Goal setting is both an art and a science. Wanting to do this or that isn't enough. Your objectives need to be clear, realistic and specific. That's where SMART goal setting comes in. This concept can help you define your goals and allow you to achieve them within a predetermined time.

Some people have five-year plans. In general, these take longer to complete and require significant changes. Short- term goals, on the other hand, are easier to accomplish and keep you motivated. They can also serve as a means to break bigger goals into smaller, more manageable steps.

What Is a Short-Term Goal?

According to a recent article in Inc. magazine, a staggering 92 percent of people fail to achieve their goals. Some have unrealistic expectations, while others lack motivation. Multitasking, procrastination and lack of planning are often the culprits. Setting short-term goals makes everything a lot easier.

Even though there's no standard short-term goal definition, this term usually refers to anything you plan to achieve in less than a year. For instance, you can have short-term career goals, such as starting a side business or getting a promotion. A long-term goal would be to build a successful business or become the CEO of the organization you're working for.

Short-term career goals can also include simple things like writing your resume, learning a new language or being named the employee of the month. These objectives are attainable and provide instant gratification. In the long run, they can help you achieve bigger goals, such as becoming an industry expert or gaining the skills needed to run your own business.

How to Set SMART Short-Term Career Goals

The acronym SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. It describes what the perfect goal should look like. This concept helps structure your objectives so you can better identify what you want to accomplish.

Business professionals use SMART goal setting to define and measure their objectives. This principle applies to both long-term and short-term goals for work, health, fitness, self-development and other areas of interest.

Let's say you want to get a promotion. With this goal in mind, set a deadline such as 12 months from now. Such an objective is relevant, and within your reach, so it can be considered a SMART goal.

Saying something like I hope to get promoted someday would be wrong. First of all, your goal is too generic and vague. Secondly, it cannot be measured and has no specific deadline. To succeed, you need to know precisely what you want to accomplish and by when, as well as how you are going to measure the results of your efforts.

Make sure your short-term career goals are specific and meaningful. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What exactly do I want to achieve?
  • Why is this goal important?
  • What resources are needed?
  • What are the limitations?
  • Who is involved?

For example, if you want to improve your computer skills, be specific about it. Tell yourself something like: to become more tech savvy and advance in my career, it's essential to hone my computer skills. This is something I can do by taking IT classes and completing at least three different projects within six months, the date when the next employee review is scheduled.

Have a clear plan for each of your goals. Willpower alone is not enough to make your dreams come true. Set SMART short-term goals for work, business or on your area of focus and it will keep you on track and increase your chances of success.