How (and why) to set short-term goals

setting goals May 14, 2024

This year was a unique year for me.  As you’ve probably heard me mention several times on the Platform Launchers podcast, I made the decision to start teaching again.  Years ago, I taught at Cairn University.  I loved it, and this year I became a professor again.  The fall semester involved a lot of work.  The spring semester did as well.  While I was prepping and teaching my classes this school year, I didn’t have very much free time, nor did I have the opportunity to work on some additional projects I had in mind to do.

For instance, there are several courses and several books in the pipeline that I’d like to finish and release, and now is the perfect time for me to make them available.  I’m in the midst of a several-month window where things have slowed down academically, and if I make really good use of my time, I’ll be able to release this content.

To help me get this done, I’m setting a series of short-term goals.  I have quite a few long-term goals as well, but in the midst of this brief window of available time that I’m in the midst of right now, having several short-term goals in place will likely serve me well.

Here’s how I’m setting this up.  I have approximately four months to accomplish the tasks on my list, so my master list contains everything I want to get done during this four month stretch.  From there, I have one project marked off that will take me two months, and several other projects that will require less than a week or less than a day to complete.

If I stick to this schedule, and complete these short-term content creation goals, here’s what I expect to have completed before the next semester begins.  I believe I’ll have at least three new courses completely recorded and edited, several new books published, new investments in my own growth initiated, and revisions to my platforms and pricing structure in place and ready to go.

It sounds like a lot, and maybe it is, but I don’t feel overwhelmed by it and I’m fairly confident I’ll be able to get all of this done because I’m taking it one week at a time.  I don’t have to worry about next week’s tasks.  I just need to focus on completing this week’s work.  If I maintain that attitude and stick to that schedule, I think I’m going to be very happy with what I accomplish.

I’m mentioning this to you because I’d like to encourage you to set a series of short-term goals as well.  I think “overwhelm” is one of the major causes of stagnation in online platform development.  When I coach people who are building their platforms, that’s a topic that frequently comes to the surface.  They have so many things they dream about having in place, but the process of building it all feels overwhelming, so instead of making progress, they give in to their stress and retreat.

If you can identify with this struggle, let me encourage you to replace your sense of overwhelm with a series of short-term goals.  Break your long-term ambitions into achievable weekly chunks, and don’t let yourself worry about next week’s work.  Just focus on what you need to do today and this week.  Once you finish this week’s tasks, you’re done.  Next week’s work doesn’t need to be touched until next week.

Following this approach truly helps me get things done, and I’m convinced it can help you too.  There are a few psychological reasons why setting short-term goals works.


Setting short-term goals is important for several reasons:

1.  Short-term goals provide clarity and direction by breaking down larger objectives into manageable tasks. They help you stay focused on what needs to be accomplished in the immediate future.

2.  Achieving short-term goals provides a sense of accomplishment and motivation to keep progressing towards larger aspirations. Each small success boosts confidence and momentum.

3.  Short-term goals serve as milestones to track progress. They enable you to assess how far you've come and make adjustments if necessary.

4.  Short-term goals allow for flexibility and adaptability. You can adjust your approach or priorities based on changing circumstances without losing sight of the bigger picture.


And if you need a blueprint to get started, here’s one approach I would recommend for setting effective short-term goals:

1.  Identify Priorities.  Determine what's most important to you right now. What do you want to achieve in the near future? Focus on goals that align with your values, priorities, and long-term objectives.

2.  Be Specific.  Clearly define what you want to accomplish. Specific goals are easier to work towards and measure progress. Avoid vague objectives by answering the questions: What? Why? When? Where? and How?

3.  Make Your Goals Measurable.  Measurable goals provide tangible evidence of your achievements and help you stay accountable.

4.  Be Realistic.  Make sure your goals are achievable within the given timeframe and with the resources available to you. Setting unrealistic goals can lead to frustration and demotivation.

5.  Set Deadlines.  Assign a deadline to each short-term goal. A timeframe creates a sense of urgency and helps prioritize tasks. Make sure the deadlines are realistic and achievable.  I often say, “If it gets on my calendar it actually gets done.”

6.  Create a Visible Checklist.  Document your goals in a place where you can see them regularly. This could be a journal, a digital note, or a vision board. Writing down your goals increases commitment and serves as a constant reminder of what you're working towards.

I don’t know if you’re feeling stagnated right now, or if you have a whole series of projects on your list that you’d love to accomplish someday, but if that’s the case, give this approach a try.  Set some short-term goals and celebrate their completion one week at a time.  Don’t worry about what you need to do next week.  Tell yourself that you only need to do this week’s tasks, and when those tasks are complete, you can take the rest of the week off.

© John Stange, 2024

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