Setting goals is all about creating a way to change the status quo. You might want to set personal goals about big changes you’d like to see in your life, or you might set professional goals for your team to help you complete a major project.

Either way, there are some points you need to bear in mind — and we’re here to help.

This article will be split between setting personal and professional goals. We’ll explain the benefits of goal setting, how to identify realistic goals, setting goals for a team, and — most importantly — how you can use to achieve them.

Setting personal goals

If you dust off your dictionary, it’s going to tell you something like, “A goal is an aim that you want to achieve.”

But setting goals is about a whole lot more than simply “getting stuff done.”

The key to effective goal setting and goal achievement centers on how and why you choose to develop those specific goals.

Why should you set personal goals?

You might be perfectly happy floating around without any clear goals — and if that works for you, that’s amazing. But a lot of us need goals to motivate us toward personal growth.

Goals provide you with direction. Setting a goal helps you to create a well-thought-out and clear route to take.

By walking down that road and working towards your goals, you can make sure you’re better positioned to achieve what you’d like to achieve.

Chart with five block colors and five white icons to represent each part of the SMART formula.

Goals also help you steer clear of so-called “shiny object syndrome.”

What’s shiny object syndrome? It’s essentially just a fancy way to describe when you’re focusing all your attention on something new or trendy, but then dump it the minute you spot something newer and trendier.

Setting goals helps you to keep your eye on the big picture. Goals force you to stay focused on what it is you’d like to achieve — and, more importantly, how you’re going to get there.

While we’re talking benefits, goals also help to motivate you. By setting up goals, it’s easier to maintain discipline and make the types of decisions that’ll ultimately support you in hitting your milestones.

Finally, setting goals is really good for your mental health. Multiple studies have proven the incredible psychological effects that setting and achieving goals has on your brain.

Let’s delve into that a bit more.

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What are the psychological benefits of setting goals?

Setting goals isn’t all about helping you to hit your milestones at home or work. There are also significant health benefits.

How? First off, psychological researchers have found that when you have goals and purposes that are meaningful to you, your overall level of well-being improves.

Statistically speaking, people with lower levels of purpose in their lives are proven to experience higher levels of psychological distress and lower levels of self-esteem.

Research also shows that people tend to experience positive effects when they feel that their goals are attainable.

Translation: even without achieving or progressing towards your personal goals, you’re statistically going to feel better just because you’ve got them.

Kanban view of project board on

Finally, achieving your goals makes you feel good physically.

When you reach your personal goals, your brain releases dopamine — which is basically a physical reward your brain sends you because you’ve hit a target you’ve set for yourself.

So there you have it: setting goals is good for your body. But studies also suggest that achieving the psychological benefits doesn’t just boil down to setting any old goals up as a box-ticking exercise. You’ve got to be strategic in how and why you set goals to make them meaningful.

How to set reasonable goals

OK, so we know that goals are good for your mind, body, and finishing your to-do list. But how do you set an appropriate goal for yourself?

There’s no right or wrong answer here — but if you’re looking for a tool that can help you to make sure you’re setting meaningful goals the right way, you should definitely be using the SMART goals formula.

Sound familiar? Human resource departments and managers love to prattle on about SMART goals — and they do it for a reason. It really does work. But the term is new to you, don’t stress. It’s just a super simple acronym.

SMART stands for:

  • Specific: you won’t know whether you’ve achieved a goal unless your goal is specific. Say exactly what it is you’d like to achieve.
  • Measurable: if you want to know whether you’ve been successful, you should assign your goal some sort of metric.
  • Attainable: a reasonable goal is an achievable goal. There’s no point setting goals you can’t achieve. Aim for something that’s ambitious but perfectly possible.
  • Relevant: don’t set random goals just for the sake of it. Make sure there’s a reason and purpose behind your goal.
  • Time-Bound: give yourself a reasonable time or fair deadline by which time you plan to complete your goal. This will keep you on-task and motivated.

By using this set of criteria, it’s a lot easier for you to make sure your objectives are attainable and measurable within a certain timeframe.

Table spelling out each word in SMART acronym.

The SMART approach totally axes the guesswork that usually goes hand-in-hand with goal setting.

By creating a clear timeline and metrics to gauge success, SMART goals make it simple to track your progress and spot any missed milestones or opportunities.

In addition to thinking about how you set your goals, it’s also important to think about how you engage with a specific goal.

If you want to set reasonable goals you can achieve, there are a few tips worth considering to keep yourself on the right path.

Tip #1: write your goals down, and share them with others.

According to a Leadership IQ study of more than 16,000 people, if you write your goals down and vividly describe them, you’ll instantly be up to 1.4 times more likely to accomplish your goals than people who don’t write them down.

Tip #2: don’t be afraid to ask for help.

It doesn’t matter how together you think you have it. Sometimes, even the smartest SMART goal can feel daunting or out of reach.

If you need help with your confidence, need support, or require outside assistance to help you achieve a personal goal, ask for help.

Tip #3: remove distractions.

One common reason people fail to achieve their goals is that they procrastinate. 7 out of 10 people say they often procrastinate or lack urgency to achieve their goals — that’s a lot of distraction.

To hit your milestones and achieve goals, sometimes it helps to remove those distractions. They could be apps on your phone, websites, or even people.

Think hard about what or who’s distracting you from reaching your goals, and don’t be afraid to make a change.

This gives you a space to focus and reflect on your SMART goals and how and when you’re going to achieve them.

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Professional goal setting

Alright, so we’ve chatted about personal goals and how to create a reasonable and measurable goal for yourself. But most of us don’t just have personal goals – we’ve also got shared goals with our teams at work.

All of the psychological benefits and tips we’ve covered apply to professional goals too.

But, if you’re a project or team manager and are responsible for a business or long-term goal for an entire team, there are a few other points you’ve got to bear in mind.

How do you set goals for a team?

In project management, the goal-setting process usually has to start by surveying the current state of affairs.

Ask about any problems, lack of resources, dedicated funding, and take stock of what you and your team have got to work with.

Next, develop a picture of how you want the situation to look. Meet up with stakeholders to define where you want to take a team or project, and discuss how the current situation could be improved.

Then, you’ll need to assess the gap. Take a look at where your team is versus where you’d like the team to be, and learn about that gap. Figure out what it entails, why it’s so big, and how you can overcome it.

You’ll need to own that gap, determine the reason for change, and commit to making it happen.

PMI flow chart illustrating how to set goals for teams.

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From there, it’s time to finally set the goals that will bridge the divide and achieve your dream scenario for your team. This could be a financial goal, short-term goal, or a big goal you hope your team can achieve over time.

Remember those SMART goals we talked about? They’re not just for personal use. Whenever you’re setting goals for your team, they should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

Don’t forget: successful goal setting pretty much always begins with SMART.

Not only will this keep you focused, but it also holds you to account. If you pursue a project with SMART goals, you’ll be able to demonstrate to your wider organization what it is you’re trying to achieve, why, how, and when.

They’ll know exactly what to expect and when to expect it — which not only keeps your team motivated but also makes it easier for you to appeal for project resources.

Finally, you’ve got to act. Develop an action plan with various assignable tasks that will help you to achieve your SMART goals.

Once you’re on your way to achieving your goal, you should be tracking your success using a larger goal tracker. This can help identify areas where you’re exceeding expectations or need some work.

Sounding good so far? Check out our guide on how to set and achieve work goals.

Using for setting goals

Let’s be honest, sometimes setting the goal is the easy part.

If you’re managing a project team with numerous SMART objectives and multiple workers trying to help achieve those goals, it can be tricky keeping track of it all.

That’s where comes in.

Our work operating system (OS) makes managing SMART goals much more efficient. With our platform, you can track your goals from start to finish, make quick changes, and easily share goals with your team.

One of the easiest ways to do it is with our handy-dandy Quarterly Objectives Template.

Why? This template gives you the ability to embed information so that everybody is always up-to-date.

Infoboxes are available on each entry so you can make notes, chat with team members, store files, and write an FAQs section.

It’s also perfect for prioritizing your goals. You and your team can use the template to tag each objective with a priority. Then, it’s simple to filter or show certain objectives based on how important they are.

Screenshot of project view of's Quarterly Objectives Template.

Like every template, our Quarterly Objectives template also gives you the added benefit of multiple workflows views.

This allows you to look at your goals in a way that makes sense to you — whether it’s Gantt, Kanban, timeline, or anything else.

Finally, with, you can work on your personal goals and your team goals in one convenient dashboard.

As we’ve already pointed out, each team member can create their own SMART board that centers on their personal goals. This lets you stay focused and stay motivated both personally and professionally.

Let’s set some goals

Setting goals helps you to be who you want to be or achieve what you want to achieve. It doesn’t matter whether your goals are personal or for a project team.

 Setting goals will help you to stay focused, provide direction, keep you motivated, and help you get the job done.

But staying on top of all your team’s SMART goals for each project as well as your personal goals can get a bit complicated.

If you want to make sure nothing gets missed, the best way to keep track of your goals is to use a dynamic Work OS like

But don’t just take our word for it. Try free for 14 days and start setting goals today.

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