When you think of your goals, you probably envision the ambitious, down-the-road outcomes of your aspirations. Maybe that looks like buying a new house for your growing family, or landing that promotion by end of year that you’ve been working so hard for. And while it’s great to maintain sight of future milestones for drive and inspiration, it’s equally important (if not moreso) to focus on your everyday efforts – these are ultimately the building blocks to achieving those long-term goals.
Setting goals has been shown to boost self-confidence and increase productivity, in big part, because the process creates purpose for action. And when you apply it as a daily habit with achievable goals, you develop a system that facilitates constant progress towards your long-term objectives, and gives you the satisfaction of smaller accomplishments to keep your long-term motivation up.
Read on to learn how to set achievable daily goals for yourself, with easy examples to help you start achieving your short and long-term goals.
What is daily goal setting
Goal setting is the process of identifying and outlining actionable steps to achieve a desired outcome. Most of us have goals across our career, personal life, health, and finances (like closing a new deal, spending more time with family, getting fit, saving money, etc.), but we’re not always prioritizing the critical step of breaking down broader goals into productive, daily steps that set us up for success.
Daily goals are our target points for the day that allow us to build a simple plan to stay on track. These daily plans should align with our short and long term priorities – so we’re accomplishing the urgent things that need to get done now, and maintain progress towards important goals down the line. Let’s take a look at some of the pros of consistent daily goal setting.
Benefits of daily goals:
- Prioritize your time around what’s most important
- Create an action plan so you know exactly what to work on
- Make daily progress every day towards your future goals
- Help you develop productive and healthy habits
- Celebrate day-to-day accomplishments to maintain motivation
But with 65% of people trying to get better at setting daily goals, it’s obvious that it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Maybe you feel like, no matter how hard you plan, your long-term goals aren’t getting any closer, or you just can’t keep up with the daily goals you set for yourself. So how can you get better at setting attainable goals to make it worth it? Let’s take a look at 5 key principles of productive goal setting.
The 5 principles of effective goal setting:
- Commitment: The more you desire a certain outcome, the more motivation you have to achieve that goal. This is the why behind your daily goals.
- Clarity: Specific goals give you more focus, increasing the likelihood that you’ll follow through on the goal.
- Challenge: The best goals require a degree of challenge, but still feel achievable.
- Complexity: While a level of challenge is beneficial – overwhelming goals outside of your skill level (or time/availability to complete) can negatively affect your confidence, productivity, and motivation.
- Feedback: Goal setting is more effective when there is immediate feedback - especially since daily goals are so time sensitive as delayed feedback can really slow down your progress.
So how can you actually apply these tips to improve your daily goal planning?
How to set daily goals (and achieve them)
Let’s walk through how to set effective and easy-to-follow daily goals to boost your productivity.
1. Prioritize your goals
You can’t develop an effective daily plan when you don't know what your end-goals are. Especially when you’re managing a heavy task load at work and balancing other responsibilities in your personal time – every minute of the day counts. It’s time to get clear on where you should be spending your time.
Take some time to create a ‘master list’ of all your goals. Yes, all of them! Because master lists are usually quite lengthy (and should always be accessible for changes!), it’s best to create digital lists - one list for your work goals, and another for your personal goals. Once you have a complete list of all the things you want to achieve, prioritize your goals in order of importance. These will serve as your ‘North Star’ – guiding you towards your end goals, while you work to stay on top of daily urgent tasks.
2. Make SMART goals daily
You’ve likely already heard of SMART goals, and there’s a reason this acronym has stuck around - it works. According to this system, the most effective goals are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Checking the ‘clarity’ principle of goal setting we mentioned earlier – SMART goals are more actionable than their vague counterparts, which makes them more likely to be achieved.
For example, you might want to grow your team, start exercising, or build a new marketing campaign. But as they stand, these goals aren’t very actionable. Break down end-goals into smaller SMART milestones using an approach like goal-ladders. From there, you can specify them even further into prioritized daily objectives. That could look like blocking a 1-hour recruiting session 3x/week to help grow your team, committing to a daily walk on your lunch break, or scheduling the time blocks you need to build out the competitive research, marketing strategy, and automated workflows before launch to bring your marketing campaign together.
3. Plan ahead & write them out
Once you have SMART goals, it’s time to put them in motion with a little prep. People who plan their days in advance are 11% more likely to achieve their goals, and when those daily goals were also written out, there’s a 33% increase in accomplishment over people who just make “mental notes”. This helps you remember by highlighting those goals in the front of your subconscious as important priorities that need your attention.
So how do you plan ahead? Make it a habit to write out your daily goals around your priorities, work tasks, and personal to-dos in advance at the cadence that works best for you. Some people like to plan the night before or morning of, while others prefer to set aside time at the end or beginning of the week to create a weekly work plan for multiple days at a time. To avoid misplacing another well-intentioned paper list, try one of the many digital tools to efficiently plan out your daily goals – from to-do list inspired Todoist, to an advanced calendar add-on like Reclaim.ai.
4. Less is more
When it comes to time management, we often underestimate how long something will take, and overestimate our availability to get things done. One study found that daily goal-setters make 4-5 daily goals on average, but also revealed that those who set a smaller number of goals each day (3 goals) were the ones who consistently had a higher success rate.
So instead of planning for everything you’d love to get done, start by choosing 3 realistic daily goals you can actually do, and prioritize those before anything else. While it might not seem like a lot, this approach guarantees that you’re accomplishing at least 3 things every day that put you closer to your goals. It also allows you to focus on those 3 things efficiently, without wasting time context switching between a bunch of different tasks throughout the day.
5. Schedule time for your goals
There is a big gap between knowing your daily goals, and finding time to get them done. Time blocking is the habit of scheduling all the things that you have to do in a day right in your calendar. This simple approach is a proven strategy to boost productivity by up to 80% by defending real time for the things that matter most, so you’re not constantly overrun by urgencies that inevitably pop up.
When you time block your goals, you are more likely to actually get them done. That means scheduling more than just your meetings and appointments in your calendar! Add time blocks for your daily goals, deep and shallow work time for your tasks, and all your other to-dos on your calendar to support your success. Also, syncing your personal and work calendars can be super helpful for ensuring that your personal goals are also not overrun by your busy work schedule, and help you improve your overall work-life balance.
6. Turn recurring daily goals into habits
Depending on your evolving priorities at work (and in your personal life), your daily goals will probably be a combination of one-off to-dos, and recurring tasks or routines. But because you want your daily plan to prioritize both your immediate objectives and long term end-goals – it can be helpful to transition everyday goals into habits.
Creating habits out of daily goals (like dedicating an hour a day to bug fixes, 30 minutes a week to stay on top of competitive research, or making it to the gym every morning) means prioritizing these routines just as you would any other task on your list. Try making them SMART habits that align with your end-goals, writing out your plan in advance, and blocking time for them every day. You can optimize this process by using an app like Reclaim, that actually automates the planning for you by finding the best time for recurring Habits around your existing schedule – so you can make time for these goals without having to fight your calendar every day.
7. Track your goals
So how well are you doing on your daily goals? The only way to accurately measure your success is to actually track it - otherwise it’s all too easy to forget what actually got done this week. A weekly or monthly calendar audit can give you quantitative insight on where your time is really being spent, which of your goals are getting checked off, and which ones are getting put on the backburner. These time audits also allow you to review your priorities and realign your plans to stay on course for long-term goals. Being busy every day is not necessarily the same thing as being productive – and being analytical of your progress can be the difference between hitting the goals on your timeline, and another discouraging setback.
Some questions to consider in a time audit: Are my daily goals SMART? Can they be broken down further into more manageable objectives? What non-priorities are pulling me away from meeting my daily goals? And because our goals naturally change and evolve over time – it’s also a good idea to review your master goal list regularly to make sure it’s still reflecting what’s most important to you.
Examples of effective daily goals
Here are a few examples of SMART daily goals to get you started on creating your own.
Health and wellness daily goal examples:
- Exercise more by going on a 30 minute walk, five days a week.
- Make time for your morning routine by setting an alarm 15 minutes earlier.
- Reduce stress by doing a 2-minute guided meditation before you check your phone.
- Eat more leafy greens every day by prepping a lunch plan for the week.
- Dedicate 15 minutes in the evening to tidying up your space.
Find more health and wellness daily goal examples.
Work and career daily goal examples:
- Acquire 5 new clients a month by starting a daily 30-minute habit to send out 10 email pitches.
- Start your dream job in the next 6 months by applying to 2 relevant positions a day.
- Improve performance at work by increasing your typing speed 20% with a daily 30-minute online class.
- Increase your team’s productivity by preparing 5 effective questions for your next check-in meeting.
- Start a business you have been thinking about by dedicating an hour of your personal time every day for the next month to relevant reading and research about how to begin.
Find more work and career daily goal examples.
Financial daily goal examples:
- Save __% of your income in the next year by tracking all your daily expenses against your set monthly budget.
- Stay on top of your financial status by checking your balances every morning.
- Save money for big purchases by setting up a weekly auto-save (like a car down payment in 6 months, a family vacation next winter, etc.)
- Reduce impulsive daily online shopping by creating a ‘wishlist’ for personal purchases you want, but don’t need, and review it at the end of the month against your budget.
- Cut back on subscription services by blocking an hour a quarter dedicated to going through the (annoying) process of canceling an account you don’t need.
Find more financial daily goal examples.
Relationship daily goal examples:
- Improve connection with your partner by spending 15 distraction-free minutes every night sharing about your days.
- Efficiently communicate and resolve issues by planning an hour a week to calmly discuss things on your mind and family plans.
- Have more fun by implementing a weekly ‘date day’ habit to do an activity together.
- Spend more time with your family in the evenings by committing to finishing your work day at 5pm.
- Stay in touch with friends by doing a daily check-in with at least one friend via text message or a phone call after work.
Find more relationship daily goal examples.
Daily goals lead to long-term success🏆
Achieving your daily goals can feel impossible when the weeks are packed and you never have enough time to get everything done. But with a little preparation, the help of automation tools and templates, and regular reviews of your progress – you can change how you view your availability, and align your time to your true priorities.
So how does this stack up to your daily goal planning? Tweet us @reclaimai to start a conversation!