20 Short-Term Goals to Improve Your Personal and Professional Life
It’s not by chance that we start each year with New Year’s resolutions—the beginning of the year is the perfect time to reflect on our past accomplishments and decide on the things we want to improve. But why is it so hard to stick to your plans? According to research, about 40% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, but less than 10% go through with them.
The key to achieving your goals, no matter how small, is in careful planning and persistence. If you keep setting unrealistic goals (I’ve been guilty of trying to lose 20 lbs. in a week for a friend’s wedding), you’re bound to fail. Short-term goals are a great way to improve your life because a short time frame means seeing the results quicker, which is one of the greatest motivation boosts.
Let’s find out how to be smart when making your goals before we suggest 20 ways to boost your professional and private life.
What Are SMART Goals?
The acronym SMART was made to help you remember the five main things every great short-team goal has to have.
- Specific—When setting a goal, always try to be as straightforward as possible.
Don’t say: Improve company website KPIs.
Say instead: Increase organic traffic by 10% in three months.
- Measurable—Whenever possible, use numbers to define your goal.
Don’t say: Read more books.
Say instead: Read one book each month.
- Attainable—It’s great to be ambitious, but unrealistic goals will only set you back.
Don’t say: Lose 20 lbs. in a week.
Say instead: Lose between 0.5 and 1 pound each week.
- Relevant—Is this goal worthwhile, and is it the right time to set it?
Don’t say: We should invest $50k in marketing our latest app.
Say instead: We should reduce the downtime of our latest app by 80%.
- Time-based—Always use a timeframe for your goals.
Don’t say: Complete the first draft of the book.
Say instead: Complete the first draft of the book in 6 months.
Now that we’ve gone through the ABC’s of SMART goal planning, it’s time to start making plans. Not sure where to start? We’ve made a list of 20 short-term goals examples you can try, divided into professional, personal, learning, and health&fitness.
20 Short-Term Goals to Try in 2021 [With Examples]
Looking for a place to start? Here are some goal suggestions you can start working on today, with tips on how to improve your chances of achieving what you set out to do.
Infinity Personal Tasks Template
Short-Term Professional Goals
1. Finish an online course
Improving professional skills is easier than ever, thanks to a large amount of knowledge you have access to online, often for free. Many platforms offer free or paid online courses, including Alison, Coursera, Udemy, Udacity, edX, etc. You can choose between taking a self-paced course or following a course plan with deadlines for each assignment.
Every online course has a syllabus you can check out before signing up, and many of them already have the workload divided into weeks. This setup makes it easy to set a short-term goal, like finishing a Digital Marketing course in two months.
2. Set a quarterly performance goal
Each company assigns different performance metrics to a specific job role, so the first thing is to align your performance goals with the metrics used in your team. If your team practices quarterly reviews, this is the perfect time to have a one-on-one talk with your superior and discuss performance.
The main takeaway of these meetings should be identifying where you can improve and use this information to set a performance goal for the next quarter. Once again, use the SMART technique when planning your short-term goals related to professional performance.
3. Improve one soft skill
Soft skills are non-technical skills that impact your work performance, and they include a wide range of traits, from assertiveness to time management. Take a long, hard look at yourself and identify the people skills or behaviors where you could use some improvement.
To some people, especially introverts, having to partake in a presentation, conference, or webinar sounds like a nightmare. Some people have trouble relating to others, which causes clashes and misunderstandings in the workplace. Others struggle with productivity due to poor time management skills. Honestly, most of us have a few things to work on at every point in our careers.
Now, let’s narrow it down to one short-term goal: pick a skill you particularly need or want to improve. This part is a bit tricky since it’s hard to measure soft skills—you can’t tell when you’ve improved your listening skills by 20%. A good idea is to set a goal of attending one online seminar or workshop every x months.
4. Connect with other industry professionals
Networking is often underrated, but it is a wonderful opportunity to get a better insight into your industry, stay on track with the latest news, and create connections that can help you a lot in your career. Maybe you don’t think much of it, but LinkedIn connections or people you met at conferences can have a significant impact on your career track.
You never know when you’ll need a reference or a job change, so use the power of networking to look for new opportunities or professional collaboration. To make this into a short-term goal, decide on a number of people to connect with on LinkedIn every month. Make sure you pick people relevant to what you do and introduce yourself when sending a connection request.
5. Evaluate your current job
It’s very common to get lulled into your comfort zone if you don’t reconsider where you are from time to time. Maybe you’ve had the same job for years, and you’ve grown so accustomed to the everyday routine that you don’t stop to think if you’re truly satisfied with your role, coworkers, or salary.
Fear prevents us from taking action and changing jobs is frightening—it’s a jump into the unknown. The fear of losing a steady income keeps many people working jobs they aren’t happy with. Once you’re ready to make a change, you can set a short-term goal of applying to 5 jobs every week (or whatever you feel is an attainable goal). If you decide to look for a new job, the Infinity Job Hunt template will help you keep track of all jobs you’ve applied to, manage interview dates, and have all information in one place.
Infinity Job Hunt Template
Short-Term Personal Goals
6. Create a savings plan
If you’re struggling with finances at the end of each month, or if money seems to vanish into thin air and you’re not sure where it’s spent, it’s time to come up with a savings plan. When talking about short-term goals regarding personal savings, the idea is to set up a finance tracking system first.
Whether you’re a fan of the pen-and-paper approach or you already have a collection of online spreadsheets for to-do tasks, you should start by writing down every expense for at least a month. After 30 days, you can sit down and evaluate the list. The goal is to identify unnecessary purchases, spur-of-the-moment shopping, and any kind of impulsive buying.
For example, ordering takeout now and then isn’t a big deal, but you may discover that fast food bills tend to stack up to a large sum and reconsider making your meals more often. Here’s where the Infinity Finances Tracker template can help: it’s easy to filter expenses (for example, groceries) to learn how much you spend on each category per month.
Infinity Finances Tracker Template
7. Improve productivity
Productivity is something that many of us have been struggling with after switching to remote work. It’s often hard to focus on your job when there are children, pets, and other “distractions” involved. When setting a short-term goal for boosting productivity, the important thing is to be dedicated and persistent.
Choose one thing to focus on: take a two-week break from Facebook or dedicate a daily 15-minute time slot to satisfy your cravings for wall scrolling and checking notifications. Whatever you pick, make sure to use a goal tracking app or a similar tool to track your everyday progress. A tip: you can try out a productivity technique like Pomodoro and try to stick to it for a month.
8. Create a morning routine
Morning people manage to get bushy-tailed and bright-eyed at 7 a.m., but what about us night owls? Maybe you find yourself growling at people before you’ve had your first cup of coffee or too drowsy to get anything done. A quality morning routine can set a course for the rest of your day, so let’s try to make the most out of it.
The idea is to create a routine you’ll enjoy and the one that brings you the most benefits. Some things to include can be a glass of water as soon as you wake up, a light exercise routine, a healthy breakfast, playing a power song to lift your spirits, reading the news… Once you’ve summed up everything you wish to do in the morning, make it into a checklist or create a goals worksheet. Try to stick to this routine for at least one month, then analyze which parts of the routine you liked best and which ones were hard to follow. For an agile approach, change your morning routine every month until you find one that you enjoy doing.
9. Improve personal relationships
2020 had a huge impact on our relationship with others - the whole world was forced to minimize contact and practice social distancing. Humans are social animals, and our well being depends on spending quality time with others. Now that so many limitations have been imposed on our social life, it’s harder than ever to maintain healthy interpersonal relationships.
There is probably a long, long list of people you miss hugging or talking to in person. Let’s make a short-term goal out of this: for starters, write down the names of people you miss. Now pick at least one person to contact each week using whatever means available: Zoom calls, texting, emailing, calling. At least the technology lets us communicate with each other in far better ways than writing letters.
10. Get out of your comfort zone
Our comfort zone is where we feel safe, secure, and, well, comfortable. The bad news is that all progress we make in life is outside our comfort zone. In order to grow as a person, advance professionally, and obtain any other goal, we need to grin and bear it and face whatever is lurking outside the parameters of our safe zone.
Now, let’s think of a way to put this into a short-term goal. The best way would be to decide on one thing that you put off doing (from going to the dentist to signing up for a dance class) and give yourself a one-month deadline to do it. Once you’ve done it, you’ll feel a huge weight lifted off your shoulders, so use this energy to think of the next scary or uncomfortable thing to do in the next month.
Short-Term Learning Goals
11. Read more books
Remember what the A stands for in SMART goals? While you might be tempted to set a goal of reading a book a week, stick to an attainable objective. Just like a 2-mile run can be too much for a novice runner but barely a challenge for someone who has been running every morning for years, the same goes for the number of books to read in a month.
Check out websites like Goodreads, where you can browse books, read other people’s reviews, discover new titles, and join the Reading Challenge by choosing the number of books you plan to read in the calendar year. But since we’re talking short-term goals here, you should find a way to track your progress by week or month. Many work management tools (like Infinity) provide book list templates or let you make your lists from scratch.
INFINITY TIP: Download the Infinity Book Tracker template to create a list of books you can group, filter, and sort by title, category, date, or any custom attribute you want.
Infinity Book Tracker Template
12. Sign up for a newsletter
Whether you want to be more informed about the news from your industry or you have a hobby or interest that you like reading about—newsletters are a great way to get weekly or monthly digests of the most relevant and exciting topics. Many of us have been guilty of signing up for a newsletter only to let each email dwell in our inbox unopened, so let’s try to change this.
Choose one newsletter to sign up for - it can be one you already receive in your email but don’t bother reading. Make a short-term goal of reading every single issue for three months (you don’t have to do it as soon as you get a new email), and you’ll quickly develop a habit.
13. Learn a new language
Once this COVID-19 nightmare is over, most of us will want to pack our suitcases ASAP to satisfy the travel bug. And what better way to impress your friends than by ordering drinks in the local language? But seriously, research shows that learning a new language is the equivalent of taking your brain to the gym—bilingual speakers can outperform people who speak only one language in focusing on important information and tuning out irrelevant things. This has a huge impact on multitasking abilities and task management.
Ready for some brain CrossFit? Check out platforms like Duolingo or Memrise, where you can learn many languages for free and have fun doing it through a gamified learning system. Now all you need to do is set a short-term goal: one short lesson a day for a month or whatever makes the most sense.
14. Develop one good habit
If I had a nickel for every time someone said that it takes 21 days to form a habit… Well, I’d have a lot of nickels to throw at people who make such claims. This may be true for making minor behavioral changes such as drinking a glass of water before breakfast, but if you want to work on anything impactful, it will take more. A study published in the British Journal of General Practice argues that it takes an average of 66 days to form a good habit.
Think of one thing you could do to improve your lifestyle, set a two-month short-term goal and track your progress each day. A daily checklist is perfect for this—simply check off the box if you stuck to the plan that day. Here’s how Infinity lets you track multiple goals at once (long-term goals alert!) with our Habit Tracker template:
Infinity Habit Tracker Template
15. Take up a new hobby
This is one of the most fun activities to try out on this whole list! Even if you’ve never really had a hobby, there are so many things you can try until you find the one that’s right for you. It can be anything from learning a new instrument, knitting, origami, cooking… Ask yourself if there is something you’ve always wanted to try, no matter how silly or hard it looks.
Since we’re talking about short-term goals here, let’s not get carried away and expect to master playing the violin in a month or learn Python in a week. The goal of this goal (goalception) is to stick to a routine—choose a number of days in a week when you’ll dedicate at least 15 minutes to practicing the new hobby. Try to stick to this plan for a month to see if the hobby is a good fit for you, and if everything works out, increase the amount of time and the number of days to partake in this new activity.
Short-Term Fitness Goals
16. Exercise regularly
When it comes to exercise, the hardest part is to make the first step. You need to step out of your comfort zone and lose all excuses for not exercising, stat. One thing that can kill your motivation to work out is setting a goal that’s too unrealistic. Remember, easy and SMART does it.
If you already have a workout routine, but you’re struggling with consistency, keeping track of progress will help you organize time better and stay on track. Infinity has a Workout Planner template that makes exercise fun—you can mix things up with new routines, keep track of reps and weights, and sort workouts by muscle groups. Beginners can use this template to set a short-term goal of two workouts per week and design them in a way that works best for their needs.
Infinity Workout Planner Template
17. Drink more water
This short-term goal is fairly easy to do—make a deal with yourself to drink one large glass of water more every day. This study shows that drinking 500 ml (17 oz.) water increased energy expenditure by 24% for 60 min after ingestion. If you’re looking for a metabolism boost, it doesn’t get easier than this.
So, set a goal to drink 17 oz. water more each day, either by gulping it all down as soon as you wake up or by dividing it into two glasses of water during the day. Once again, a habit checking tool comes in handy to keep track of your progress.
18. Walk more
Being stuck at home and working remotely has increased the risk of becoming a couch potato. Now that it takes about four steps to commute from your bed to your home office, it’s harder than ever to be physically active. Walking is one of the most convenient ways of exercise, great for people of all ages and body types. There are so many studies confirming the benefits of walking, including this one that shows a positive correlation between walking and cardiovascular health.
Most of us will use the lack of free time as an excuse for not walking more, but don’t fall into that trap. No matter how busy you are, your short-term goal can be to dedicate at least 15 minutes per day to do something amazing for your wellbeing. Download a step counter app to your phone and set a daily goal—this will motivate you to walk more, even if it’s just pacing around the house. Every step counts!
19. Eat more healthily
Eating healthy is an umbrella term for a whole bunch of dieting habits, so in order to pick an attainable short-term goal, we need to focus on a single one. Let’s go through some ideas.
For instance, you can pick one day of the week to eat more healthily. You can also set a goal of not eating snacks for one week or not eating anything after 8 p.m. for a month. The choice is yours; just make sure to keep the SMART acronym in mind when picking your short-term goal.
There are a gazillion apps out there that help track daily intake, plan meals, etc. Use this to your advantage—discover healthy recipes, plan your whole week in advance, stay ahead with your plan. Infinity has a Meal Planner template where you can easily add recipes and a list of ingredients you can quickly transform into a grocery list.
Infinity Meal Planner Template
20. Reduce alcohol intake
If you’re a teetotaler, feel free to skip this short-term goal or think of another bad habit you can kick. Most of us indulge in unhealthy things now and again—alcohol, smoking, junk food… While having a drink occasionally is not a big deal, the red flag is when you start using alcohol to vent from the daily stress. After surviving 2020, who’d blame you? But now is the perfect time to work on finding a healthier way to unwind after a long workweek.
First off, you need to figure out how many drinks you have per week on average. We tend to lie to ourselves or simply forget every single glass of wine we had after dinner, so make sure to create a checklist and tick off every drink you’ve had for a month. The results might surprise you. Now that you know your weekly average, the goal is simple—aim to reduce this number by one (and if your weekly average is one, great job!). Keep tracking your progress, and you’ll soon notice the difference.
Are you ready to give it a shot and start working on your short-term goals for the next quarter? Good luck, and remember that keeping track of your everyday progress will keep you motivated and help you stay on track. Even if you slip up, don’t think of it much. It’s worse to get back to old bad habits for good than to stall progress for a day or two, so pick up where you left off, and you’ll soon see the benefits.
For best results, try a goal planner app or tool that lets you make lists, check off items, and overview your progress. If you’d like to see more of what Infinity can do, take a look at the complete list of our templates that you can preview and load into your Infinity boards.
Or even better: follow our 7-day personal development plan for a step-by-step guide on how to define, create, track, and organize your personal goals in a week!
P.S. We are currently offering a time-limited lifetime deal: pay $149 and let Infinity help you complete more short-term goals than ever!