There are plenty of reasons why you might need to set goals for work. Perhaps you are keen to succeed in a new job?  Maybe you are trying to establish what parameters you’ll be working within? You may have been asked to give examples of goals for work as part of your appraisal or performance review?

Maybe you want to challenge yourself and set some personal development goals? Or perhaps you just like getting on top of your work priorities by giving yourself something clear to focus on? It really doesn’t matter, because setting goals for work can be of huge benefit to both you and your employer.


The benefits of setting goals for work

Whatever your reason for setting goals for work, the benefits are very much the same:

  • They help you focus on what is most important
  • With focus, you establish a clear direction of travel
  • By narrowing or specifying your goal focus, you can work out how to increase productivity
  • By focusing on ‘what’ to develop and ‘how’ to go about it, you enhance performance


Quite simply, work goals help you set expectations, and provide you with motivation and confidence to go after the things that matter most.
After all, you can only achieve and exceed expectations when you know what is expected of you or what you expect from yourself.


How to set work goals

When deciding how to set work goals, it’s best to quantify them and make sure they can be measured. When you can measure progress things will feel more motivating. One way is to use the S.M.A.R.T. system. This means making each goal:

Specific: the goal is as precise as possible to avoid any ambiguity or confusion. Focus on a specific outcome to be delivered or target an area for personal improvement.
Measurable: set out what success looks like by quantifying the change. Measurable goals give you something to gauge your progress against and will make it easier for you to determine if your goal has been achieved.
Achievable: it’s important to make your goals challenging, but they should also be achievable, taking into account the time and resources available to you.
Realistic: goals should be relevant to what you and your organisation are trying to achieve.
Time-bound: setting a target date or time frame for when your goals are to be completed allows you to keep on track and deliver to promises made.

reaching goals

So, let’s take a look at some common work goals or areas that you may wish to improve on, and the kinds of S.M.A.R.T. goals you might set.


Time Management Skills

You’ve been made aware that you need to be more punctual and get projects completed on a timelier basis. Whatever the reasons (perhaps you feel stressed about the size of your workload or the resources at your disposal have been reduced), get back on top of things and show that you can be trusted to deliver what’s required in a timely manner. Your line manager wants you to collaboratively generate some examples of goals for work in this area. Where do you start?

Consider these S.M.A.R.T goals and how they mightl help you get back on track:

  • Attend a time-management e-learning course offered in-house by the end of Q1
  • Over the next two weeks, look back at your Q1 work diary and how you are spending your time. For example, how long are you spending attending meetings, doing your job, or applying your brain to creative problem-solving? The week after this analysis, determine if you are spending your time on the right things and if a shift in balance might improve your productivity
  • Complete reading David Allen’s book on ‘Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by the end of April Q2
  • Set a meeting with your line manager to discuss her thoughts on three things you could do to improve your time management skills
  • Set your alarm 30 minutes earlier each day, ensuring you arrive at your desk (or log on) on time

setting time management goals

In addition to setting S.M.A.R.T goals, it’s also acceptable to consider what habits and behaviour you can more generally change to help you be successful in an area that requires focus. For example, you might also like to:

  • Plan and organise your day differently. Perhaps allow yourself the first 20 minutes of each day to review and assess your workload for the hours ahead. Prioritise what must be achieved over those things that might be easy or more pleasant to work on. This is the old adage of ‘eating the frog first’ – getting the important, but perhaps more difficult stuff out of the way! Equally spend 20 minutes at the end of your day reassessing what you have achieved, noting anything that needs to be carried over to the following day. Once you’ve done this, relax and unwind
  • Structure your working week. Set up regular one-to-one meetings with your manager or team to define weekly priorities. Ensure that you are all on board with the same schedule and are using your time effectively
  • Prioritise your workload. Experiment with different time management tools and techniques to help you divide up your time and focus on important tasks. Steven Covey’s Time Management Matrix is one example
  • Protect your time from unnecessary distractions at work. If you feel you spend too much time in reactive mode answering emails and dealing with interruptions, try a time-blocking system like the Pomodoro Technique (yes, named after a tomato-shaped timer used by Francesco Cirillo to break work down into 25-minute intervals). Scheduling your time means you won’t have to keep making choices about what to focus on.


Presentation Skills

Your boss wants you to present at the annual team conference this year. You’re terrified – giving presentations was never your thing and you’d much rather be sat in the audience! Never fear, there are plenty of examples of goals for work that focus on this skill.

Good presentation skills are something that can be learned. While an element of success will always be about confidence, there are plenty of structured techniques to be absorbed that will ensure your presentations are punchy and impactful.

Being able to engage and communicate through powerful presentations, will not help people relate to what you are trying to do, it will also help you develop management and leadership skills that could make you highly influential.

Some examples of S.M.A.R.T presentation skill goals could be:

  • Attend media training offered by an in-house PR team by the end of Q2
  • Complete reading Carmine Gallo’s book on ‘Talking Like TED’ by the end of June Q2
  • At your next 1:1 with your line manager, agree to present at the upcoming team meeting. This will be on the assumption that it’s a small and friendly audience who know you and will be interested in the subject of your 2021 project plan). Ensure you are fully prepared and rehearsed with your line manager 2-3 days before
  • Rehearse your team presentation at home in front of a camera for the next four weeks


In addition to your S.M.A.R.T objectives remember that much of the challenge of presenting is down to staying calm and being well prepared. So, additionally, think about the small changes to your habits and behaviours that would make you a better presenter. Here are some more relaxed examples of goals for work in regard to presentation skills:

  • Find opportunities to present. Look for potential presenting opportunities and put yourself forward for them. This may seem like a scary prospect, however if you choose a small audience of people you know, you’ll be surprised by how much practice you can get in
  • Be authentic. This is the most important thing when presenting. Think of a presentation as a conversation with more than one person. Talk as if you were talking to another person. As long as your voice isn’t too quiet, a conversational presentation will always be more impactful than a forced one
  • Record yourself and watch the results back, or try your skills out at home. It may help to have a friend watch you and note down some points of constructive criticism. Alternatively, ask someone to video your performance on their phone or tablet
  • Find your style of presenting. You can do this by attending, studying and researching other people’s presentations. Examine the different presentation techniques, concepts and ideas they use. Look at a speaker that you admire. What little things could you pick out in terms of their style that you feel comfortable with making your own?
  • Improve your visuals. Think about the layout and design of your presentations, not just what you’re trying to say. Explore what experts say will make a good engaging visual presentation and put this into practice.


Networking skills

No one has suggested this to you, but you’re keen to increase the scale and scope of your network. You’d like to show your coach that you are able to set examples of goals for work in the area of networking.

If you’re thinking about setting out to grow your network, then chances are you’ll need to think carefully about who you already know, who you might want to contact and why someone might want to connect with you.

You may be doing this because you need to bring in new clients or repeat business? Perhaps you want to publicise your company and what it does, finding new customers or advocates? You could also be looking to extend your personal network to learn more about different areas of the business you work in or learn from a mentor.

Here are some examples of S.M.A.R.T networking skill goals:

  • Attend four external networking events for new graduates in construction engineering between now and the end of December 2021
  • Grow your LinkedIn network by 50 people in the next two quarters
  • Read ‘Never Eat Alone’ by Keith Ferrazzi by the end of April 2021

networking on social media

In addition to your S.M.A.R.T objectives remember that you can extend your network in lots of different ways, without necessarily attending work-related events every day of the week. For example:

  • Build local family and friend’s networks. Joining big, work-related networking events can be daunting. You don’t need to attend these types of events all of the time to enjoy meeting new people. Instead, look within your circle of friends, family and close work colleagues. Is there someone on the network of a close friend who could help with your developmental goals? Is there a work colleague who could introduce you to a member of their team who has specialist knowledge in a topic you are trying to develop in? Does a family member know anyone in the local community who is settling in and wants to meet new friends? Even the local coffee shop can be a great place to meet new people
  • Use social media to make connections. You probably already spend a lot of time on social media. But are you using it to the best effect when it comes to networking? Perhaps try finding a colleague who is already in Clubhouse. Could they extend an invitation? Give connections a good reason to want to accept an invitation to connect with you. For example, is there a reason you admire them or think they might be able to help you? This is far more appealing to someone than simply receiving a friend request from someone they don’t know! Join and participate in groups and discussions in communities with people who have similar interests.


Continuing Professional Development (CPD) skills

CPD may be a compulsory requirement if you are a member of a profession, however, it can also be self-directed and combine personal development with career development. CPD helps you stay up to date with current developments, technical skills and best practices. Try setting some example goals for work in the area of CPD by following the advice we have already shared.

Here are some examples of S.M.A.R.T CPD goals:

  • Join the CIPD professional body for HR practitioners in Q2, 2021
  • Attend two CIPD virtual events in Q3, 2021
  • Buy Butterworths ‘Employment Law Handbook’ by April 28th, 2021. Read one chapter per month over the coming year
  • Complete the in-house training programme on ‘Cyber Security and Customer Data’ by the end of March 2021

When it comes to CPD, there are limitless possibilities – not just for shaping new habits and changing behaviours, but also in terms of skills and knowledge you can build. Some more relaxed goals could be:

  • Further formal learning. If your company has a formal CPD programme, ask to see the list of courses, workshops and qualifications that are available to you for your professional development
  • Informal learning. If your company doesn’t have a formal CPD programme, investigate whether they have a budget available for attending events and conferences or training programmes. If a budget is not available, seek out informal on-the-job learning opportunities or set up a work-based group with colleagues who have common interest and can learn from each other
  • Self-directed learning. You can engage in continuous learning under your own direction by seeking out relevant webinars, new research or listening to business podcasts, reading books and articles or utilising available free online resources and courses

lady at laptop

You may want to increase your visibility. Perhaps you are aware that you are cruising under the radar at work and rarely talk in meetings. Do you feel that the work you do is not acknowledged or appreciated or that no one knows who you are or what you do outside your own team? Setting a personal goal for work to increase your visibility can address this. For example:

    • Build your relationship with your boss. Take the initiative to set up individual meetings periodically. Speak up about the realities and challenges in the business that you think need to be addressed. Be the person that speaks with facts, confidence and offers reasonable suggestions for improvement. Use this time as an opportunity to discuss the stats of your current projects and to check in to make sure you’re on track with goals and strategies
    • Speak up and contribute to meetings. Ask to represent your department at meetings or on planning committees and projects. Consider the agenda and prepare to make thoughtful and meaningful contributions that will help make your attendance memorable
    • Volunteer. Take on those tasks that no one else wants to tackle to show that you are team-orientated and able to take on more work. You could offer to take meeting minutes, typing them up and circulating them if you notice that this is something no one else wants responsibility for. Ask to be part of higher-profile work projects, offer to take on a new project or become part of a cross-functional team. Instead of waiting to be recruited for additional responsibilities, offer to take them on.


When you know how to set work goals you will find it easier to focus on where you need to improve and can put a plan in place to set out the steps to get you there. Achieving goals helps you feel more accomplished, successful, and confident. Setting work goals also will expand your horizon and perspective to include team performance and gain a sense of broader company objectives.

Research suggests that having a sense of accomplishment is one of the three top drivers for happiness at work. That surely makes it worthy of your focus! If you are looking to further better yourself both personally and at work, try our ‘Getting to Know Me Better‘ Notebook Mentor.


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