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Setting and Achieving Goals Effectively

Time management requires that we attend to and achieve the outcomes necessary to finding success—if we don’t, then we are wasting our most valuable resource. In order to achieve the required goals we must learn how to set appropriate goals so that we can do so and recognize when we have done so.


State and express each goal in positive terms. “Answer the phone by the third ring” is a better goal than “Try to answer the phone promptly.”

Set precise goals. Include dates, times and amounts so that you can measure achievement. If you do this, you will know exactly when you have achieved the goal, and can enjoy having achieved it.

Set priorities. When you have several goals, give each a priority. This helps you to avoid feeling overwhelmed by too many goals, and it helps to direct your attention to the most important ones.

Write goals down. Writing down your goals crystallizes them and gives them more force.

Keep operational goals small and achievable. If a goal is too grand, it can seem that you are not making progress toward it. Keeping goals small and incremental gives more opportunities for reward. Derive today’s smaller goals from larger ones.

Set performance and outcome goals. You should take care to set goals over which you have as much control as possible. Yet, performance and hard work are not enough. You must set specific outcome goals and achieve them or else nothing really gets accomplished.

Set realistic goals. It is important to set goals that you can achieve. You may be naïve in setting very high goals and might not appreciate either the obstacles in the way, or understand quite how many skills you must master to achieve a particular level of performance.

Do not set goals too low. It is important not to set goals unrealistically high, but do not set them too low, either. They should be slightly out of your immediate grasp, but not too far. No one will put serious effort into achieving a goal that they know is unrealistic. However, just because you believe a goal is unrealistic doesn’t make it so.


When you know you have achieved a goal, take the time to enjoy the satisfaction of having done so. Absorb the implications of the goal achievement and observe the progress you have made toward other goals. If the goal was a significant one, give yourself a pat on the back or a special treat.


If you achieved your goals too easily, make your next goals harder.

If the goal took a dispiriting length of time to achieve keep the goal in place and amend the timeline.

If you learned something that would lead you to change other goals, do so.

Even though you achieved your goal(s), if you noticed a deficit in your knowledge, skills or abilities, then set goals to remedy these shortcomings.

About the Author

L. Douglas Mault is president of the Executive Advisory Institute, Yakima, Wash.

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