieve them.

Longer-term goals are a test of your motivation and perseverance, and you’ll often face major obstacles on the way.

On the other hand, short-term goals need strategies that have more to do with your current performance. You’ll base your strategy primarily on how close you are to realizing your ultimate goal.

2. Number of goals

Usually, you can have two or maybe three long-term goals in mind. It is usually big picture and can be a career goal, financial goal, or personal goal. But not many.

Have too many long-term goals, and you’ll feel overwhelmed and exhausted. 😓 

Your reliable friend, coffee, won’t help either. 

However, due to the shorter duration, you can focus on multiple short-term goals at the same time. And you can crush them all, one by one!

Here’s a handy table that will help you visualize the difference between long and short-term goals.

Long term vs Short term goals differences chart
Short Term GoalsLong Term Goals
StrategyShort-term goals are usually tied to your current performance and situation.Long-term goals are highly tied to your mission and strategic vision for your life and career.
NumberYou can have several short-term goals in multiple categories running simultaneously.You will likely have a limited number of long-term goals in your life.
TimelineShort-term goals are likely measured by weeks, months, or quarters.Long-term goals can be measured by years and may have an undefined timeline.
DifficultyIt is much easier to achieve short-term goals because you can easily see progress.Long-term goals are difficult and require patience as there is no immediate obvious payoff.
FlexibilityBecause short-term goals have clearer and closer deadlines, they’re fairly inflexible.Because long-term goals have a broader timeline, they are easily impacted by life circumstances or changing passions.

Bonus: Interested in tracking your goals digitally? Read our guide on the best goal-setting software!

Short-Term and Long-Term Career Goals Examples

A career goal is an objective you pursue in your professional life. 

It paints a clear picture of what you want to achieve. You’ll also understand how to get there.

Let’s explore some short and long-term goals examples for your career:

A. What are some short-term career goals?

Short-term goals for your career have definite outcomes you can start achieving in a couple of months to a year. They can be part of a grand scheme or stand-alone objectives to boost your career. Here are several short-term goals:

1. Learn a new skill

Learning a new skill can be an ongoing goal. You need to keep up with the industry requirements and pick specific skills for your profession.

If you’re a nutritionist who isn’t familiar with strength training, you could become a certified trainer.

Someone that knows their food and workouts? 

Your resume is gonna be lit. 🔥

2. Make a professional website

A powerful digital footprint is crucial for professional success, and launching a website is one of the best short-term goals.

That’s because a potential employer or client could look you up on the web to know more about you and your work. Just like how we’ve all Googled ourselves at some point or the other. 😛

And you want people to find you, right?

Then create a website to:

  • Highlight your skills and past projects 
  • Establish yourself as a brand
  • Target the right clients and employers

If you’re a fitness trainer, create a fitness blog or share your videos on a YouTube channel. This will put your name in front of the right audience. 

3. Improve productivity

One of the most straightforward career goals is to improve your work’s quality, quantity, and efficiency.

These metrics will depend on your profession and company. But they usually involve increasing customer satisfaction, delivering projects within deadlines, and reducing company expenses.

Work on these metrics all day, every day, and you might turn your long-term goal for a promotion into a short-term one. 🎉

B. What are some long-term career goals?

A long-term career goal is broader than a short-term one. Some don’t have a defined timeline as such and might take several years to complete.

Here are some examples:

1. Earn a degree 

Graduating from a university and receiving your bachelor’s degree could be the first long-term objective you set to secure your career. It’ll define your career path, entry-level designation, salary, etc.

Make sure you get that degree and prepare to go places!

2. Get a promotion

Getting promoted is a common long-term career goal.

It can take you a year or more to get a promotion. Yet, we all want this honor that speaks volumes about our awesome performance and work ethic.

Most importantly: a big fat paycheck is incoming! 💰

3. Build your network

To be successful in any career, you need to build your network.

You can contact like-minded people and industry leaders through portals like LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., Or meet more folks with your background in professional meetups, conferences, or retreats.

Smart, isn’t it?

Building a network will help you:

  • Stay on top of the latest industry trends
  • Feel the pulse in the job market
  • Meet potential mentors, partners, and clients

And most importantly, people in your network can be your advocates when you look for a job. 

Or even better, it might just open the door to all your future entrepreneurial possibilities. 💼

Check out some more examples of professional goals for a better idea.

How To Set Short-Term and Long-Term Career Goals

Setting long and short-term goals depends on what’s important to you and what can benefit your growth as a professional.

Here are three tips on how to set your short and long-term career goals:

1. Have specific and measurable goals

Let’s say your goal is to be happy. 

Now, that isn’t specific.

Happiness to you may be a promotion. 😎

To another person, it may be to leave work early on a Friday. 🍸

When you are creating goals, this is why you need to ensure every objective is a specific goal.

The best way to do this is to answer the three “W” questions:

  • What do I want to accomplish?
  • Why do I want to achieve this goal?
  • When do I want to complete this goal?

An objective should also be a measurable goal.


Ask yourself questions like:

  • What’s the timeframe for goal achievement?
  • What’s the progress indicator? 
  • How will I know if I have reached my goal?

Not sure how goals are different from objectives? 

Take a look at our goals vs. objectives comparison.

2. Be realistic

Your goals should be within your capabilities.

You can’t say, “I want each of my blog posts to get 500 comments,” especially when you’re just starting. It’ll set you up for failure.

Instead, set weekly goals you can achieve, like “I’ll aim for 1-10 comments every week.”

Realistic goals are more achievable, and when you do complete them, you’ll feel accomplished. It’ll get you pumped to push further. 

3. Be flexible and positive

Obstacles are just part of life. Don’t let that throw you off track.

Rather, adjust your goals accordingly and hold on to a positive attitude.

Perseverance and optimism are a recipe for success.

How To Manage Short and Long-Term Goals

ClickUp is one of the world’s highest-rated productivity tools that empowers every individual and business to set and achieve their long-term, mid-term, and short-term goals.

Here’s how ClickUp helps you do that:

1. Goals

Goals in ClickUp lets you stay on track to hit your goals with clear timelines, OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), and automatic progress tracking.

Use it to set high-level objectives and then break them down into manageable Targets.

A Target (smaller goal) can have OKRs that you can track in the form of numbers, money, tasks, or true/false statements.

Hit each target and visualize your progress toward completing the goal! 

types of target in ClickUp
Setting target types in ClickUp’s Goals feature
Goals folders in ClickUp
Visualizing progress in ClickUp’s Goals folder

Want to ace your OKRs?

Check out some OKR examples and this list of the best OKR software!

2. Gantt Chart view

ClickUp’s Gantt Chart feature lets you create a definite timeline for your short-term and long-term goals.

You can use it to:

  • Schedule tasks or goals
  • Move them around to rearrange them with drag-and-drop functionality
  • Visualize and manage dependencies
Managing dependencies in ClickUp's Gantt chart view
Managing dependencies in ClickUp’s Gantt chart view

Check out our guide on how to use ClickUp to set goals for your team.

FAQs About Short-Term and Long-Term Goals

Need more answers on goals?

These FAQs should help:

1. What are SMART goals?

The SMART formula is a cute little acronym to help you define a good goal. It’s beneficial to set SMART goals because of the thought that goes into them.

A SMART goal must be

  • Specific: Establish the desired result in clear and specific terms
  • Measurable: Should be measurable with specific criteria like Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and milestones so you can track the success
  • Achievable: Realistic and within capabilities
  • Relevant: In sync with your business objectives and should add to your grand scheme
  • Timely: Have a defined timeline, including a starting date and a target date

Bonus: Check out these SMART HR Goals!

2. What are some examples of short and long-term goals for a business?

Here are some common short-term business goals:

Here are some long-term business goal examples:

  • Open new offices in different cities or countries
  • Increase your company’s share in the market
  • Increase overall brand awareness
  • Get more clients
  • Hire more employees

Here’s some help so you can crack career-goal-related interview questions:

1. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Don’t get bogged down by cliched responses to this question. 

Instead, take this opportunity to share more about your personality by describing:

  • How do you plan to contribute to the company’s growth
  • The skill growth or certifications you want to obtain
  • How do you want to grow within the company and make it to a leadership position 

2. What skills or knowledge would make you better in your current role?

This question requires you to know your industry requirements.

Do some digging and find out if it’s research, marketing, or people skills that’ll make you ideal. Make sure you know exactly where you stand about these skills as well. 

For example, if you’re at a beginner level when it comes to research, mention this to the employer. But at the same time, don’t forget to highlight your current skills and strengths.

3. How do you achieve your professional goals?

Here’s a chance to highlight your professionalism and work ethic. 

In response, tell the interviewer what professional goals you’ve set for yourself. This tells them about your motivations. Then, describe how you make space in your schedule to achieve your goals. 

Check out these goal setting templates!

Set Absolute Goals!

Setting short and long-term goals is your roadmap to success. 

But a goal that you don’t write down or support with a strategy is a pipe dream.

Why not set goals with a powerful project management tool like ClickUp so you can track them and visualize the progress?

You can manage projects, and to-dos, and plan your short-term and long-term goals on a single platform. 

Go set some rock-solid goals with ClickUp for free to stop dreaming about what you want and start working in the right direction. 😜

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