Setting Goals at Work
Heidi Zwart
setting goals at work

The beginning of a new year is often accompanied by new goals. The fresh start effect described by behavioral scientists reveals that people are more likely to make changes when they’re on the threshold of change. A new year is one of those pivotal moments, so setting goals at work is one way to use a fresh start to your advantage.

Start with your strengths 

Effectively setting goals at work that last beyond January means starting with strength-based goals. Gallup explains that “a strengths-based goal is focused on positive outcomes — and is created to cater to your natural talents while still challenging you to use those talents in new ways.” Focusing your goals around your top five strengths helps you avoid setting goals that are intended to punish yourself. A strengths-based approach to goal setting will help you evaluate:

  1. What’s important to you.
  2. How you want to grow.
  3. What changes you want to see.

Gallup offers this free template to help you get started setting goals at work. 

Consider your overall wellbeing

While setting goals at work is often intended for career development, the pandemic has highlighted the need for whole person health. Work life is no longer just about performance, advancement, or recognition. It’s time to create career goals that take social, emotional, physical, and relational wellbeing into account, too. Separating goals into different wellbeing categories will help you develop professionally and personally in the year to come. If you’re not sure what needs to be adjusted this year, ask your manager, family, or friends. They are likely to give you truthful feedback about what it’s like to be on the other side of you. Their feedback, even if it’s hard to hear, will provide guidance about setting goals at work. 

Make your goals SMART

Goals fall into one of two categories. They are either action–oriented or outcome–oriented. Action-oriented goals focus on the specific steps you take to reach them (i.e. “I’m going to eat three vegetables a day”). Outcome-oriented goals can be accomplished in a variety of ways (i.e. “I’m going to spend more time with my family”). Once you’ve identified whether your goals are action-oriented or outcome-oriented, the SMART framework can be applied to help you set higher-quality goals. SMART goals are the go-to framework for setting goals at work and organizations encourage goals using this structure: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound (SMART). 

Limit the scope of your goals

In the spirit of keeping goals SMART, consider setting goals at work that focus on only a few key responsibilities. Forbes suggests identifying the top 3 areas you are responsible for and then building your goals around those things. As part of this process, it’s important to picture success in those key areas and get clear on what it looks like while also considering your current reality. Once you have taken those steps, you are ready to build more strategic strategies and actually achieve your goals in the year ahead. 

Setting goals at work doesn’t have to be hard. Follow the suggestions we’ve outlined in this article and see how well you reach your goals this year!

The BetterYou app uses behavior science to improve digital health and make it stick.

Want to learn how?