Short-term goals: Definition, benefits & examples for all areas of your life

Short-term goals: Definition, benefits & examples for all areas of your life

Did you know that setting short-term goals for your personal life and business can help you achieve your long-term goals? Lofty goals can sometimes be overwhelming to tackle, which can increase the chances of procrastination.

One way to tackle big, overwhelming goals is to break them down into smaller, more manageable goals (hello, short-term goals!) and work on achieving them one by one.

So, if you find yourself overwhelmed and unsure where to start with setting goals you can achieve, consider setting short-term goals.


What is a short-term goal?

A short-term goal is a goal that can be accomplished in a short amount of time. Usually, the timeframe for short-term goals is anywhere between 1 week to 12 months.

Usually, short-term goals are set with long-term goals in mind, and they act as a bridge between where you are right now and where you want to be in the next year, five or ten years. They are measurable goals and are often easier to achieve than long-term goals.

When setting short-term goals, it’s best to follow the SMART goal-setting formula, which means setting goals that are: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.


long term goals

How do short-term goals differ from long-term goals?

The main difference between a long-term goal and a short-term goal is the duration. Short-term goals are usually goals we set for less than 12 months and long-term goals tend to be set for years, if not decades.

Your long-term goals are often built on short-term goals. Think of it like that – your long-term goals are a house you want to build and your short-term goals are the bricks you use to build that house over time.

Benefits of setting short-term goals

There are many benefits to goal setting for self-improvement and career. Here are three main benefits of setting goals that take a short amount of time to achieve:

Builds confidence

Setting and achieving short-term goals, however small they are, can greatly help you build confidence in yourself. Ticking off an achieved goal from your list boosts your mood and gives that dopamine rush which further propels you to keep going.

And on days when you feel like giving up, you can look back at all the short-term goals you already accomplish and give yourself a little boost – you have accomplished goals in the past, and you can accomplish goals you set in the future.

Helps you stay on track

When it comes to day-to-day life, staying on track with long-term career goals and personal development goals can be tricky. Setting short-term goals gives you an opportunity to check in with where you are and where you want to go on a regular basis.

Also, if you set SMART goals for the short term, you’ll be able to always assess if the strategies you are implementing are working and if maybe you need to adjust your tactics and timelines. That applies to career goals, personal development, and school goals.

Gives you purpose

Short-term goals give your day-to-day life purpose and direction. While both short-term and long-term goals play an important role in giving your life purpose and meaning, short-term goals are more effective at that, because they force you to focus on the here and now.

Every small habit you build, and every small task you do during the day impacts whether you are closer to reaching your short-term goals. This way of thinking can give you a stronger sense of purpose, especially on days when you are feeling down and maybe want to give up on your goals.

what are smart goals

Short-term goal examples

Setting specific goals is important if you want to achieve your goals in a short term. When you decide to set a new short-term goal, break it down according to the SMART goal formula:

  • Specific: describe what you want to achieve and how when you set the goal.
  • Measurable: identify how you’ll know the goal has been accomplished.
  • Achievable: be realistic about your current skill set and set the goal just a little bit out of what seems possible.
  • Relevant: always consider how this short-term goal plays into the bigger picture for your work, business, or personal life.
  • Time-bound: define the exact timeline for when you want to accomplish this goal. Whether it’s 15 minutes or 12 months, give yourself a hard deadline.

Now, let’s take this formula and apply it to different types of goals to create relevant examples you can follow when setting your own goals.

Short-term career goals

1. Research and attend one local industry conference every quarter.

2. Complete one short online certification course in the next three months.

3. Sign up for a mentorship program with a local university in the next six months.

4. Update the CV with the most recent work experience and accomplishments next week.

5. Research the average salary for similar work positions in the area by the end of this week.

6. Finish an online certification course to learn the Microsoft Office toolkit by the end of this month.

7. Organize a dinner party for the team and the boss in the next six months.

8. Research the next steps to take to further my career every day for 30 minutes on the train ride to work.

9. Invite one prospective client for a coffee once per month for the next three months.

10. Read one book on better workplace performance per month for the next six months.

11. Find and attend one local leadership meetup every month for the next 12 months.

12. Listen to three industry-related podcast episodes per week during the commute home from work.

13. Schedule a 30-minute performance review with each team member in the next month.

14. Schedule one 30-minute discovery call with international prospective clients every week for the next three months.

15. Find and connect with one new industry leader on social media every month.

Short-term goals for work

16. Come to work 15 minutes earlier on Mondays to prepare for the team meeting.

17. Research and create a plan for implementing a new task management system by the end of the month.

18. Find and reach out to an industry leader for a mentorship program by the end of next week.

19. Research further education programs and online certifications to complement my work by the end of the month.

20. Invite one coworker for a coffee every week for the next three months.

Short-term financial goals

21. Find one new recipe and cook it at home every Friday for the next 6 months.

22. Do a no-spend challenge for one month every quarter.

23. Open an automated savings account and transfer 10% of each paycheck every month for the next 6 months.

24. Pay off the credit card debt on the highest-interest card by the end of this quarter.

25. Open an IRA account and start contributing to it every month by the end of this month.

26. Create a budget spreadsheet in Excel and track spending for the next 30 days.

27. Find and schedule an appointment with a financial advisor next month.

28. Research 70/20/10 budgeting method by the end of this week.

29. Find easy-to-make recipes and create a meal prep plan by this Sunday.

30. Every time I want to buy something and don’t, put that money in a savings account for the next 30 days.

31. Research the best credit card to build a credit score by the end of the week.

32. Invest 5% of each paycheck every month for the next 12 months.

33. Research different methods to pay off debt and create a debt pay-off plan by the end of this month.

34. Create a capsule wardrobe for work from clothing I already own by next Monday.

35. Make a list of cheap date night ideas with a partner by this Friday.

woman writing in notebook

Short-term goals for a business

36. Find and hire a web designer to refresh the website by the end of this month.

37. Create a Q1 social media strategy by the end of this week.

38. Outline the new online course script by Friday.

39. Write content for the first five online course curriculums by the end of Q1.

40. Find five guest podcast opportunities and cold pitch myself in the next three months.

41. Post three times per week on TikTok for the next three months.

42. Reach out to one online course creator every month to expand my network for the next six months.

43. Sign up for three affiliate marketing networks by the end of the month.

44. Record audio versions of the curriculum and update the course material by the end of Q2.

Examples of short-term goals for students

45. Read extra course material for 30 minutes in the morning for the next three months.

46. Spend three hours in the afternoon every day on completing assignments this semester.

47. Create a list of supplemental material for this semester by Friday.

48. Organize a weekly group study session every Friday for the next two months.

49. Reach out to the lecturer and propose a mentorship program for undergraduate students.

50. Book every Sunday off for rest and personal errands this semester.

Short-term personal goals

51. Journal every morning for 5 minutes for the next three months.

52. Create a house chore calendar for the next six months by the end of this month.

53. Meditate for 10 minutes every morning before work for the next month.

54. Only have one cup of coffee per day for the next three months.

55. Attend one pilates class per week for the next six months.

56. Invite a friend for a coffee every Sunday morning for the next month.

57. Do a 10-minute yoga class every day before bed for the next month.

financial goals

How to track your short-term goals

A key component in achieving your short-term goals is to track the progress. It will help you stay on track and remain motivated. And there are a few different ways you can track your goals, so everyone can find a system that works for them:


Journaling is a mindfulness practice that can be done in many different ways and serve multiple different purposes. You can write Morning Pages, a journaling practice created by Julia Cameron, that helps you clear your mind before the day. Or, you can use journaling as a way to track your short-term goal progress.

At the end of each day, either right after work or before sleep, spend a few minutes writing down things you’ve accomplished today that bring you closer to accomplishing your short-term goal. Even if progress is small, writing it down is important for progress.

Also, a journal not only of your small wins and progress but failures and mistakes. These things might make you feel like you’re failing, but in reality, they are useful experiences that help you learn and do better the next time.

Find an accountability buddy

The accountability buddy system is wildly popular in goal-setting communities. That’s why you often see weight loss and workout companies like My Fitness Pal and Shreddy offer a community for their members, so they can find like-minded people on their path to reaching similar fitness goals to keep each other accountable.

Sharing your short-term goals with an accountability buddy like a friend, a co-worker or even your social media following can be a great motivator for you to keep going. You’ll be more inclined to achieve the goals because you won’t want to let people who are cheering for you down.

Also, if you have a friend who wants to set goals together and hold each other accountable, the process of achieving the goals you set yourself will become a fun activity. Organize weekly or monthly check-ins where you both reflect on your progress over a cup of coffee or lunch. Those fun check-in sessions will encourage you to work on your goals even more due to the release of feel-good hormones like dopamine that play a crucial part in achieving goals.

Get a planner

Using a paper or digital planner to set and track your goals can be an effective way to help you stay on track and track your progress. You can find many different paper planners that fit different needs, depending on what you like. Companies like Passion Planner make planners orientated towards setting short-term goals and make regular check-ins easy.

If you prefer to organize your life in a digital format, you can browse Etsy for different planner templates and habit trackers that will help you gamify the process of tracking progress with your goals.

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