The Goal Setting Process

1. Write down the goals.

Begin by generating a list of potential goals. In the end, what is it that you want to achieve? Writing down goals makes them tangible and gives them more force. However, it is important that the goals are well thought out. To ensure this, set MASTERful goals. These are goals that are:

M - Measurable

A - Achievable (yet challenging!)

S - Specific

T - Time-based

E - Energizing

R - Relevant

Enter your goals in the first column of the Goal Setting worksheet.

2. Determine how to measure goal achievement.

A good goal has a definable endpoint that can be easily measured. Identify measures that indicate when the goal has been achieved (e.g., good attendance might be measured as “less than 1 absence per quarter”). Depending on the goal, there might be several measures that can be used to evaluate achievement—select those that are most appropriate.

Sometimes, it is difficult to measure goal achievement. For example, if your goal is 100% customer satisfaction, and your company does not conduct a customer satisfaction survey, it is difficult to know if the goal has been achieved. In these instances, look for other potential measures of goal attainment (e.g., number or frequency of customer complaints, number of returned purchases). If the goal is critical and there are no existing measures for evaluating it, consider creating new measures.

Having measurable goals is important because it is easier to gauge when the goal has been reached, and it provides a yardstick to measure progress toward the goal. By being measurable, it is easy to see if you are falling behind and to make adjustment early enough to still meet the goal. Not only is it motivating to see progress toward the accomplishment of the goal, it is also important to know when to stop working on it.

Enter the metrics that will be used to measure goal achievement in the second column of the Goal Setting Worksheet.

3. Establish a deadline for achieving the goal.

Determining the amount of time needed to reach the goal and setting a deadline help to create a realistic sense of urgency and provide the motivation necessary to attain the goal. When establishing a deadline, it might be necessary to break an “overall” or large goal into several smaller ones to make it easier to manage the goal-setting process. In addition, some goals may not be achievable until other goals have been reached (e.g., training for a specific skill before achieving a promotion), so the deadlines that are established should reflect this. When setting deadlines, consider:

• Priorities – which goals are most important?

• Prerequisites – do any goals require another goal to be accomplished first?

• Reality – what organizational, unit, or individual constraints exist in accomplishing this goal? (see 4 below)

• Measures – does the timing of any of the measures affect the deadline (e.g., a yearly survey)?

TIP: Be certain to allow for unforeseeable delays by factoring in extra time.
TIP: Because the amount of time available to work on goals is limited, keep this deadline somewhere visible, such as in a daily planner or on a computer calendar.

Enter the appropriate deadlines in the third column of the Goal Setting Worksheet.

4. Identify obstacles to achieving the goals.

Obstacles to goal achievement can come in the form of people, expectations, knowledge, skill, or resources. For example, it may be difficult to reach goals because others will stand in your way (people), you don’t have the existing capability to reach the goal (knowledge/skill), or you don’t have the time to reach the goal or the funding to make it possible (resources).

Likewise, obstacles can be internal or external to the goal seeker. An internal obstacle may be an individual’s habit of procrastinating. An external obstacle may be a lack of resources necessary to achieve the goal. Another common obstacle is the existence of multiple goals. When the person has many goals, they will likely experience, at the very least, conflict in the form of these goals competing for their time and attention.

Consider all of these potential obstacles and enter the most important obstacles in the fourth column of the Goal Setting Worksheet.

5. Identify how to overcome obstacles.

Once you have identified and listed the obstacles that may prevent you from achieving the goals, create a plan to address these obstacles.

• If you have identified multiple goals vying for attention as an obstacle, set priorities. By prioritizing the goals you will be able to direct attention to, and focus on, the most important goals.

• If the obstacle comes from a lack of knowledge or skill, this obstacle can be overcome in many ways, such as training, conferences, reading, or coaching.

• If institutional politics or procedures are an obstacle, often speaking to other people who have achieved a similar goal can be helpful. Ask these individuals what steps they took to reach their goal.

• If required resources are unavailable to achieve your goal, enlist the help of someone who has control over these resources (e.g., your manager). Identify a list of benefits to your department or to the institution based on achieving this goal. Be prepared to explain how providing access to these resources will enable you to contribute more effectively to the organization.

• If the obstacle that must be overcome is the resistance of others who do not believe in or understand the goal, writing MASTERful goals is a good starting point. Remember, specific goals are clear and unambiguous and thus can be communicated easily to others, without confusion. Outlining what will be accomplished, how it will be done, and what resources (e.g., people, money, equipment, training) are required for goal attainment will go a long way toward overcoming this resistance.

The important thing to remember is to be persistent. You must pursue your goal day-in and day-out and remain flexible and focused on goal attainment. Enter how you will overcome the obstacles in the fifth column of the Goal Setting Worksheet.

6. Review the list

After you’ve completed the worksheet, review all the goals to ensure that they are reasonable. Ask the following questions:

• Is accomplishing all these goals feasible? If not, what adjustments can be made (e.g., extending time frames, setting a goal lower, shifting priorities, eliminating a goal)?

• Will I be stretched in accomplishing these goals? If not, how can I make the goals more challenging?

• Will I feel a sense of accomplishment in achieving these goals? If not, what other goals should I add?

Based on your response to these questions, make any necessary adjustments to your worksheet. Also, identify anyone who should review your goals and give them the opportunity to do so. Make any additional adjustments, as necessary based on their feedback.

7. Monitor progress and continue to set goals

In order to determine whether the goal has been reached, measure progress toward the goal. Use the measures that have been identified to track progress to determine if you are falling behind or are on target with deadlines.

If you are ahead on your goals, recognize this accomplishment. If you are falling behind, consider the following potential reasons:

• Time Constraints/Multiple Goals – Often, goals are not reached due to lack of time or competing priorities. Do they have enough time to successfully reach all of their goals? Are some goals overshadowing other important goals? If so, you might consider reassessing priorities and focusing your limited time only on the most important goals.

• Priority Shift – Sometimes priorities shift, and what was once an important goal is no longer important. Have the priorities shifted? Are other goals more important than they once were? If so, reassess the priorities and focus on the most important goals.

• External Factors – There are many external factors that can keep you from accomplishing goals. Lack of resources, lack of support, and other obstacles can make goal attainment difficult. Are the obstacles you are encountering ones that you identified early in the process and your efforts to overcome these obstacles were unsuccessful? If so, work to identify other methods to overcome these obstacles. Have unanticipated obstacles arisen? If so, identify potential ways to overcome these new obstacles.

• Internal Factors – Finally, internal drive and motivation may keep you from achieving goals. Are you sufficiently motivated to work towards goal achievement? Do you have the determination necessary to be successful? If not, then it is important to identify other methods of motivation. It might be helpful to look to outside sources of support (e.g., coworkers, family) to help provide support and motivation. Once you have achieved your goal, remember to take the time to enjoy the benefits you reap from this accomplishment. After all, it was these benefits that gave you the desire and motivation to persevere.

Goal Setting Worksheet

Name: __________________________________ Date: _______________________

Goal Measure Success Deadline Potential Obstacles Ways to Overcome Obstacles
















Goal Setting Worksheet (PDF format)

Goal Setting Worksheet (Word format)