While short-term goals may seem relatively uninteresting, they are absolutely essential to achieve long-term goals. In fact, short-term goals are actually even more important in uncertain situations – where you might not be entirely sure what your big dream is or what is possible. Short-term goals can even be divided into smaller, or shorter-term, goals. Ironically, it is the small short-term goals that should be the topic of interest to big dreamers.
Why be a big dreamer if you can never really get there? Even if you do not reach your goal on a given occasion, it is through thoughtful action (and possibly even mistakes) that you learn what you need to learn to eventually succeed. While creativity is often borne of randomness and spontaneous need, it turns out that good organization actually helps reduce unhelpful distractions and substantially boosts creativity.
So, do not shy away from observing how others approach short-term goals; examples of how to accomplish goals by others will generally enhance, rather than limit, your creativity. Do not be afraid of missteps; the important thing is taking steps. Without doing so, you cannot get closer to long-term goals.
How to Develop Short-Term Goals
Developing short-term goals is more than just breaking up larger goals. First, ironically, you have to ask yourself, what is my long-term goal? If you cannot clearly state your long-term goal, you are not ready to develop a sequence of short-term goals. If you find that you cannot seem to come up with or agree on short-term goals, the problem might be that you have not firmly established what the long-term goal is.
Also, keep in mind that these terms are all relative. If you have a very broad goal, it might better be described as multiple long-term goals. Similarly, short-term goals can frequently be broken into smaller goals. (Less commonly, multiple short-term goals might be better handled if they are consolidated into one.) How you divide goals depends on the time required and the nature of the tasks involved. Most large goals are heterogeneous – the natural divisions of the task will not take equal amounts of time or effort.
Therefore, it is important to, as much as possible, plan with this in mind. Otherwise, you or your team will be rushing and cutting corners on some occasions and dragging your feet on others; if this happens, your planning has essentially worked against you.
Even though clear definition of long-term goals is important, sometimes, people are working with uncertainty – perhaps you cannot be sure where your work will take you, but you have an idea of the general direction. If you are on shifting sand (and most of us are, at least a little bit), then at least establish a general sense of what you wish to achieve. Then, you are ready to decide what your first step should be.
Your first step might be more bet-hedging; you want to have a first step that forms a foundation as effectively as possible. Even if you do not know what is going to happen next, go ahead and think about some possible contingency (in-case) plans for different scenarios. At the completion of your first short-term goal, check in with yourself or your team and plan your next short-term goal accordingly. You can plan this as an iterative (repeating) process of accomplishment and checking in for more planning.
When you are deciding on an order of short-term goals, you also need to establish priority. If you cannot decide on a first step, ask yourself what will pay off faster, or alternatively, what first step will get you in the game enough to know what you need to do next. To do this you, have to establish what paying off faster means to you: Does it mean more income, more investors, more social media followers, etc.?
If you are trying to upskill, learning a fundamental skill that prepares you for multiple advanced specific skills is a clear first step. Choosing a step that maximizes payoff is also important for motivation, whether you are a team or an individual. Even the most disciplined people struggle with delayed gratification, and putting yourself through unnecessary stress from delayed gratification only undermines your natural sense of motivation.
Coordinating People to Achieve Short-Term Goals
Goal-making basics are the same whether you are working with a group or working alone. However, there are some things that are different when working with a group: short-term goals need to be very clearly expressed to all group members, and tasks need to be broken down into subtasks for each member of the team to do. In fact, it is often ideal to have communication methods and times planned out ahead of time.
Also, it is important to have as clear as possible a sense of what needs to be done to achieve a goal, so that expectations do not exceed what is possible. In effect, precise planning is more important for a group than for an individual, because each group member’s efforts are interdependent. If tasks are not clearly and properly assigned, people may end up doing tasks that are above or under their level of expertise, and the workload may be uneven among members. This sort of sloppy organizational structure can lead to a bad work culture – people will feel shortchanged, unappreciated, and unmotivated.
Coordination of subtasks among team members to achieve a larger goal is the essence of project management – a major job skill in and of itself. Good project management practice always involves a well-mapped project life cycle: there is a predictable basic workflow of initiating a project, planning it out, executing the plan, and closing the project.
Sometimes, as mentioned above, this process is iterative – the plan itself implies it will recur until a specified goal is met; other times, it is the normal step-by-step flow from start to finish. Good project managers also have to plan based on estimated risks and well-thought-out assumptions; we all do this on some level as we perform tasks, but when you are leading a group to a specific goal, it is important to meticulously deal with risk.
In fact, risk management is the most substantial subfield of project management. In addition, project managers may have to make decisions about many other issues to reach short-term goals; examples include technology (hardware, software, and other equipment), budgeting, and investors.
Specific Short-Term Goals
There are, obviously, many possible short-term goals; examples are infinite. However, if you feel stymied by a short-term goal or are not even sure what to try next, it may be time to upskill (add a new set of skills to your toolbox). LinkedIn, a website famous for finding people jobs also has online courses that can be purchased for yourself or for an entire group: LinkedIn Learning
When it comes to enhancing a personal career or upskilling a group, these courses are on-point: there are general, beginner, intermediate, and advanced courses, and they come in 3 large subject categories – business, creative, and technology.
If you have a business of any size, a possible short-term goal would be to establish some sort of online presence. Even if you think you have some idea how to do this, Online Marketing Foundations on LinkedIn is a course to ensure that you know the basics about all popular areas of digital marketing. The course covers the major digital categories: email, social media, video media, and display (ads placed on websites).
The course also covers marketing in general, search engine optimization (SEO), website analytics, and influencer marketing. Website analytics allows you to know how well your online marketing is working. Influencer marketing refers to targeting people who are likely to influence other buyers.
If you want to take a step towards technological improvement, “Programming Foundations: Fundamentals” is the perfect beginner course for an aspiring programmer. Rather than teaching a specific programming language, it helps you understand the basics of programming itself. This is ideal if you know you need to program to achieve your goals, but are not sure what programming even is.
For a more specific short-term goal, consider learning HTML, the programming language of the Internet. This way, no matter whether the goal is professional or personal, you can write your own website. “HTML Essential Training” is a beginner-to-intermediate course that thoroughly covers this area.
Well-Planned Short-Term Goals Make People Happier
If you are working with a team, some of your teammates probably are organizer personalities, so they will automatically love planning and give their constructive feedback concerning any plans. However – ironically – less organizing personalities actually benefit just as much from a clear, objective-based structure, because it allows them to avoid extraneous distractions and direct their creativity towards the task at hand.
The vast majority of your planning really should be short-term goals. Without short-term goals, there is no effective action. While assigning specific tasks might seem overly particular or boring, it will always pay off in the end.