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Short-term goals: Definition, Examples and Importance

16 May, 2024

Setting and achieving goals is a fundamental aspect of personal and professional development, providing direction and motivation. Among the various types of goals, short-term goals play a crucial role in driving immediate progress and setting the stage for long-term success. But what exactly are short-term goals, and why are they so important? 

In this article, Skilltrans will delve into the definition of short-term goals, explore practical examples across different areas of life, and highlight their significance in helping individuals and organizations stay focused, motivated, and on track toward achieving their larger ambitions. 

In addition, we also expanded the article in terms of how to answer common interview questions. Hopefully, the diverse information can give you insight into short-term goals.

What Is a Short-Term Goal?

A short-term goal is an achievable objective you aim to accomplish within a relatively short period, typically less than a year. These goals are planned and accomplished in a relatively brief period and often serve as stepping stones toward larger, long-term goals. While long-term goals may span years or even decades, short-term goals are completed relatively quickly, providing a sense of immediate progress and motivation. It helps you break down complex tasks into manageable steps, making the overall journey more manageable and less daunting. 

Here are some main characteristics of short-term goals:

  • Time-bound: Short-term goals have a specific deadline or timeframe for completion. The term can be a day, week, month, or up to a year.

  • Measurable: Ideally, short-term goals should be measurable so you can track your progress and celebrate achievements.

  • Attainable: Short-term goals should be challenging but capable of completion within the set timeframe. If you set unrealistic goals, that will lead you to discouragement and want to give up.

  • Action-oriented: Short-term goals should be phrased by specifying what you must do to achieve them.

These goals are often tangible and measurable, allowing you to track your progress and adjust your approach as needed.

Short-term goals provide a sense of focus and direction, helping you stay motivated and on track toward achieving your larger aspirations. By setting realistic and actionable objectives, you can make steady progress and ultimately achieve success in various aspects of your life.

Here's how some prominent organizations and thought leaders define short-term goals:

  • American Psychological Association (APA): The APA doesn't have a specific definition for short-term goals, but its resources on goal setting emphasize the importance of setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals. Short-term goals would typically fall under this framework.

  • MindTools: This leadership development website defines a short-term goal as an objective that can be achieved within a short period, typically within a day, a week, a month, or up to a year. They emphasize that short-term goals should be action-oriented and serve as stepping stones towards larger, long-term goals.

  • The Muse: A career development website, The Muse, defines short-term goals as mini-milestones that help you stay motivated and on track towards your long-term goals. They suggest short-term goals should be specific and measurable and have a clear deadline.

  • Mel Robbins, Author and Motivational Speaker:  Mel Robbins emphasizes the importance of setting daily goals as a form of short-term goal setting.  She focuses on the idea of taking small, achievable steps each day to move closer to your long-term vision.

In general, experts agree that short-term goals are achievable objectives within a short timeframe, typically less than a year. They should be specific, measurable, and action-oriented to keep you motivated and focused on the steps needed to reach your long-term aspirations.

Short-term goals examples you need to know

Here are some examples of short-term goals categorized by different areas of life:

  • Health and Fitness

- Making progress toward a fitness or wellness goal, such as losing a certain amount of weight or improving flexibility.

- Develop a habit of going to the gym 3 times a week for a month.

- Exercise for at least 30 minutes, five times a week.

- Incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your daily meals.

- Achieve a specific weight loss target within the next three months.

- Improve flexibility by practicing yoga or stretching exercises three times a week.

Eliminate sugary drinks from your diet for 2 weeks (action-oriented and time-bound).

  • Personal Development

- Learning a new skill or acquiring knowledge in a particular area through coursework or self-study.

- Learn 10 new vocabulary words in a week.

- Master a new skill, like basic coding, within 6 months.

- Attend a workshop or training session to develop a new skill.

- Spend quality time with family or friends at least twice a week.

- Develop a daily routine to stay organized and focused.

- Building or strengthening relationships by scheduling regular meetups or engaging in activities with friends or family members.

- Read one book on a specific topic each month.

  • Productivity

- Completing a specific project or assignment by a designated deadline.

- Increasing productivity by implementing time management techniques or improving efficiency in daily tasks.

- Learn a time management technique and implement it for a month.

- Wake up 30 minutes earlier each day for a week to establish a new morning routine (action-oriented and time-bound).

- Clean and organize your workspace for improved focus (action-oriented).

  • Finances

- Saving a specific amount of money within a set timeframe for a short-term expense or financial milestone.

- Create a monthly budget and stick to it to reduce unnecessary expenses.

- Save a certain percentage of your income each month for an emergency fund.

- Pay off a credit card or reduce overall debt by a specific amount within the next six months.

- Start investing in a retirement account and contribute a set amount each month.

These are just examples, and the best short-term goals will be specific to your own life and aspirations.  Make sure your goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) to increase your chances of success.

The importance of setting short-term goals

Setting short-term goals is a critical component of personal and professional success. These goals are achievable within a relatively short period and contribute to long-term achievement. Here are some key reasons why setting short-term goals is important:

  • Increased Motivation: Large, long-term goals can feel overwhelming. Short-term goals act as stepping stones, making the path to achievement seem more manageable and keeping you motivated throughout the journey.

  • Increased Focus and Clarity: Short-term goals help you narrow your focus on specific tasks and objectives, providing a clear direction for your efforts. This clarity ensures you prioritize the most important activities and avoid distractions, leading to more efficient use of your time and resources.

  • Enhanced Motivation: Achieving short-term goals creates a sense of accomplishment and boosts motivation. This positive reinforcement encourages you to keep moving forward, building momentum to sustain over the long term. Each small success provides the encouragement needed to tackle more significant challenges.

  • Measurable Progress: Short-term goals allow you to track your progress easily. By setting clear, measurable objectives, you can regularly assess your achievements and make necessary adjustments. This continuous feedback loop helps you stay on track and ensures that you are making steady progress toward your long-term goals.

  • Adaptability and Flexibility: Setting short-term goals enables you to adapt to changing circumstances more easily. If a specific strategy is not working, you can quickly reassess and modify your goals without significant disruption. This flexibility is crucial in dynamic environments where conditions and priorities could shift rapidly.

  • Boosted Confidence: Achieving short-term goals can build confidence in your abilities. Each success reinforces your belief in your capability to achieve your objectives, creating a positive cycle of self-assurance that empowers you to pursue more ambitious goals.

  • Action-Oriented Mindset: The process of setting short-term goals involves outlining the specific actions you need to take. This clarity helps you concentrate on what needs to be done and avoid procrastination.

  • Reduced Stress and Overwhelm: Breaking down long-term goals into smaller, manageable steps reduces feelings of stress and overwhelm. So you could focus on the present task without getting bogged down by the enormity of the long-term goal.

In conclusion, setting short-term goals is a powerful strategy for staying motivated, focused, and on track to achieve your long-term aspirations. It's like creating a roadmap to success, with each completed short-term goal as a milestone that brings you closer to your ultimate destination.

Answer Short-term goals in the interview

When preparing for a job interview, it’s important to be ready to discuss your short-term goals. This question helps employers understand your immediate aspirations, how they align with the company's objectives, and whether you are motivated and forward-thinking. Here’s a guide on how to approach this topic effectively:

Short-Term Goals in the Interview: Questions and Tips

During job interviews, candidates are often asked about their short-term goals to understand their immediate ambitions, how they plan to achieve them, and how these goals align with the company’s objectives. Here are some common questions you might encounter and tips on how to effectively respond to them.

  • Question: What are your short-term career goals?

Tip: Focus on goals that align with the position you are applying for and demonstrate your commitment to professional growth. Mention specific skills you wish to develop or milestones you aim to achieve.

  • Question: How do you plan to achieve your short-term goals?

Tip: Provide a clear and actionable plan. Mention any steps you’ve already taken and outline how the position you’re applying for will help you reach these goals.

  • Question: Where do you see yourself in the next year?

Tip: Align your answer with the potential career path at the company. Highlight your desire to contribute to the company’s success while developing your skills and gaining new experiences.

  • Question: What skills do you want to develop shortly?

Tip: Identify skills that are relevant to the job and show your willingness to learn and improve. Mention any specific training or certification programs you are interested in.

  • Question: How do your short-term goals fit into your long-term career plan?

Tip: Connect your immediate goals with your broader career aspirations. Explain how achieving these short-term objectives will help you reach your long-term ambitions.

How to effectively answer questions about your short-term goals?

When you're asked about your short-term goals in an interview, it's an opportunity to demonstrate your ambition, planning skills, and alignment with the company's objectives. Here’s how to effectively answer questions about your short-term goals:

  • Be Specific and Realistic

Set clear, achievable goals. For example, instead of saying, “I want to improve my skills,” you could say, “I aim to become proficient in using advanced Excel functions within the next six months.”

  • Show Alignment with the Company

Ensure your short-term goals align with the company’s objectives and the role you are applying for. This demonstrates your understanding of the company and your commitment to contributing to its success.

  • Demonstrate Proactivity

Highlight any steps you have already taken toward achieving your goals, such as enrolling in relevant courses, attending workshops, or gaining experience through internships or projects.

  • Emphasize Learning and Development

Show that you are eager to learn and grow within the company. Employers appreciate candidates who are committed to continuous improvement and professional development.

  • Connect to Long-Term Goals

Explain how your short-term goals are stepping stones to your long-term career aspirations. This helps the interviewer see the bigger picture of your career trajectory.

For example answer questions about your short-term goals

When asked about your short-term goals in an interview, it’s important to provide answers that are specific, realistic, and aligned with the job you're applying for. Here are some example answers for different scenarios:

  • Example 1:

"In the short term, I aim to enhance my project management skills by earning a certification in Project Management Professional (PMP) within the next year. I have already started preparing by taking online courses and practicing with project management software. This goal aligns with my long-term ambition of taking on more leadership roles in project management and contributing to more efficient and successful project executions at your company."

  • Example 2:

"My short-term goal is to become proficient in digital marketing strategies, particularly in SEO and PPC advertising. I plan to achieve this by completing a specialized certification program over the next six months and applying these skills to projects. This knowledge will not only benefit my role here but also support the company's efforts to enhance its online presence and drive traffic to our website."

  • Example 3:

"Within the next year, I aim to improve my sales techniques and build stronger client relationships. I am currently reading industry books and attending workshops on effective sales strategies. Achieving this goal will help me contribute more effectively to the sales team and ultimately support the company's revenue growth."

By preparing thoughtful and relevant responses to questions about your short-term goals, you can effectively communicate your ambition, strategic thinking, and alignment with the potential employer’s objectives. This approach not only showcases your readiness for the role but also your long-term value to the organization.


In conclusion, short-term goals are fundamental for achieving broader, long-term objectives. Whether in personal development, professional growth, health, or financial planning, short-term goals help break down larger ambitions into manageable, actionable steps. 

Embracing the power of short-term goals can transform aspirations into reality, fostering a continuous journey of improvement and achievement. 

Skilltrans has many courses on health and personal development. We are always ready to welcome new students to help you achieve your short-term goals.