How to Set Work Goals: Tips and Strategies for Effective Personal and Professional Goal Setting

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How to Set Work Goals: Tips and...
Jun 2, 2023 11 min read

Has anybody ever asked you, “Where do you see yourself in five years? “The only way you can answer this question, other than by having a magical crystal ball, is by setting goals for yourself.

By setting smart goals, ones that you can assess and create key performance indicators for, you can turbo charge your professional development. Ultimately, you have the power in your own hands to achieve your goals, but before you break out to a cold sweat, you should know that any large school that anyone has ever accomplished has been completed by breaking it down into small, bite-sized goals.

To put a person on the moon, small goals had to be achieved. If, each day, you’re getting better and better, each day you’re hammering out small goals, eventually you’ll be able to tackle those large goals.

in this article, we will look at why having goals is important, and how to:

  • Identify the objectives of your goals.
  • Break down large goals into smaller, bite-size tasks
  • Create an action plan to achieve goals
  • Regularly monitor your progress
  • Ways to motivate yourself and stay accountable
  • Celebrate little victories and big achievements

If you have so many goals floating around your mind, but just don’t know how to make them tangible, speak to a career counselor from Enhancv. They’ll help you analyze your goal-setting process, helping you to assess your career goals, and find ways to live them out.

Why Set Professional Work Goals?

Professional goals are important because, if you are committed to the role that you have in your organization, you will want to grow. You might choose to turn your greatest weakness into a strength. You may be interested in increasing cognitive abilities, interview skills or public speaking skills, or you might have a few personal goals that can fit into your career path.

Consider this: Each professional skill that you add to your skill toolbox can make you a more sought after candidate for new positions. As you set more goals, successfully attain skills, and achieve success, you may notice that on your next employee performance review, your boss will rave about all the new things that you’ve learned.

Identify Your Objectives for Professional Development

Growth can only be achieved by goals which can be analyzed, assessed, and reworked. If you don’t track them, then unfortunately you’ll never be able to achieve them. In order to do that, you need to identify the objectives of your goals.

SMART goals

SMART goals are an acronym, standing for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound. Let’s look at those in more detail:

  • Specific: This is a goal that has a specific outcome. It’s not a vague goal, but has a unique purpose.
    Ask yourself, “What will I accomplish by setting the goal and what actions will I take to achieve it?”
  • Measurable: In order to achieve success with your professional goals, you need to measure them. Just like in the scientific method, any innovation that’s ever been accomplished has had set parameters to reach those goals.
    Ask yourself, “How will I gather data to assess whether I’m reaching my goal? What are some ways that I can quantify the steps that I take to reach my goal?”
  • Achievable: You can come up with any list of goals, but if they’re not achievable, then they mean nothing. You’re just setting yourself up for failure if the goal that your setting is outside your scope. For example, let’s say that you're terrified of public speaking to where your blood pressure shoots through the roof when you even think about it. It may not be a good idea for you to set a goal of hosting your own TED Talk.
    Instead, aim for something more achievable, but getting the courage to speak up in a meeting.
    Ask yourself these questions: “Can I actually complete this goal? Do I have all the resources at my disposal to complete it?”
  • Relevant: Some goals are great, but they don’t really fall into line with your overall career aspirations. This is where you need to assess your overall goals, to define the guiding principles for goal-setting throughout your five-year plan.
    Ask yourself, “Does this goal fit with where I’d like to be in my professional and personal life in five years?”
  • Time-bound: Most people are procrastinators. They say they’re going to get something done, but they keep pushing it off, until finally they run out of time to actually do it. If you want to actually accomplish your goals, you’ve got to set specific time frames to meet your goals.
    Ask yourself, “How long do I want to work on this specific goal? What’s the maximum time that all ‘mini goals’ will take me?”

Smart goals actually help you create specific, easy-to-follow goals.

Break Down Large Goals into Smaller Tasks

It’s important to break down large goals into smaller tasks because identifying smaller tasks can give you real tangible goals to work towards. You can have large, amazing goals for yourself, but if you don’t break them down into easy-to-digest tasks, then you might not see your dreams become a reality.

Strategies for breaking down large goals into smaller tasks

  • Reverse engineer your goal: Start with the big goal. Maybe it’s wanting to work on your public speaking skills. But that’s way too vague. So maybe it is being able to deliver a 45 minute presentation with no notes. That might seem like an enormous task, but reverse engineer it by looking at what you’ll need to do to get to that next stage.
    If you want to lead a 45 minute presentation without notes, you’re going to need strategies to memorize your notes. You may need to deliver a couple of presentations in a modified setting, where you use both a combination of notes, PowerPoint, and multimedia tools to create a seamless presentation.
  • Map out the practical ways to reach your goal: Assign yourself real tasks to work on getting better at what you’re doing. Let’s go back to the example above. In order to achieve your goal of being able to deliver a 45 minute presentation with no notes, you’ll need to get some practice reps in. How are you going to do that?
    Well, maybe sign up for a public speaking course at a local community college. Or, find an organization that teaches public speaking skills, like ToastMasters. Even ask a family member or friend to listen to a presentation that you’d like to lead, helping you to move away from using notes.
    Next, maybe you’ll stick to cue cards instead of a full set of notes. On your cue cards, maybe you’ll make a bullet point for every paragraph that you would present. This will allow you to internalize your speech better.
  • Make a list and check it twice: Last, make a list of mini tasks to work on. If you’d like, you can even make it into a checklist so that you can scratch out each mini goal that you do. The simple task of crossing off a minor task may give you the motivation to complete your goal.

Create an Action Plan on How to Set Work Goals

Your action plan is almost like a contract with yourself, whereby you promise to complete the goals within the set time. If you use some of the information gathered above in the strategies for breaking down larger goals, you’ll already have the bare-bones basis of an action plan.

Here’s how you can add a little more to your action plan:

Think critically about your professional goals

After you’ve broken down one large goal into many tiny tasks, go through the list of tasks that you have and ask yourself if you need to complete each one.

For example, let’s say you want to reach that goal of being able to do a 45 minute presentation without notes. One of your tasks on that list is to head over to a local comedy club and sign up for an open mic night. However, the night before the open mic night, you can’t sleep a wink and you are so stressed out about the prospect of standing in front of a group of people and telling jokes.

Don’t be afraid to cross things off your list that you don’t feel comfortable with. Some of your tasks might not line up with overall aims of the goal.

Write them down

Make sure whenever you’re setting goals to write each one of your tasks for your goal. All of your personal development goals should be written down, so that you can get a good overview of your goal achievement once you’ve completed the process. You may only complete a certain amount of the tasks that you have for yourself, and yet still complete your overall goal.

Assess the progress you’re making throughout

While you’re going through all of your goals, assess your progress. Consider each of the tasks you’ve completed and ask yourself if those tasks have helped you to get one step closer to your goal. For example, imagine you end up going to the comedy club for an open mic night. Ask yourself after that night is over, “Did this task really help me achieve my overall goal, or was it a waste of time?”

Stay Motivated and Accountable

Did you know that there is a huge swell in the amount of people going to a gym right after New Year’s? The reason for this is that people make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight at the start of the new year. The only issue with this is that most people don’t end up sticking with their goal, and a vast majority of the people who sign up for gym memberships quit in February.

If you want to complete a career development goal, you need to be motivated. Check out some tips below to learn how to stay focused and keep yourself accountable:

Create a support system around you through friends and family

One of the best things you can do is to enlist the help of friends or family members to keep you accountable. Have a friend or family member check in on you from time to time to make sure that you are completing your tasks for your overall goal.

Also, you can have a few of your friends actually get involved in the tasks that you’re working on. As mentioned above, if your goal is to increase your communication skills in order to do a 45 minute presentation without the use of notes, ask a friend or family member to sit in on one of your presentations and provide feedback.

Change your environment to meet your goals

In order to reach some goals that you have, change your habits. If you have organizational goals, then one of the first places you can start is by organizing your office and making sure that everything is ready to use.

Even some of your professional development goals can be tied to regular daily habits. For example, if you would like to increase employee engagement and team collaboration within your organization, you might have to start by simply thanking people for the work that they do.

You might not notice this about yourself, but you rarely say thank you to people. Start by thanking the barista who gives you your coffee in the morning, or the mailman who drops off your mail. Become a more gracious person.

Celebrate Achievements and Learn from Setbacks

Treat yourself when you succeed

It can be an amazing feeling when you complete one of your goals. And even if it’s a very minor goal, you should still treat yourself when you succeed. Maybe it could be as simple as buying yourself your favorite dessert. But if you’ve completed a major milestone, maybe treat yourself with a bottle of champagne.

Also, share your achievements with your support group, because they’ll be proud of you for all the work you’ve done. If you’re happy about something, excited about the work that you put in, then share that with the people that you love.

Redefine your goals when you fall short

Every single person on this earth has failed at some point in their life. What really matters is not when you fail, but what you do to affect change in your life. Ultimately, you have two choices: 1. You sulk when you don’t reach her goal, or 2. You pick yourself up and try again.


Every goal that you make affects your personal and professional development. In order to really affect change in your life, break down your large goals into small, bite -sized tasks, which you can easily handle. Create a map for yourself where you like to assess your progress along the way. Include people in your journey, so that they can celebrate it with you when you succeed.

No matter what professional development goals you have, it’s always a good idea to have somebody in your corner to help you with them. You should speak with a career counselor from Enhancv, as they can help you redefine your career progression. Have you come up with a to-do list to reach your goals, and celebrate with you when you succeed?

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Dave Van Kooten
Is a human resource expert that helps passionate jobseekers to put their best foot forward to prepare for an interview. He believes that success can be achieved through going out of your comfort zone.
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