Ever feel that workdays tend to blend together into one incomprehensible mess? That’s not unusual. Many people find themselves struggling to define their achievements in the workplace. Setting yourself different types of goals at work can break the jinx. It is a fantastic way to provide structure, stability, and progression to your career.
There are many different types of goals to institute at work. Understand the differences between them and set up yourself for success in all aspects of life. And that’s what we’ll break down below.
What are Goals? What About Objectives?
In a nutshell, goals are long-term aims. Think of goals as the major milestones on your broad, overarching strategic plan. A goal is inherently forward-thinking and represents an ideal result — it’s the end game.
Objectives, on the other hand, are made quantifiable, concrete, and narrow by KPIs or Key results. These are are short-term aims that provide an immediate course of action.
Why Set Workplace Goals?
Goal setting is a fantastic motivator. Having a clear set of goals at work allows you to follow a roadmap to success — the clearer the goals, the better. Career progression doesn’t really exist if you don’t have some sort of plan: few people ever magically fall into their dream job. Instead, goals help motivate, drive, and organize your journey.
Below is a list of different types of goals that one can set at work. While the list is by no means exhaustive, it does help in providing structure to your thought process.
Think of career goals as bookmarks on your professional life. In an ideal world, you’ll be able to use your different goals as benchmarks to gauge your progress.
There is a never-ending list of career goals. Some of the more “popular” ones are:
- Becoming your own boss
- Becoming a recognized expert in your specific industry
- Switching careers entirely! (Yes, this is perfectly normal.)
Try to emphasize long-term aims here: starting your own business, for example, is a fantastic career goal. Likewise, you may have the ultimate goal of purchasing your own franchise license. Regardless of the specifics, always think big.
Setting Career Goals
Setting career goals is a fascinating experiment in realism and idealism. On one hand, you might very well set yourself the career goal of becoming the CEO of a major corporation. No matter your level of personal drive or inspiration, that’s a tall order! On the other hand, goals are fundamentally about developing a plan for your ultimate success.
As a general rule, keep your career goals at least somewhat grounded in reality. The more in touch you are with yourself about your goals and dreams, the better.
Tip: Your career goals are your overarching, long-term set of professional aims. Constantly refer back to your career goals when planning your other aims.
Professional Development Goals
Professional development goals are practical, measurable, short-term benchmarks that help you achieve particular strategic aims. The desired result is simple — enhance your professional skills (whatever they may be) in order to do your job better.
Professional development is an all-encompassing term used to describe an untold number of different activities. There are no criteria for what defines professional development: it can range from additional technical training to social networking to independent research. Other common professional development goals include:
- Publish an e-book online by a specific deadline
- Create and maintain a professional blog
- Earn a new certification in your specific field
So long as the activity is related (in some way) to how you perform your duties, you’re golden. In fact, some professions have continuing professional education (CPE) requirements mandated by various regulatory bodies — public accountants, for example, are required to earn at least 40 hours of CPE per year!
Setting Professional Development Goals
Don’t be afraid to make your professional development goals hard. You want these goals to drive your professional career forward — sometimes that means going outside your comfort zone.
Every professional development goal should address one of your weaknesses in the workplace. You already know what your long-term career goals are — professional development goals help you bridge the gap between your current skill set and the skills you need to improve upon.
Tip: Talk to your employer/manager. Many companies offer their employees professional development assistance.
Many people tend to ignore financial goals in the workplace. For some reason, a paycheck becomes something you receive at home instead of something you earned at work. Setting healthy financial goals is one of the single best ways to improve on one of the most important aspects of your life: your wallet!
With that in mind, set a mix of financial goals that will help you achieve your long-term aims. These can include short-term goals like:
- Building up an emergency fund of liquid cash.
- Cutting down on unnecessary expenses in order to preserve funds.
- Adding a few more dollars a month to your retirement.
Financial goals can also include long-term goals like:
- Saving up for a down payment on a home.
- Paying off large debts like auto loans, student loans, or mortgages
- Setting aside money for a child’s college education.
Setting Financial Goals
Of course, setting financial goals is a balancing act. No one likes a miser — it’s important to include some flexibility for entertainment, enjoyment, and random spending. If you’re not sure where to start, a budget (yes, an actual budget) is a fantastic (and necessary) tool to get started.
Know your current income, consider your future income, and plan accordingly. You can find all sorts of rules of thumb regarding smart budgeting habits, but the most important aspect is that you do your best to stick to a regular budget.
Tip: Plan your financial goals alongside your career goals. Your financial decisions invariably impact your career goals — it’s a symbiotic relationship.
Work/Life Balance Goals
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is one of the most difficult aspects of working in the modern world. There’s immense social pressure to work incessantly, often to the detriment of your mental health. Stress is a killer — don’t let it rob you of your best years!
When you’re stressed, everything tends to fall apart. You’re less productive, more prone to make errors, and (most importantly) your attitude plummets. Everyone knows what it’s like to work excessive hours in a stressful environment — it’s bad for everyone involved.
Setting Work/Life Balance Goals
Setting work/life balance goals requires, as you might imagine, a mix of goals for the home and the workplace. When you’re at work, you’ll want to:
- Prioritize your time. Entire careers have been made around the philosophy of effective time management, but the underlying principle never changes: prioritize your time!
- Take breathers. No, stepping away from your desk for five minutes won’t ruin your “hot streak” of productivity. Short, regular breaks are a great way to give your mind a rest from the stress of work.
- Habits are better than tasks. Habits are instinctive — no one tells you to put on your seat belt in a car, you just do it. Imagine how much more productive you’d be at work if you internalize your work tasks and turn them into habits.
Of course, success at work isn’t always enough. For many people, going home holds the promise of even more work — kids, laundry, cooking, the list never ends. When you’re at home, you’ll want to:
- Chill out. A healthy social life is great, but your mental health comes first. If the idea of getting off work and meeting friends and family is too much, don’t worry. Just chill out.
- Step away from electronics. If you’re like most people, your workplace is loaded with electronic devices (as is your home!). The constant buzz to always stay connected with work is unhealthy — if you can, just turn that phone off for a few hours.
- Prioritize your time. If you’re faced with the specter of loads of housework or errands, prioritize your time. Take care of urgent, necessary tasks first and push the others back.
Workplace Goals: Bringing Everything Together
The beauty of goal-setting is that it’s incredibly open-ended. Goals can range from the impressive (”become my own boss”) to the mundane (”save a little more money every paycheck.”). There’s no wrong way to set goals — so long that each goal puts you that much closer to your dream result.