Last time we talked about setting goals, we talked about long-term goals, which will almost always be where you want to start when planning your career and education. But along the way you’ll also want to set a series of short-term goals to help you get there.
Short term goals are similar to long term goals in that you’ll also want them to be SMART — specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. Short term goals are your intermediate step between that big, long-term goal and your smaller next steps, which we’ll talk about in a future installment.
For example, if you’re a junior in high school, and your long-term goal is to receive a bachelor’s degree from one of the larger state universities where you live, an appropriate short-term goal might be to take the ACT and/or SAT twice during your junior year, because college entrance exams are required to apply for admission to a major university. Another appropriate short term goal might be to tour the 3 largest universities in your state by the end of your junior year to help you decide which school you like the best in case you are accepted to all three.
These are not “next steps” which are even more specific and often have deadlines within a few weeks or months. Building on the example we just used, some next steps for a short-term goal of taking the ACT and/or SAT might be to research test dates, register for the test, and take the test. We’ll talk more about those next time.
When you’re setting short-term goals, you can either set one at a time and focus on your next goal only after you have completed the current one, or if you’re more of a big-picture person, you could sit down and plot out many short-term goals on the path to achieving your long-term goal, like major landmarks on a cross-country road trip.
Your short-term goals can be successive, meaning you do them in order from first to last, or they can be simultaneous, meaning you might be working on several of them or all of them at the same time. It’s important to know yourself well enough to know which of these methods will work best for you. If you are easily overwhelmed or have trouble knowing where to start when you have too many projects going at once, try to set only one or two short-term goals at a time. Or if you like having more control or a better idea of all the smaller goals you’ll need to achieve to reach your long-term goal, go ahead and set them all in advance, but plan to work on them one at a time.
Just know that no matter how you set and complete your short term goals, you’re far more likely to achieve your long-term goal than someone who doesn’t set any goals at all, or only sets a long-term goal with no plan to get there.