Set and achieve goals at work: six steps

“The only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.” — Michelle Obama

We've all got goals we'd love to achieve, both in our personal life and work life. We've got dreams, and we're willing to work for them. But how do you set a concrete goal and set yourself up for success? With these six simple, SMART steps, you'll be setting (and reaching) goals in no time.

You've always wanted to do it — run the marathon, get the promotion, increase the sales, make the tangible difference for others. Maybe you've been putting it off because it seems too difficult, and you're not sure if you can actually do it. When you think about it, you're not even sure where to begin. It's overwhelming at best, anxiety-provoking at worst. But if done a certain way, it's possible to set, work towards and achieve even the most challenging goals, if you're committed to the process. 


What are goals? 

What you need is a concrete way to create a goal: a predetermined objective you want to achieve in a certain amount of time. If you set a personal goal, you can achieve personal success. Even better, it starts a positive cycle: achieving one goal motivates you to keep going, set even bigger goals and realise dreams. Because, as Michelle says, the only things holding you back are the size of the goals and your willingness to fight for them.


Why set goals?

Simply put, a goal wakes you up from your slumber of complacency (a dangerous place to sleep for too long). A personal purpose is what opens your eyes and calls you to action. Having a goal gives you direction, priority, and a filter through which daily tasks can be put. A goal creates focus and energy while reducing stress. By setting goals, you can bring about real, lasting change and create positive transformation in yourself.

By setting work goals, you learn more about yourself and the limits of your skills. Each time you challenge yourself to improve your previous performance, you grow. In this way, you can improve your work performance in a targeted manner, which increases your value as a professional.

You can also form goals with a team. Working together to achieve a shared goal enhances team spirit and thus job satisfaction!


SMART goals

It's useful to make your goals SMART — otherwise, it will quickly become unclear what the end result should be, how to get there, or where to begin. A SMART goal is concrete, making it more likely to be realised.

  • S - Specific: is your goal so specific that you know exactly what the result should look like? Instead of "I want to sell more products," it's "I want to increase sales by 20% in Quarter 2."
  • M - Measurable: is there a clear way to measure progress and overall success — preferably with numbers? 
  • A - Attainable: while goals should challenge and stretch us, is it realistic that you can actually obtain this goal? If you've never touched a football and your goal is to become a professional football player within six months, it may be time to re-evaluate. 
  • R - Relevant: does the goal fit into the larger picture of your life and long-term desires? 
  • T - Timely: can it be realised within a certain time frame? In a week? Month? Year? 


Goals can be big and compelling, but also small and personal. For example, a personal goal could be, "I want to lose weight.” To make this example SMART, you could say, "I want to lose 10 kilos within one year."

An example of work goal could be to optimise LinkedIn. SMART may look like: "I want 15% more visitors to my LinkedIn profile over the whole of 2021 compared to 2020."

With SMART in mind, follow these six steps and you can tackle any goal!


Step 1: Set an end goal

First, you need to set an end goal for yourself. One way to reach an important goal is to write down some desires and challenges to overcome. Which goal gives you the most energy? You can probably already feel intuitively what makes you most enthusiastic.

In career goal setting, it's important to consult with your manager and / or employer so they know which direction you want to go in the company — and you know what they can offer you to achieve your end goal. They can give you tips and ideas or steer you in the right direction if you get stuck.


Step 2: Make your end goal SMART

Now that your goal has been set, you can further pinpoint it. Make it clear whether your goal is feasible for yourself, in what period you want it to be achieved, and whether there is sufficient support to achieve your goal. When do you consider your goal reached?

For example, you want to generate a certain growth in turnover with your company or department. How much should this be? On what date do you want this to be achieved? And how do you want to achieve that? Is it realistic and feasible?

Example: From December 2020 onwards, I will generate $9,000 monthly turnover.


Step 3: Break the end goal up into intermediate steps

For complex long-term goals, it's useful to split your end goal into multiple, smaller steps. This makes a big end goal more manageable and achievable.

What do you want to achieve or learn every week or month? In the example of increasing sales, an intermediate step is, for example, to increase sales by $350 per month or to connect a new customer every month.


Step 4: Break steps into tasks

Now that you know what you want to achieve in a certain period, you can take a critical look at what you need to do to achieve it. What changes do you need to make? What new skills do you need to learn or improve? What should you read, learn or have done? Who or what do you need for this?

For example, if your goal is to have read a thick management book in six months and your intermediate step is to read two chapters every month, then you can give yourself the task of reading a certain number of pages each week. Other duties include ordering the book and buying a reading lamp because you plan to read before bed. Map out all the steps necessary to achieve your goal.


Step 5: Plan your tasks

You know what to do and what you need for it, but when can you start working on it?

Schedule your tasks per week and / or month. See what options you have and how much time per day or week you have to spend on your task. Once you have your tasks clearly on your agenda, you will feel more motivated and productive to check them off.

When you have completed the last task, your goal has been achieved!


Step 6: Evaluate and optimise

If you keep track of your tasks and intermediate goals, you can see your performance immediately. Not only does this motivate you to continue, but you can also immediately adjust where necessary.

Evaluate weekly, monthly and / or when achieving an intermediate goal. Are you still on schedule? What went well or not so well? Give yourself feedback and take it with you to the next period, step or goal.


Good luck!

You now have the knowledge to set goals and achieve them — both in your personal and work life. One last tip: don't make it too difficult for yourself right away; limit yourself to one achievable goal, and only set a new one when you have reached this goal. Good luck!