16 Top Tips for Goal Setting for Young Professionals

When I sat down to create my goals for 2021, I never imagined that at the end of the year I would be where I am today. Yep, 2021 didn’t end at all like I had planned. Can you relate? That’s the incredible thing about goal setting though, it can give us a direction, inspire us with a vision for the year, and help us focus on what’s important – even if we don’t accomplish all our goals.

Well, now that 2022 is here and goal setting is back in full swing, I want to encourage you with my best 16 tips for goal setting. Though these goal setting tips were written with young professionals in mind, they will help anyone looking to create more effective goals and experience the benefits of goal setting.

a young woman professional writing down her personal and career goals in a notebook

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Setting Goals and Objectives

Most of us have previous experience setting goals and objectives, and a good number of us have likely been frustrated with the process, including me. The goal setting process is challenging. We may be struggling to brainstorm goal ideas or be demotivated by past goal failures. Either way, we could all use a new, fresh way to look at setting goals and objectives.

What is effective goal setting?

Before diving into goal setting tips, we need to know what “effective goal setting” means at its root and the benefits of goal setting. Effective goal setting requires intentional thought, accountability mechanisms, and clear markers and milestones. 

  • Intentional thought ensures your goals are realistic, attainable, and meaningful to you. To experience the benefits of goal setting, you have to invest time and energy into the process. While it may be easier to copy another person’s goals, you will end up with goals that are neither realistic, attainable, or meaningful to you. 
  • Accountability mechanisms spur us to achieve our goals. While the idealistic, lofty goals are more fun to dream up, they’re usually the hardest to accomplish. On the other hand, with effective goal setting you create goals that are more specific and measurable. As a result, you can hold yourself accountable for the goals and measure progress in a tangible, concrete way.
  • Clear markers and milestones keep our goals on track. Like a project manager creates a plan for a project, so we must develop a plan for our goal setting to be effective. With clear milestones and smaller goals to work toward, we stay motivated and have clear direction on what to accomplish next.

Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, it’s highly unlikely our goals will be checked off overnight.

What are goals examples?

With these effective goal setting tips, you may be wondering how to put them into practice. What does an effective goal look like? Here are three goal setting examples that put the tips into practice.

  • Personal goal example: Spend 20 minutes reading every day before bed so I can read 24 books this year, or about 2 books per month.
  • Financial goal example: Save 20% of every paycheck and set the money aside for a 5% down payment on a house in the next 12 months.
  • Career goal example: Develop a business case on why I should be promoted this year by researching promotion criteria and identifying which of my work experiences have demonstrated each criterion. Work with a mentor to hold me accountable.

Check out these financial tips for young professionals for more financial goal ideas.

What is the importance of setting goals?

With all the work required for effective goal setting, it’s not always clear why goal setting is important. Is all the work worth it? Goal setting is important because it gives you direction, spurs personal development, and helps you focus on what’s important to you.

  • Gives you direction – One of the benefits of effective goal setting is that it gives us a clear vision and guidance on the how. With smaller milestones and clear goal markers, our dreams and future are much more attainable, and we can approach our goals with purpose.
  • Spurs personal development – As a young professional, I fear falling into complacency. While routines are appreciated, I don’t ever want to lose my desire to grow personally, strengthen my relationship with God, anbe challenged by my work
    • This reason why goal setting is important is not about achievementIt’s about growing and maturing as a person, as a young professional, and as a Christian.
  • Focus on what’s important to you – During a work day, I’m constantly pulled in different directions by notifications, emails, and direct messages. My personal time gets eaten up in a similar way, leaving little time for what I enjoy or what’s important to me. With these goal setting tips, I can create more effective goals that prioritize what’s important and minimize distractions.

Related: 40 Realistic Personal Goals Every Woman in her 20s Should Consider for 2022

Why is it important to set goals and share them with others?

In addition to these tips for goal setting, I recommend sharing your goals with others. By sharing your goals with friends, family, colleagues, classmates, or mentors, you’re inviting that person to hold you accountable to your goal.

They can check in on your progress, encourage you when you feel demotivated, and suggest ways for you to accomplish your goals.

Secondly, sharing your goals with others during the goal setting process is important for feedback. If you share your goals with someone who knows you well, they can help you determine if the goal is realistic, attainable, specific, and in line with your passions. 

I can get goal crazy, so having someone to slow me down and challenge me to prioritize my goals is extremely helpful. 

16 Best Goal Setting Tips

Now that we have clarity on why goal setting is important and effective goal setting examples, let’s dive into the top tips for goal setting for young professionals.  After the ten general tips for goal setting, I’ll give specific personal goal setting tips and career goal setting tips.

Top 10 Tips for Goal Setting for Young Professionals

  1. Limit yourself to a few goals in different categories (work, personal, spiritual, financial, other). There is no prize for having the most goals, so choose only the goals that are most meaningful to you instead of trying to keep track of 100 goals. Ten goals is a good place to start.
  2. Make the goals measurable. I want to read more this year, but how will I know at the end of the year if I accomplish that? A better goal would be read 24 books this year, about 2 a month. When checking to see if your goals are measurable, you can also use the acronym S.M.A.R.T. to assess the effectiveness of your goals. 
    1.  SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. I’ve covered most of these attributes in the earlier tips for goal setting. There are more details about creating smart goals in my article about weekly goals and focus ideas, where I focus on my #4 tip for goal setting.
  3. Think about the how. By thinking through how you would accomplish a certain goal, you can make sure you have the tools, time, and resources to accomplish your goals before you set them. 
    1. If you can’t think through how to accomplish a goal, reach out for help or put the goal on hold until you can do more research or dedicate more time to it.
  4. Make your goals small. It’s easy to come up with huge, pie-in-the-sky goals, but trying to achieve them is quite the opposite. To counter that, try to make your goals smaller. 
    1. Borrowing from my previous example, a goal to read 24 books a year can be made smaller by reading 2 books a month. I can make that goal even smaller by committing to reading 20 minutes before bed 5 nights a week.
  5. Come up with clear milestones. In school, when a teacher gave you a month to do an assignment, it was tempting to not start until 2 days before. It’s the same with goal setting. To fight the urge to procrastinate, write down clear quarterly or monthly milestones. That way, you how you’re progressing on your goals.

More of the Best Goal Setting Tips

  1. Break your goals down into weekly and daily tasks. Now that you have a clear, measurable goal with milestones, break it down into smaller tasks. What do you need to do weekly and daily to accomplish this goal little by little? Borrow some ideas from these examples of weekly focus goals.
    1. Another approach to creating weekly and daily tasks is to set aside time at the beginning of each day or week to reflect on your goals. Ask yourself, what is one thing I can do today or this week to make progress to my goal? 
  2. Change some goals to intentions. Everything doesn’t need to be a concrete goal. Sometimes, all it needs to be is an intention to move or progress in a general direction. 
    1. For example, hearing and responding to God’s voice is hard to turn into a measurable goal. But you can make it an intention to seek God out when making decision and spend more time meditating on the Bible.
  3. Choose a focus word. Spend some time in prayer and ask God to reveal to you a focus word for the year. How do you want to grow this year? What is God trying to teach you more this year? 
    1. Here are some reflection questions and journal prompts to help you brainstorm spiritual and non-spiritual focus words.
  4. Make a Do Less / Do More / Stop / Start chart. This is a less intimidating way to look at goals and brainstorm smaller goals. Divide a piece of paper into 4 squares and title each section “Do Less,” “Do More”, “Stop,” “Start.” Spend 10 -20 minutes brainstorming items to go under each list. 
    1. For more information about this and a template, you can sign up as a subscriber and download the premium reflection printable. Also, check out the reflection questions and journal prompts for other reflection activities to help with goal setting.
  5. Give yourself grace. At the end of the year, you probably won’t meet all your goals. Not because of lack of trying, but because there are so many things about 2022 that we don’t know yet. At the beginning of 2021, I never imagined that it would end as it did. But that’s the beauty of life. It is uncertain. 

So give yourself grace when some of your goals are unmet, and be sure to celebrate the ones that you do accomplish.

3 Simple Personal Goal Setting Tips

In addition to my top tips for goal setting, here are some specific personal goal setting tips.

  1. Let your passions drive you – Often we overcomplicate goal setting with categories, long lists, and too many objectives. Surprisingly, our most effective goals come from our God-given passions and desires, not trying to fill a goal worksheet or comparing our goals to others’. 
    1. If we let our passions reveal to us our goal categories, we’ll have more effective goals and realize the benefits of goal setting.
  2. Let your goals change – No one knows what may happen this year, this month, or even today. Be flexible and adapt your goals as life changes. Because the only thing certain about life is change.
  3. Don’t be afraid to delete goals – After a couple of months chasing my goals or new year resolutions, I identify some goals that are no longer a priority or that I need to put on hold. By saying no to some goals now, you’re giving yourself more time and energy to focus on the goals that are important now.

Some goals may be written in pencil, pen, marker, or crayon, but no goal is written in stone.

3 Impactful Career Goal Setting Tips

When it comes to being a young professional in the workplace, setting goals and objectives for the year can be overwhelming. Sometimes your performance against those goals will be measured at the end of the year, which adds more stress. 

At the same time, the importance of setting goals in an organization cannot be underestimated. It provides an objective way to measure your performance and evidence of your successes away from the office politics. However, to do that, you must have SMART goals that match your job responsibilities. 

Top Tips for Goal Setting in the Workplace

So, to take the pressure off setting goals and objectives as an employee, use these 3 career goal setting tips for employees.

  1. Use your mentor – When you’re setting goals and objectives at work, have someone review your goals and provide feedback. They can help you identify if you’re missing goals in and asses whether your goals are SMART goals and appropriate for the workplace. 
  2. Talk to your boss about your goals – It’s difficult to prioritize your time and do your job effectively with vague job responsibilities. One way to combat this is to share your goals with your manager, listen to his or her feedback, and agree on the goals together. Then, you and your manager will be on the same page about how you should be spending your time and what you should be working on throughout the year.
  3. Diversify your goals – Working in corporate America, I quickly learned there is much more to being an employee than doing your job. You are also responsible for training, giveback, admin work, internal department development, and possibly more. I recommend creating goals around these additional responsibilities. Then, at the end of the year, you demonstrate how you’ve taken initiative to learn new things, invested in the company’s growth, and contributed to your team. 

Using these tips for goal setting in the workplace and the general tips for goal setting above should make your year-end review much smoother. This is mainly because you’ll have better goals, but also because of the valuable feedback you received from your mentor and manager at the start.

A young woman sitting at home and setting goals and objectives in a notebook

Importance of Goal Setting in Life

With all these goal setting tips, I hope you can see the benefits of goal setting. How it gives us direction and focus, fuels our passions, and contributes to our personal and career development. Instead of getting caught up in the number of goals or the big ideas, I challenge you to create SMART goals, smaller focus goals, more attainable goals, and goals that prioritize what’s important to you.

No matter what goals you accomplish or what goals you end up deleting, remember to give yourself grace and be flexible. No one knows what this year may hold. But apply these 16 tips for goal setting, and you’ll be ready for success. 

For you, what are the benefits of goal setting?

Leave me a comment below!

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