12 steps you need to follow when setting your project goals

While a goal without a plan is just a wish, aimlessly executing random strategies will just waste your time, money, and energy. 

Goal setting is integral to success. Whether you’re honing new skills or launching a small business, you need clear, achievable objectives.

Remember: effective project management starts with goal setting. A firm grasp of your primary objectives will help you draw feasible, efficient action plans.

But don’t rush the process. Goal setting goes beyond just stating your desires. You must work toward purposeful objectives, or else you’ll end up with underdeveloped strategies.

Here are 12 tips to help you set milestones that align with your mission, vision, and big-picture goals.

1) Reduce mental notes

Remembering all your daily tasks, project objectives, and long-term goals is mentally draining. Humans have limited mental bandwidth. Your memory, psychological health, and overall performance will suffer if you neglect your limitations.

Instead of making mental notes, list down your objectives. We suggest using tools like:

  • To-do lists: List down your daily tasks. Keep it simple by limiting yourself to three major orders and five small tasks.
  • Journals: Keep a personal record of your daily experiences. You can reflect on your mistakes, track project progress, and celebrate milestones.
  • Commonplace books: If journals feel limiting, consider making a commonplace book instead. Write down information as you encounter them. You don’t have to arrange them chronologically, although having a table of contents would make browsing easier.

2) Quantify productivity ratings

Although productivity is a state of mind, you can quantify it using key performance indicators (KPIs). Follow metrics that align with your position. You must never assess two people based on the exact KPIs, even if they belong to one team.

Let’s say you work in sales. As a manager, your KPI could include assessing customer lifetime values, minimizing employee attrition, and hitting company sales targets. Meanwhile, your staff could focus on day-to-day tasks, for example prospecting and pitching.

3) Track tasks from start to finish

Start tracking your day-to-day responsibilities. You might not notice it, but you likely waste several hours on tedious tasks and clutter. Spot and correct your time-wasting habits, such as scrolling through social media, engaging in unnecessary conversations, and trying to remember chores.

To streamline task tracking, consider using a project management tool. Explore feature-packed platforms that let you collaborate with team members, distribute tasks, and monitor project progress.

4) Eliminate task switching

Although work tools streamline projects, simultaneously using too many results in task switching. You’ll find it harder to enter a state of flow. Toggling between different programs causes cognitive stress—short-term memory channels only remember seven items for 60 seconds.

Andrew Pierce, CEO at LLC Attorney, says that business owners can combat task switching by choosing the right work tools. Here’s his recommendation:

“Invest in feature-packed project management tools. Not only will you minimize your overhead, but your workers won’t waste time managing multiple programs. Choose your system wisely. Stick to just one or two platforms for task assignments, project management, and team communication.”

5) Consult your team

Deadlines make it easier for teams to accomplish multi-stage projects. They set expectations so that every team member is on the same page, regardless of their role.

Let’s say you work in marketing. If your creative team submits assets passed the deadline, your ad specialists won’t have anything to upload. As a result, you’d have to push back the entire campaign.

To resolve this issue, set feasible deadlines that align with your company’s goals. You could even consult your workers. Have them give you a realistic timeline, then adjust your project timetable accordingly.

6) Break projects into small tasks

Instead of overworking yourself and your team, break down project goals into small, achievable milestones. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Carelessly pursuing your objectives without regard for rest or structure compromises quality.

Take site building as an example. Instead of viewing it as one big project, divide it into multiple tasks, for example, starting a blog, graphic designing, web layouts, marketing, and domain registration. 

7) Incorporate core values into your projects

Be careful not to lose sight of your core values as your business grows. Before executing new projects or offering new services, assess whether they align with your big-picture goals. Don’t blindly jump on random trends. 

Ryan Hammill, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Ancient Language Institute, shares that brands must prioritize maintaining company culture. He advises:

“Make sure your business decisions reinforce your vision. They should resonate with your target market, support your brand image, and demonstrate your initial objectives. Following core values guides your company in the right direction.”

8) Celebrate milestones accordingly

Celebrating accomplishments is as important as goal setting. Your team will feel more inclined to work harder if you compensate and reward them for their efforts. Don’t just dump new work on them.

According to Eric Mills, Owner of Lightning Card Collection, employee appreciation doesn’t always call for a massive celebration:

“There are several ways to celebrate milestones. You can publicize project success in internal newsletters, incentivize top-performing employees, and offer career advancement opportunities.”

9) Schedule monthly assessments

Contrary to popular belief, success isn’t linear. Expect unforeseen challenges to arise while pursuing your initial goals. Plans won’t always work out as you think—unless you overhaul ineffective strategies, you’ll burn through your resources.

Shawn Plummer, CEO at The Annuity Expert, recommends performing monthly assessments:

“Assess your company’s performance every month. Analyze marketing campaigns, compute sales revenue, weed out time-wasting clutter, and address workflow bottlenecks. Get rid of ineffective systems right away. That way, you and your team can move forward with a new strategy to accomplish project goals.”

10) Invest in streamlined trackers

Replace your outdated trackers. Although inexpensive, running them requires much human effort. The time you waste jumping between sheets, editing cells, and typing data adds up to several hours. 

Instead of using plain spreadsheets, streamline your workflow with task trackers. It will be easier for your team to maintain momentum if they can focus on their work.

11) Identify and tackle risks

Improve your chance of success by addressing project risks right from the get-go. Minimize the potential hurdles and challenges. After setting your goals, objectively assess your strategies, spot vulnerabilities, then propose several solutions should they arise.

You should still approach business with optimism, of course. Just make sure you can protect it during crises by preparing the necessary exit strategies and backup plans.

12) Align project coals with your target market’s needs

Regardless of the services or products your business offers, prioritize customer satisfaction. Work toward addressing your target market’s needs. Disregarding complaints and suggestions in blind pursuit of profit margins will kill your business.

Jesse Hanson, Content Manager at Online Solitaire & World of Card Games, shares that his company always considers the needs of its clients:

“We base all business decisions on the market’s needs. Our marketing campaigns target their interests, our services address existing problems, and our brand image resonates with them.”

Learn to set and conquer project goals

Goal setting is a crucial life skill. Setting, tracking, and conquering goals helps you with personal and professional development. Apply these skills to various areas of life.

Also, while ruthlessly pursuing ambition spikes your chance of success, understand that it doesn’t guarantee anything. Don’t feel bad if you fall short of your goals. 

Plans rarely go as intended. To stay committed to your big-picture goals, you must brush off failure and bounce back on your feet. Otherwise, you’ll lose your drive.