How to set short-term goals and achieve them: 14 tips

Short-term goals are equally important as long-term goals, if not more.

And although they seem much easier to accomplish, it actually takes a lot of self-discipline and determination to achieve them.

Luckily, there are hacks that can make things easier for you, and I will share 15 of the most effective ones in this article.

1) Look for inspiration

Whether you’re fifteen or fifty, you could always use some inspiration—especially if you’re setting goals.

Think of the people in your life who are go-getters…those who can truly accomplish any goal they set. If you can’t think of one, then I’m sure you know at least a couple of famous personalities who have achieved great things because of determination and hard work.

One example I can think of is Nick Vujicic. I mean, if a man without arms and legs can win at life, so can you. Another one is Colonel Sanders who made it big only after knocking on the 1010th door.

But, of course, you have to find your OWN kind of people who you aspire to be. If you want, you can print out their photos and post them on your wall so that you’ll get a daily reminder of the power of determination.

2) Believe that you can (still) achieve anything

Your self-confidence matters a lot when it comes to achieving goals.

And if you’re like me, I’m sure a part of you thinks you’ll not achieve your goals again this time because…well, you’ve done them a million times before and you’ve failed at achieving many—if not all— of them.

But look, you have no choice but to keep trying. You can’t just say “Nah, I’m DONE setting goals. I won’t achieve most of them anyway!”

That’s not how it works.

You have to believe in yourself because here’s a secret: anyone who’s ever achieved anything has failed a lot of times before they mastered the skill of achieving goals. Trust me on this one!

It’s just that they just didn’t give up because they truly believe in themselves.

So keep the faith. Anything is still possible!

3) Define your values

Why do you want your goals in the first place? Do they align with your values? What do you value the most anyway?

Knowing your values before even setting your goals can help you achieve the life that you genuinely want.

Sure, you can pick random goals… but why do that?! It’s much better if you’re mindful of every goal you set—that each one contributes to the person you want to become.

Knowing your values is just the first step.

You have to know how they would actually help you shape the life that you want.

If you want to find out your core values, get Jeanette’s “Defining Your Values” pdf for free. I’ve learned a lot about myself from it, and I’m sure you will, too.

4) Know how your short-term goals can fuel your long-term goals

Ideally, your short term goals can help you achieve your long-term goals. So try to connect the two if you can.

For example, if your short-term goal is to lose 3 kg, then it’s probably connected to you having a healthy lifestyle in your 50s. Or if you want to learn German, it’s probably because you want to live in Germany someday.

Ideally, you should work backwards. Define your long-term goals so you can set your short-term goals, but this also works just fine.

Why? Because simply knowing that one small goal can contribute to your life in a grander way will help you stick to them.

5) Be very specific about your goals

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Since we’re young, we’re taught that our goals should be S.M.A.R.T.—that is, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

Don’t just say “I want to learn how to play music”, say “I want to learn how to play guitar by the end of this year…at five three songs that I’m really good at.”

Don’t just say “I want to earn more”, say “I want to earn $200 from my Youtube channel every month.”

6) Focus on one or two goals at a time

It’s hard to achieve goals when you’ve got a million of them. So do them one at a time.

If you’re like me, you’ve set too many goals because you want instant and total life transformation. You’re probably like a chicken with its head cut off thinking “I have no time! I have no time!” And in the end, you end up not accomplishing even a quarter of them.

Last year, I wrote a long list of goals on New Year’s Day—from earning 4x more than my income, getting fit,  learning a new language, being more friendly, to writing two scripts….PHEW! It was definitely a list made for a superhuman.

I always thought that more is always better, but boy, was I wrong. In less than a month, I got burned out…and by the next month, I started to lose faith in myself.

As the saying goes, haste makes waste. So focus on one or two…achieve them, then move on to the next.

7) Visualize yourself achieving them

We don’t want to be delusional here. But again, if you want your dreams to come true—that is, if you want to achieve your goals—then you gotta imagine them as if you’ve already achieved them.

Create a movie in your head—and make it in 4D! Use your senses.

If your short-term goal is to know how to cook five dishes in a month, then imagine yourself cooking them—imagine the smells, the sounds, the expression on your loved ones’ faces when they devour your creations.

When you’re feeling unmotivated, just imagining this scenario will push you to get up and go to the kitchen.

8) Remind yourself of what’s at stake

While it’s important to visualize a good outcome, it’s also equally important to remind yourself of what could happen if you won’t start working on your goals now.

Don’t beat yourself up, but be a tough coach.

What I mean is…don’t say “This is why you’ll end up being a loser.”

Instead, push yourself in a way that’s still encouraging. Again, like a coach.

So say “Hey, you’re full of potential, remember? So start working on your goals because you don’t want to wake up at 60 full of regrets! You’re a great human being and you can achieve anything!”

9) Hold yourself accountable

It’s hard to keep working on your goals if you don’t hold yourself accountable for your actions (and non-actions).

So when you set your goals, make sure you take 100% responsibility in achieving them. Don’t blame your friends, don’t blame your work, don’t blame the world.

You set those goals, you’re responsible for achieving them no matter what.

Sure, there will be setbacks but don’t use them as an excuse to stop pursuing your goals. They’re part of the process.

One way to do this is by monitoring your progress.

Use a habit tracker app so you can see your wins as well as the obstacles that prevent you from achieving your goals. Assess your progress weekly.

Another trick is by telling someone—a goal buddy or your mother—so they’ll keep reminding you and pushing you to follow through on the promises you gave to yourself.

10) Convert them into habits

Most goals can be cut down to bite-sized pieces—to habits.

For example, if your short-term goal is to have good skin, then the habit is sticking to your skincare routine every single day.

If your short-term goal is to write a 3-page short story, then the habit is to wake up early to type at least 200 words.

Most goals are an accumulation of habits.

By turning goals to habits, it makes it seem much easier to accomplish. This way, you won’t have any excuses. And anyway, if you skipped a few days, don’t worry…you can just go back to doing them again one day at a time.

11) Lump them together with your other habits

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So let’s say you’ve already established a morning routine—you wake up at five, do yoga, write for 30 minutes, then go to work at seven.

You’ve been doing this consistently for years now that your morning routine has become so effortless.

So that your new habit will stick, lump it together with your other habits. Let’s say you want to start sketching. Well then, you probably should do it in the morning, right after you write.

It’s easier to add a habit when you’re already in a “habit mode” rather than just inserting it on another time when your mind is concentrating on other things.

12) Take small leaps

There are goals that require more than just sticking to habits.

Let’s say, your goal is to have at least 10 dates in a month because you want to be more proactive with your love life.

Sure, you can have the habit of checking your dating apps…but it requires more than that! It requires that you try new things and have a little more courage to do things that you usually don’t do.

So…there’s no other way but to jump. To have courage.

If you’re brave enough, hang out alone in a bar and say hello to strangers. But I suggest you take small leaps instead so it’s less scary. And if it’s less scary, you’ll likely do it.

So instead of going to the bar alone, go to the bar with a friend. Or you can ask your friends if they know single people that they think would jive with you.

What small acts of courage can make you reach your goals faster? Do them.

13) Don’t be shy to ask for help

You can achieve your goals faster with a little help from your friends…or parents, or therapist, or neighbor, or mentor.

Don’t believe what they say that you should work on your goals alone—in silence— because sharing it to others would “jinx” it. That’s BS.

If your goal is to become better at your job, then talk to your boss. Ask them specifically what kind of support you need!

If your goal is to start a small business and you have no capital, maybe ask your parents who are very willing to help you.

And if you’re struggling with keeping up with your habits, you might need a therapist or a mentor to guide you in achieving your goals.

Ask yourself how others can help you, and try to reach out to them. The worst thing that could happen is that they’d turn you down. But then, well…so what?

14) Be kind to yourself

I know what you’re thinking. You’re worried that if you’ll be gentle to yourself, you won’t achieve anything.

Maybe you equate being tough to success. But that’s not necessarily true.

Besides, you can’t live your life this way.

Imagine if you won’t achieve all your goals by 70. Are you going to be tough on yourself all your life? Please don’t do that.

Dream big, set goals…but be gentle to yourself.

If you have skipped a habit, tell yourself “I’ll start again tomorrow.”

If you only achieved half of your goals, then you’re allowed to be super proud of yourself!

The problem is that most of us want it all—and fast! And if we don’t achieve the goals we set, we think of ourselves as failures.

That’s not the way to live this life. Work on your goals but do it with grace and self-compassion.

Achieving all your goals would mean nothing if you keep beating yourself with a whip.

Last words

Short-term goals can create dramatic changes in our lives, so it’s great to master the skill of setting (and achieving) them.

What’s important, aside from self-discipline, is knowing WHY you want them…if they’re actually aligned to your values.

Because knowing why will keep you motivated even on the laziest days.

Good luck and don’t forget to be gentle with yourself always.

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Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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