If you have ever set a short-term goal for yourself, you know how things usually go. At first, you’re totally motivated to get started. You buy all the equipment or make that appointment or sign up for that first class, and you’re ready. You can barely hold in all the excitement you are feeling.
Then that motivation wears off, much quicker than you hoped it would. All of a sudden you’re not so sure you want to do this anymore. That thing you originally set out to do has lost its sparkle. Is it you? Not necessarily. It’s probably the short-term goal itself, or more accurately, the way you went about setting it.
Here are three steps you can take to start setting better short-term goals, so you can accomplish more, be more productive and feel great about your achievements.
Step 1: Give every short-term goal a specific time frame
The biggest mistake you can make, and probably have made while trying to set short-term goals, is keeping the time frame open to interpretation. It makes sense why you might think that strategy could work. It lets you move at your own pace and adjust accordingly if you’re not making as much progress as you want to be. The problem is, you’re much less likely to ever get anything done if you don’t set achievement dates for yourself as a personal accountability tactic.
You can call them “deadlines” if that’s going to help motivate you, but the point is, short-term goals are timely. You can’t just tell yourself you’re going to learn how to cook sometime this year. You need to tell yourself you’re going to buy and read a cookbook by the end of the month, and go from there.
The best way to set a time-sensitive goal is to put yourself on a schedule so you can work toward achieving it one small piece at a time. Turn tasks into habits so that reaching your goals feels like it takes much less effort, even if you’re still working as hard as you ever have before.
Every day, do a little something to make progress toward your short-term goal. Today, tune into a cooking show while you’re eating lunch. Tomorrow, do some research online to find the best beginners’ cookbooks. The day after that, follow a few food bloggers for inspiration while you’re waiting for that cookbook to arrive in the mail. Plan carefully and strategically, and it is much more likely to actually happen.
Step 2: Know the purpose of achieving every smaller goal you set
You may have a short-term goal you really want to achieve this week or sometime this month, but do you know exactly how it fits into the bigger picture? It isn’t a waste of time, looking at the hundreds upon hundreds of food blogs out there if you want to learn how to cook, for example. It’s simply a small piece of a much larger goal you haven’t quite gotten to yet.
Every short-term goal should be treated as a pathway that gets you a little closer to achieving a larger long-term goal. The thing about short-term goals is that they come in different degrees. Even learning to cook can be considered a short-term goal, if your ultimate goal is to someday run your own restaurant.
With each short-term goal you set for yourself, picture in your mind (or draw it out on paper, if that helps) the line that ultimately connects that short-term goal to one or multiple of your long-term goals. This doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to have hobbies. You might want to learn to cook just because it sounds like fun. Your long-term goal, then, might be to make more time for hobbies that make you happy.
Step 3: Make sure it’s something you really, really want
Have you ever set a short-term goal for yourself and then, halfway through, realized you aren’t really sure exactly why you set that particular goal in the first place? This happens all too often, and it is common because we, unfortunately, don’t always set short-term goals for the right reasons.
The best way to set and achieve short-term goals is to do so with purpose and passion behind them. Too many people set certain goals because they feel they are expected to achieve them, or think it will make them richer or more popular. Approaching short-term goal setting with that mindset is probably the most reliable way to fail.
Do it for the right reasons. Don’t set out to do something just because you want someone else to approve of you or to please someone you respect. Sometimes, it’s okay to set goals that, on the surface, seem selfish. If that doesn’t motivate you, set short-term goals that focus on the betterment of others, such as being able to provide high-quality homemade meals for the homeless.
In the short-term, if you really want to achieve it, no matter your specific reason for wanting to do so, you’ll be more willing to put time and effort into it every day in order to make it happen. Short-term goals require constant attention and adjustment. You’ll have a pretty rough time achieving them if your heart isn’t truly set on it.
By practicing how to set better short-term goals, you’ll be much better equipped to set and achieve goals of any magnitude in all areas of your life. Setting goals is all about pushing yourself to achieve more than you perceive you are capable of achieving. It’s about doing things you are afraid to do, or continuously make excuses for not doing. Short-term goals especially help you bypass all that and do amazing things anyway.
Goals seem abstract to a lot of people. After all, will the world end if you never actually get around to reading through that cookbook? Technically, it won’t. That’s why goal-setting should always focus on what’s going to make you feel the most fulfilled. Even if you can’t achieve every short-term goal you set, remember that it’s only a failure if you never at least try.