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How to Set and Stick to Work Goals

Updated on January 14th, 2022

Work goals might not be as glamorous as personal goals like vacationing in Jamaica or running the Boston Marathon, but they can help you thrive in your career, potentially boost your income or insert the desired result. January is a popular time of year to set goals. Writing down goals and acting on them are two separate things.

Here are some steps you can take to not only jot those goals down but to take action on them.

1. Start with a list of goals

Write out a bunch of goals that you believe are important to focus on this year. Then choose the most important goal to focus on for the first quarter of the year. You can revisit your goal list when the quarter is up to see what to do next. This way, you can get all of your ideas out. You can then decide what time of year is best to accomplish them.

2. Do the most important task first

Jim Beach Author and Host of says, “setting goals is the easy part!  Getting them done, actually doing the work, is the hard part.” He goes on to say that he set work goals for the day and handles the most important task first thing, no matter how unpleasant, before checking email.

He likes to follow the rule inspired by the great American writer Mark Twain. Twain once said, “ If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” Disciplining yourself to get the most important item out of the way shows that you can properly prioritize your day to get closer to meeting your end goal.

Reach Your Goals

3. Get smart about goal setting

If you find that time after time you aren’t reaching your work goals, then maybe you haven’t defined them adequately enough. Follow the SMART goal formula to get the wording as specific as possible. Once you finish the last part of the SMART acronym that stands for time-bound, work backward and determine what needs to happen daily or weekly to be able to reach that goal.

Katie Hornor, Founder of “I’ve found the key to reaching goals is being able to break the big goal into smaller tasks with deadlines.” She adds that  The 12 Week Year by Brian P. Moran is one of the best tools to keep her on track. 

Freelance Writer Lindsay VanSomersen at FiSci Media, LLC echoes the importance of breaking goals down and emphasizes figuring out what daily actions have to happen to meet those goals. She explains, “I try to stick to daily and monthly income goals for my business. If I didn’t have these daily goals, it would be easier for me to slack off and wait until the end of the month. Instead, sticking with this system I’ve been able to meet or surpass my monthly income goals every time  (even on slow months).”

The Bottom Line

Once you set your goals and take action on them, be sure to carefully monitor your progress to gauge how things are going. You might have to adjust things a bit. If completing what you set out to do isn’t going to happen in the given timeframe, figure out what is more realistic. Sometimes you don’t know until you try.

Karen Cordaway

Karen Cordaway

Karen is a Nationally Syndicated Personal Finance Writer who sharpens her skills at US News Money. You can also find her placing clients on podcasts and reading about home office organization, productivity and habits.

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