How to accomplish big things with long-term goals

Caeleigh MacNeil contributor headshotCaeleigh MacNeilSeptember 29th, 20217 min read
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Summary

Long-term goals are objectives you want to achieve months or years down the road. Setting this type of goal gives your work purpose, helps you make better decisions, and offers a hefty dose of daily motivation. In this article we explain how you can use long-term goals to accomplish big things over time, with examples.

When you think of an ideal future for your work, what do you see? Perhaps you envision yourself launching a new global product, hitting record sales numbers, or recruiting the best talent in your field. But while it’s easy to imagine those dream scenarios, actually getting there is another story. That’s where long-term goals can help. 

Setting long-term goals helps turn your daydreams into concrete objectives that you can work towards with intention. Aside from helping you achieve difficult things, they’re also a useful tool to prioritize your work and decide what success looks like for you. 

What are long-term goals?

Long-term goals are objectives you want to achieve in the future, months or years down the road. They’re difficult to accomplish and require advance planning and consistent work over a long period of time—like turning a startup into a profitable business, revamping your organizational culture, or becoming a team leader.  

Achieve strategic goals with Asana

Long-term goals vs. short-term goals

Long-term goals give your work direction and purpose. They’re usually made up of smaller short-term goals, which are the stepping stones that help you accomplish your larger goals. While long-term goals are your north star, short-term goals make the work feel less daunting by breaking it up into actionable steps. 

For example, imagine you and your team created a new app and set a long-term goal to reach one million downloads within two years. That objective guides your decisions and defines what success looks like for your app. Now, think of the smaller actions you need to take to reach your larger objective—those are your short-term goals. For instance, you might set a short-term goal to create an email referral campaign within the next month. 

Read: The importance of setting short-term goals

The importance of setting long-term goals 

Long-term goals can help you tackle big objectives at work and in your personal life. Here’s how. 

Work with intention

According to a 2020 report, some 86% of leaders say defining a purpose is essential to a successful growth strategy. After all, when you’re clear about what you want, you’re much more likely to get it. 

Long-term goals help with that clarity, because setting them encourages you to intentionally decide what kind of future you’re striving for. Instead of working aimlessly, long-term goals give you focus and ensure that your daily work is chipping away at something that really matters. 

Define success

When you set a long-term goal, you’re deciding what success looks like to you. Your goal gives you a concrete benchmark to measure progress and determine whether or not you’ve achieved your objective. 

For example, if you set a vague intention to “increase sales revenue,” it’s difficult to measure progress and success. By clarifying your long-term goal to hit 2 million dollars in sales revenue in the next five years, you give your team a clear vision of success to aim for. 

Make better decisions

Picture this: you’re walking aimlessly around town, and are faced with a split in the road. Do you go left or right? Since you don’t have a destination in mind, that decision is much harder to make. When you’re headed to a specific location, the choice is easy—just take the road that leads where you want to go. 

While many decisions aren’t as simple as left or right, a long-term goal can be your compass. When you’re faced with a choice, you can evaluate how each option might help you reach your goal. For example, if your team’s long-term goal is to double mobile web traffic to your homepage, you can point to that goal if you need to push back on requests to optimize your homepage for desktop. 

Stay motivated

Long-term goals are also a powerful motivational tool. When psychologists tested the impact of different motivational techniques on group performance, they found goal setting was one of the most effective. Just setting a handful of specific, ambitious goals boosted the participants’ performance into the 80th percentile.

Specifically, long-term goals help with intrinsic motivation—the drive to succeed that comes from within yourself, rather than external factors like praise or compensation. That’s because when you’re striving towards long-term goals, your day-to-day work has a clear purpose. 

Read: The secret culprit behind your lack of motivation at work

6 steps to set and achieve your long-term goals

The best long-term goals take a bit of planning. Here’s how to create goals and stick with them for the long haul. 

1. Visualize your ideal future

Before you create your goals, you have to decide what you want to achieve. Keep in mind that long-term goals are a big commitment. To create goals you can stick with, make sure they really matter to you and align with your values. This helps you stay motivated and avoid burnout

If you’re setting long-term objectives for your business, this means consulting with your mission, vision statement, and company values. If you’re setting personal work goals, try to identify your values first. Ask yourself what’s most important to you and what has fulfilled you most in the past—for example, you might value creativity, customer interaction, or organization.  

2. Write SMART goals

Goals should be clearly defined and falsifiable, so you have a concrete path to success. Luckily, the SMART goal framework makes it easy to create clear and measurable goals. SMART is an acronym that stands for: 

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Achievable

  • Realistic

  • Time-bound

Here’s an example of a SMART goal: “This year, the engineering team will launch a mobile-first company website optimized for iOS and Android devices.” It specifies the type of website and what qualities it should possess, allows you to measure success based on whether or not the website has launched, is attainable (assuming you have sufficient engineering resources), and can realistically be achieved within the specified time frame. 

Read: Write better SMART goals with these tips and examples

 3. Prioritize your goals

Now that you’ve set goals, it’s time to prioritize them. It can be tempting to try and tackle all your objectives at once, but that’s usually not realistic. You have to take into account what resources are available—including your own personal bandwidth. 

To prioritize, start by listing out all your long-term goals. Highlight which ones are most important to you. Make a note of when you want to achieve each goal, and estimate how long it will take. Based on those factors, decide which goals you want to focus on right away, and which ones you’ll put on hold until more bandwidth opens up. 

Read: How to prioritize your most important work

4. Break your long-term goals into short-term goals

Long-term goals take hard work to achieve, so it’s normal for them to feel a bit daunting at first. That’s where short-term goals come into play. These smaller stepping stones break the work down into bite-sized tasks you can tackle within a shorter time frame, such as a day, week, or month. 

To set short-term goals, write down all the tasks you need to accomplish in order to reach your long-term goal. Think of them as dependencies—hitting these goals unblocks your ultimate, long-term goal. Then, turn each of those dependencies into its own SMART goal. 

For example, imagine your team has set a long-term goal to create a new customer service process in the next six months. You could break it up into the following steps: 

  • This week, collect feedback and ideas from the customer service team. 

  • This month, audit the current process and identify areas of opportunity.

  • In two months, collect customer feedback and identify common pain points. 

  • In three months, submit a business case to executive stakeholders that outlines your proposed changes. 

  • In four months, finalize your project plan.

  • In five months, train customer service representatives in the new processes. 

  • In six months, roll out the new process to all customer service teams. 

5. Make a plan to track your progress

In order for long-term goals to be effective, they should be connected to your day-to-day work. That means instead of setting and forgetting your goals, make a plan to regularly check in and update your progress—for example, at the end of each day or week. And with the short-term goals you’ve set, it will be easier to gauge your progress and determine if you’re on track for your long-term goals. 

Using a project management tool can help streamline this process. For example, when you create a long-term goal in Asana, you can set a due date and create automated reminders to update your goal progress. And within each long-term goal, you can create short-term goals to break work down into manageable chunks—each with its own timeframe and scheduled reminders. 

Try goals with Asana for free

7. Be flexible

Things change, and that’s okay. When you plan to achieve something months or years down the road, it’s normal for unexpected events to knock things off track—or for your own perspective and goals to shift. Keep in mind that your long-term goals aren’t set in stone. Rather, they’re a living document that you can adjust over time. 

Staying flexible with your goals can also help when unexpected opportunities arise. Sometimes if you fixate on a specific outcome, it can be easy to overlook promising growth opportunities. For example, imagine your company has set a long-term goal to enter a new international market—but a competitor gets there first. Instead of pursuing that same goal, you might consider adjusting your objective. You could focus on differentiating your product from the competition in order to target a different audience within that international market. 

40 long-term goal examples

Long-term goals can help in every area of your life—including your professional life and personal development. Take a look at 40 different types of goals, with examples. 

Long-term business goals

Long-term business goals can come in many forms, including strategic goals and big hairy audacious goals (BHAGs). Your long-term business goals might focus on these areas: 

1. Increase revenue

2. Become or stay profitable

3. Improve the function of a specific department, like customer service

4. Grow your customer base

5. Launch a new product or service

6. Expand to a new country or region

7. Improve hiring practices

8. Rebrand your company

9. Improve operating efficiency

10. Increase employee satisfaction

Read: Setting business goals: The first step to a successful business

 Long-term team goals

Long-term goals can also help shape your team culture, increase productivity, and encourage collaboration. For example, you could set long-term team goals to: 

11. Hire skilled new team members

12. Develop a process for cross-functional collaboration

13. Reach a specific revenue or sales target within your team

14. Organize regular offsites to promote team building

15. Document and share important team processes

16. Establish a regular feedback cycle for direct reports

17. Start a mentorship or buddy program for new hires

18. Develop a post-mortem process for completed projects

19. Create new areas of responsibility within your team

20. Identify new professional development opportunities for direct reports

Long-term career goals

There’s a reason one of the most common job interview questions is: “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Long-term professional development goals help shape and grow your career. In that vein, here are some example career goals to consider: 

21. Find your dream job or career

22. Start your own business

23. Become a team manager

24. Learn a difficult new skill, like a new programming language

25. Find a fulfilling side-hustle

26. Pursue a new certification or degree

27. Improve your work-life balance

28. Grow your professional network

29. Lead a department

30. Pitch and manage a new project 

Long-term personal and financial goals

Long-term goals are just as valuable for your personal life. Here are some examples of how long-term goals can help improve your health, finances, skills, and more: 

31. Learn a foreign language

32. Learn to play an instrument

33. Expand your social network

34. Compete in a difficult event, like a marathon

35. Learn to play a sport 

36. Have or adopt a child

37. Find a partner

38. Grow your savings account balance

39. Improve your credit score

40. Buy your first home

Grow with goals

Regardless of what you want to achieve, long-term goals can help you get there. Setting long-term objectives gives structure to dreams that may have previously seemed out of reach, and empowers you to strategically tackle them over time. And with these steps and examples, you can stop dreaming, start planning, and tackle those big goals once and for all. 

Regardless of the type of goal you set, make sure you have a way to track progress towards your goals. When you can visualize how your short-term goals are contributing to your long-term objectives, you’re more motivated and more likely to stay on track. Try goals with Asana to set and achieve strategic goals. 

Achieve strategic goals with Asana

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