Short-Term vs. Long-Term Goals | Wrike

The thought of switching careers, building a new business, or managing a team through a pivot can seem daunting and nearly impossible to achieve. Yet big, audacious stretch goals are essential to moving forward in our personal and professional lives.

When we hope to achieve something new, we typically start with a broad idea of what we want — for example, becoming a better leader or improving personal productivity. Goal-setting transforms these initial ambiguous ideas into concrete plans and actionable tasks you can tackle to achieve success over time. 

Long-term and short-term goals help visualize and shape the future — for yourself, your teams, and your business. They break down big ideas and aspirations to help you channel your focus and resources into what you can do now to achieve your desired outcome. 

This article shares all you need to know about long-term and short-term goals for individuals, teams, and businesses. We'll answer the following questions: 

  • What is a short-term goal?
  • What is a long-term goal? 
  • When should you use a short-term or long-term goal?
  • How can you set goals with your team?

Finally, we'll share examples of short-term and long-term goals and discuss how to use them to design a purposeful and successful life and career/business. 

What is a short-term goal?

A short-term goal is a goal you hope to accomplish soon, typically within a year. It may be a part of a larger, long-term goal or a complete goal on its own. 

For example, a creative consultant with a long-term goal to triple her company revenue in five years may break it into short-term goals, like: 

  • Rebrand, clarify, and differentiate product and service offerings in the first quarter
  • Automate repetitive tasks and optimize workflows to save time and increase output by 20% within six months
  • Test and launch new services and digital products for a high-end market in the first two years
  • Boost productivity by hiring and onboarding expert subcontractors
  • Launch an annual charity-driven marketing campaign to attract socially conscious clients and give back

Each of these short-term goals is directed toward achieving the long-term goal of tripling the company revenue in five years. 

The consultant may also have other short-term goals, such as earning a hobby-related certificate or learning to drive. These are complete short-term goals by themselves, not a part of a larger plan to achieve something. 

Short-term goals inspire action in our personal and work lives. They motivate us and align our daily tasks and activities with our big-picture plans. 

In organizations, leaders and project managers can use short-term goals to prioritize projects, create monthly schedules, and guide teams to focus on what’s most impactful. Short-term goals create a sense of urgency that is usually missing in long-term goals. 

What is a long-term goal?

A long-term goal is a goal that shapes the future. It's an intentional quest or outcome you want in your personal life, career, or business. Long-term goals take more than a year to accomplish. They typically range from three to ten years. 

Long-term goals provide purpose and direction. They take you from playing a passive role in how life pans out to an active one where you conceive and work towards what you want. 

These goals should be revisited and revised regularly to ensure they stay relevant and incorporate changes in your environment. For example, a business's long-term goal at the start of 2020 may have included opening new offices in countries across the world but is now adjusted to having only two offices located in their most active cities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Setting long-term goals helps combat short-term thinking in your work and personal life. These goals provide a guide for what you, your team, or your company are working toward.

When should you use a short-term or long-term goal?

Setting both short-term and long-term goals is beneficial for individuals and businesses. They are powerful when used together to determine daily tasks and focus and expectations of the future. 

When to use long-term goals

Long-term goals clarify what we want and are willing to work on over a long period. Use them when envisioning an extended timeframe in your life, career, or business. 

Think about what you want to achieve in three, five, or ten years and how you would like your life and business to evolve. Will you create new products and services? Change career paths? Move to a new city? Expand and cross into new industries? 

Long-term goals provide purpose and direction. Things may happen differently than you plan them, but you gain more control and confidence in your decision-making when you set long-term goals. Use them to shape your evolution over time. 

When to use short-term goals

When you've established your long-term goals, break them into smaller, short-term goals you can achieve in short time frames. Use these goals to advance toward your long-term goals and ideal life.

Make your short-term goals SMART — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound — so you're more likely to accomplish them and increase confidence in your abilities. Short-term goals are motivating. They can spark creativity and resourcefulness, causing steady progress.

Use short-term goals to stay active and assess your alignment with your long-term goals. You will know when things feel off and if you need to revise them. Short-term goals keep you focused and enrich your daily life with meaning and variety.

How can you set goals with your team?

Setting goals with your team can be a powerful way to build connection and commitment to the organization's goals. 

It generates a wider pool of goal ideas and fosters a sense of ownership of the work. This helps create alignment between employees and the company. Team members are more likely to contribute their best and work toward a goal when they're involved from the start. 

Follow these steps to set goals with your team:

  1. Schedule a time to brainstorm goal ideas
  2. Set the stage by sharing the company's current position and potential opportunities and options for the future
  3. Collect suggestions from the team using a simple method, e.g., raising hands to speak or completing a feedback form
  4. Sort and order the goal ideas from the team
  5. Pick 1-3 primary goals
  6. Communicate them to everyone

Examples of short-term goals

Below, we have curated lists of ten short-term goal examples for individuals, teams, and businesses. 

Examples of short-term goals for individuals

Ten short-term goal examples for individuals: 

  1. Learn and practice a new language: Learning a new language opens you up creatively and culturally. Enrich your interactions with others by learning and practicing their language.
  2. Read three professional development books: No matter what field you're in, there are always new developments you can study. Learn more about growing and excelling in your field, and make professional development a habit. 
  3. Volunteer weekly in your community: Volunteering is an excellent way to help others, give back to your community, and immerse yourself in new experiences. 
  4. Attend several networking events: Working in a vacuum is not only lonely, but it can also stifle or slow down your professional development. Setting a goal to attend a few quality events in your industry is a start to growing your network intentionally. 
  5. Schedule weekly catch-up calls with friends: In the tension between work-life balance, checking on friends can sometimes be on the back burner. Setting a goal to meet once a week is a great way to prioritize and nurture friendships.
  6. Organize your home workspace: Your workspace can significantly impact productivity and output. Look at simple workspace setup ideas online and choose the best ones to improve your workspace. 
  7. Test a new business idea online: Building multiple sources of income is top of many people's goals. Social media and no-code software tools make it easy to set up and test different business ideas online. 
  8. Learn basic self-defense skills: Learning to defend yourself and protect others increases your confidence and ability to handle dangerous situations. You also reap the health benefits of regular exercise.
  9. Learn to cook three meals: Learning to cook is a skill that can come in handy in many situations. Set a goal to cook three meals with basic ingredients you can find in any country.
  10. Finish an online course unrelated to your day job: Increase your knowledge of topics unrelated to your education or day job. You can learn about your hobbies or pick a subject you have always wondered about. 
Short-Term Goals vs. Long-Term Goals & How They Work Together 2
Photo by Afif Ramdhasuma on Unsplash

Examples of short-term goals for teams

Ten short-term goal examples for teams: 

  1. Organize an industry meetup: Teams can expand their network by organizing industry events and sharing their learnings, experiences, and space with professionals from similar companies.
  2. Develop a streamlined workflow for completing recurring tasks: Many teams can significantly improve efficiency and save a lot of time by automating simple, repetitive tasks and plugging in good project management software. 
  3. Create an internal business solution using no-code software: No-code software makes it easy for business users to create apps and solutions. A design team can, for example, create a dynamic form with a user-friendly interface to collect design requests from other departments in the organization.
  4. Sort and archive old records and media assets: Many teams have old records, documents, and media assets scattered across abandoned apps and obsolete business software. Sorting and organizing these is a worthwhile short-term goal for creative teams and professional service providers.
  5. Prepare and present a solution to top management: Teams may sometimes have a product or welfare request for the top management. They may set a short-term goal to prepare to present their case and hopefully get a positive response. 
  6. Increase output by a fixed percentage: Any team can set a short-term goal to increase their output by a percentage by a set date. This helps to spark new creative ideas and enhance collaboration between members. In the best cases, they also achieve their goal, moving their organization forward. 
  7. Gather customer feedback: Knowing what customers need is vital for a team and organization to provide it. There's no better way to get in their heads and understand their needs than talking to them about their requirements and preferences. Product teams should set goals to know their customers better. 
  8. Run internal surveys: Companies that value their employees find ways to ensure the employees are heard and supported. 
  9. Split test web pages and mobile user interfaces: Marketing starts with good branding and user experience. Split-test your website, store, and social media content to find what works and yields the most rewards.
  10. Create an employee appreciation program: Few things boost employee engagement and commitment more than knowing their work is appreciated and valued. Creating an employee appreciation program is a great short-term goal for teams. 

Examples of short-term goals for businesses

Ten short-term goal examples for businesses: 

  1. Increase sales by a specific percentage: A business may set a goal to increase sales in a specific month. This may be tied to a longer-term goal or a one-off effort to leverage a unique situation. 
  2. Organize an employee upskilling workshop: Companies can always gain from upskilling employees, whether it's in business communication, customer support, or project and task management
  3. Hire consultants to solve a unique problem: A business may finally decide to tackle an issue they've kept on the back burner for a while. This may be a culture, organizational, or data management problem. Employing consultants for the short term can bring fresh perspectives and strategies to tackle the issue. 
  4. Increase website traffic through inbound marketing: Marketing teams can continuously improve on previous performance and set short-term goals to track and increase website traffic and conversions through day-to-day engagement and direct marketing campaigns. 
  5. Organize a community outreach and engagement event: Customers and investors are just some of the stakeholders that businesses should focus on. Engaging with the community it operates in is a great short-term goal to build trust, goodwill, and a positive work environment.
  6. Launch a social media marketing campaign: Today's market trends show that people are increasingly shopping and working online. Growing the company's digital brand presence is ongoing work that can be broken into many pieces.
  7. Organize a company retreat: A company retreat is a great way to get the team together to recharge and share ideas in a new environment — maybe a different country. Organizing a company retreat shows the organization appreciates its employees and improves company culture.  
  8. Hire new employees over the next six months: When scaling, hiring the right talent becomes a crucial goal. Setting up systems, reaching out to networks for recommendations, and announcing new job roles on social media and niche job boards are great ways to get the word out and begin the hiring process. 
  9. Launch and test a minimum viable product (MVP): Shipping new features and products the market needs is essential for a company to maintain a strong position in its space. Testing MVPs with small subsets of the market is a quick and valuable short-term goal in product development. 
  10. Study market trends and develop a timely strategy: Trends and tastes change over time. Great businesses stay a step ahead by studying the trends and developing timely strategies to keep up with the changes. 

Examples of long-term goals

Below, we have curated a list of ten long-term goal examples for individuals, teams, and businesses.

Examples of long-term goals for individuals

Ten long-term goal examples for individuals: 

  1. Switch career paths: Many professionals want to try new paths and chase new interests at work. Set a goal if you're looking to switch paths and look for non-risky ways to try your hand at the new discipline before jumping all in. 
  2. Become an expert in a new field: It's easier to gain surface knowledge of many things than to drill deeper into a particular field. Committing to learning everything about a new field can help you make connections others can't see, improving performance in your work and other areas. 
  3. Focus on fitness: Taking control of your fitness by making efforts to lose or gain weight, tone muscles, or increase strength pays off many dividends. From looking better to feeling better, focusing on health is a great long-term goal all around. 
  4. Save for a house: Many people would like to live in their own houses and escape the rent-paying hamster wheel. Establishing this as one of your long-term goals can make you more disciplined with how you spend and invest money. 
  5. Work toward a promotion: A promotion can allow you to earn a higher salary, contribute more value to your industry, and attain status and a sense of accomplishment. Pay attention to what others who are promoted do to get noticed and showcase your best skills at every opportunity. 
  6. Build and scale a business: Building a business of your own can teach you things no business school or employed position can teach. It is also a way to build equity and bet on yourself. Take it step-by-step and begin where you are if building a business is one of your long-term goals. 
  7. Get a Ph.D.: Getting called a "doctor" is just one of the perks of getting a Ph.D. For many, a Ph.D. allows them to make a real contribution to their field and continue learning and exploring a field of interest. 
  8. Save enough to retire: Having enough to live on for an extended period is a long-term goal for many. First, determine how much you need to afford a suitable lifestyle and make concrete plans to put aside an amount each month to reach your retirement goals.
  9. Clear all debts: Financial freedom starts with clearing all your debts and getting to a financially stable place. Setting a goal and making and automating a payment plan to clear your debts is an excellent long-term goal idea. 
  10. Learn to code: Learning to code enables you to build software solutions from scratch. It can be a step into a new career or a way to express your creativity, contribute to open-source projects, and create helpful software solutions the world needs. 

Examples of long-term goals for teams

Ten long-term goal examples for teams: 

  1. Build a reputation as one of the best: Teams can set a goal to become the best at what they do. These teams place a premium on quality service and delivery, listen to user and customer feedback, and track their progress to become better on every new job and project. 
  2. Create a collaborative thought leadership platform: Teams with lots of experience doing what they do may decide to share their learnings and best practices with the world through a company blog and other content. This builds both the company's and employees’ personal brands. For example, a longtime remote working team may publish content teaching others to get better at remote working. 
  3. Publish annual "deep-dive" reports: A team may set a goal to collect data and publish an in-depth annual report on the state of the industry and the work they do. 
  4. Identify and eliminate operational inefficiencies: Improving productivity and eliminating friction and inefficiencies is an ongoing goal for fast-moving teams. 
  5. Invent a better way to approach a business problem: The best teams allow members to share ideas, take careful risks, and contribute solutions to improve how things are done. A team may set a long-term goal to create a better solution to a persistent business problem. 
  6. Conduct in-depth research into exciting business angles: Every business has a unique angle, position, and relationship to the industry. This allows them to gather unique insights they can share and build trust and reputation over time.
  7. Expand combined network: Teams can network and create meaningful connections with others in the profession and industry by organizing team events and supporting each other's professional growth and initiatives. 
  8. Create an ongoing mentorship program: Mentorship programs help accelerate the growth of junior employees and foster a supportive work environment. Teams can set up long-term initiatives and programs to ensure new recruits are paired with experienced mentors to guide them through their careers in the company. 
  9. Improve diversity: Improving diversity in a company takes time. Teams can commit to working with a wider pool of talent and create policies that support diversity in hiring and promoting employees without systemic or unintentional bias. 
  10. Patent a new product: A team may work toward perfecting and patenting their signature product.

Examples of long-term goals for businesses

Ten long-term goal examples for businesses: 

  1. Build industry leadership: Companies can set goals to build thought leadership by publishing books, sharing practices and success stories, and leading research and development programs to expand the market. 
  2. Build trust and form strategic partnerships: Building trust happens over time. Companies can set a goal to invest in trust-building programs and initiatives and form strategic partnerships within their communities.
  3. Expand into new markets and regions: Growth is an important metric for many businesses. Expanding into new markets and regions is a long-term goal focused on making this happen. It's crucial to research new target markets thoroughly before entry; what succeeds in a similar market may fail in a new one. 
  4. Increase total company revenue by a specific percentage: Increasing company revenue is a positive signal that a business is on the right path. Setting revenue goal targets puts employees in a proactive mindset to keep aiming for higher targets.  
  5. Reduce production expenses by a specific percentage: A business may set a goal to develop new technologies and processes to reduce expenses and increase overall profitability and longevity.
  6. Grow digital presence, engagement, and brand awareness: Engaging with customers and building a strong digital presence allows businesses to build trust, learn more about customers, and save a ton on PR and advertising. This goal can exponentially improve the reach and potential of any company. 
  7. Go green and eco-friendly: Taking care of the environment has never been more important. Companies can set up green initiatives and commit to zero-emission and eco-friendly practices. 
  8. Capture increasing market share: In a fair and healthy market, companies set goals to improve their product and service offerings and capture more loyal customers over time. 
  9. Create an employee development program: Businesses that invest in their employees reap improved productivity and employee loyalty. They also attract top talent and foster good culture.
  10. Develop and launch new products and services: Improving products and services along with customer satisfaction is another top goal for customer-focused companies. Find out what they want by listening and delivering the solutions they need. 

How Wrike can help your team plan and achieve long-term and short-term goals

Wrike makes it easy to connect long-term goals to day-to-day work through project planning and task management.

Our collaborative workspace and project management platform enables team brainstorming, ideation, and project management with functionalities such as personalized dashboards, @mentions, automated reminders, and views, including lists, spreadsheets, Kanban boards, and Gantt charts. 

To begin, clarify your team’s long-term goals and create folders for each one, for example:

  • Growth and expansion 
  • Industry leadership 
  • Employee productivity

Include a detailed summary of each goal in its description field so that everyone involved can find important details about the goal and what's expected of them. Use custom fields to add notes like budgets, research data, and customer lists. Information entered in custom fields is restricted to specific users and groups in your organization.

Inside your primary goal folders, create sub-folders and break down your long-term goal into short-term goals and projects:

  • New product features rollout
  • Omni-channel digital marketing
  • Events and partnerships
  • Employee training and development
  • People and culture

Now assign leaders or project managers to each folder or sub-folder. They will be in charge of breaking these short-term goals into projects and tasks with clear deadlines and assignments. You can also create and set your personal goals in Wrike by creating a private folder only you can access.

Are you ready to create a purposeful life and career/business? Start with our business goals template and begin planning your long-term and short-term goals with a two-week free trial of Wrike.

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