Often overlooked are short term goals and the importance they play in your long term success. Think of it this way. Your long term goal is like running a marathon. The ultimate goal is to finish that marathon. This could be like the long term goal. To get to the point you can actually run a marathon you have to train by running a series of shorter runs to condition your body, gradually increasing your distance and time. Each of those milestone shorter runs are like your short term goals.
The name sounds self explanatory, but let’s define it a little more. After all goals are supposed to be specific, right? Short term goals are usually defined as monthly or weekly goals. In some cases you may set daily short term goals to help you stay focused on the monthly or weekly goals, which will in turn lead you toward accomplishing your long term goals.
Just like the example of the runner, taking short term runs at first and with each accomplished run increases his or her time and distance, short term goals are there to help measure your progress along the way to accomplishing your long term goals. Your short term goals should be a method to map out the requirements and milestones along the way to meeting your long term goals. Setting short term goals can help you avoid the burnout that sometimes overcomes people when they run into obstacles to their long term objectives.
Let’s go back to that example of the runner. Say he is a guy just starting out and has the ultimate goal of running in a marathon. First he’d have to set up the goal of running a marathon the SMART way. You can read about SMART goals and get a SMART Goals Worksheet here. In this case let’s say he wants to be able to run it in a year from now. As a beginner first he’d have to set a goal to run a mile, then maybe 3 miles and gradually increase. For the first goal though he’d need a time limit too, and a time in which to accomplish the goal. For example, the first goal might be to run a mile in 12 minutes by the end of the first week. I know, I know that’s pretty slow, but you have to start somewhere. Maybe the next goal would be to shorten the time, or lengthen the distance running for the same amount of time.
Before you go and set yourself a short term goal you should review your long term goals. Ask yourself if the goal you are considering will help you reach that objective. If it doesn’t, you probably need to ask yourself why you want to accomplish it. Just like with any long term goal, you want to use the SMART method for setting those short term goals. Make sure the goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. As you set your goals one should lead into the next, like a milestone on the road to achieving your long term goals.