how to set work goals you’ll actually keep

What are your work goals? Not sure? Maybe you have a general idea but no concrete plans? Many of us have work goals in mind, but we don’t actually have a formal plan or document that outlines our work goals.

Setting work goals is a bit of a balancing act. You have personal career goals. Your company has specific goals for you in your role. So, setting work goals falls a bit into column A and column B. When you set goals at work, you need to choose ones that are specific to you but also fit within the structure of your job and organization. You may have more or less flexibility in your goal setting abilities based on the company you work for and your job type.

Here’s how to develop a plan to create work goals:

how to set work goals

have both short and long term goals

Work goals come in many shapes and sizes. Some you can accomplish in the short term (a week or month) and others are long term (quarterly, annually, or even longer!) Setting work goals effectively involves setting targets with many different timelines affixed to them. Have a blend of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual goals. This way you can always be striving to accomplish something now and in the future. 

connect your goals to the big picture

What is your ideal job? What type of role do you want to have 5 to 10 years from now? What are your big picture career goals? The answer to these questions about your long term career goals will help you better understand the type of goals you need to set now. Use the big picture and start to work backward toward where you are today. Set goals that help you bridge the gap between today and your long term career direction.

create an action plan for each goal

Setting a goal is only the start. You need to have a plan of action for each goal you set. Here are some things to keep in mind for each goal you make for yourself:

  • What specific actions do you need to take to achieve your goal?
  • What can you do right now? How about in the future?
  • Can others help you reach this goal? If so, how?
  • What is your timeline? When is your completion date?

Be as detailed as possible with the number and types of actions you need to complete to successfully reach a defined work goal.

decide what success means

What does success look like for you? The only way to know for sure is to have concrete ways to measure your progress. There are a variety of ways to measure your success:

  • Timelines
  • Checklists
  • Weekly progress reviews
  • Personal reviews
  • Be accountable to someone, even if it’s you!
  • Quantify work performance

Measuring your success can be as simple as checking off tasks on your checklist, crossing off dates on your calendar, or using an app on your phone. When you measure your success, you’ll be able to see your progress. Keeping track of incremental successes is important because it can motivate you to keep moving forward.

consider your career development

Developing new skills and improving personally and professionally can help you help yourself. Not all career goals will be easy to accomplish. You may not even know how you’ll achieve a specific goal right now. You may lack skills and certain knowledge today, but focusing on your career development can help you progress your career now and help you gain an understanding and develop a game plan to achieve longer term, big picture work goals.

plan frequent check-ins

It can be easy to lose sight of work goals. Day-to-day tasks and the present need in your job can cloud your goals and progress. Therefore, it’s vital you plan frequent goal setting check-ins. Set aside some time to review your progress and see what you have and haven’t accomplished. Use this time to adjust your goals and timelines. Things change. Try to review your goal planning at least quarterly and more frequently if possible.

don’t be afraid to ask for support

The support of others is important. Don’t be afraid to ask for the support of your colleagues, boss, friends, and family. They can be invaluable when you get off track, they can help hold you accountable, and they can provide you with some outside perspective about your goals. Perhaps your goals require some supporting players? Maybe you made an important oversight when setting goals? Or maybe you just want discuss your ideas with a trusted colleague. Ask for support when you need it. There’s no shame in asking for help if it gets you closer to achieving your goals.

celebrate accomplishments and make new goals

Celebrate your accomplishments. Meeting a work goal can take a lot of work, discipline and effort. So reward yourself when you meet your goals! A completed goal is an achievement worthy of celebration.



Remember, once you achieve one goal, it’s time to set another. Always challenge yourself with new goals to stay focused, motivated and provide a desire to move forward. This is what will help you accomplish great things in your career.

looking for more career development advice like this? join our career resources newsletter to receive tips on the regular!

join the newsletter