Jump to section
Some people wake up each morning and write themselves a to-do list. Each morning, they organize their day.
Sometimes those lists are long… getting through them becomes aspirational. If you’re like me, the list often turns into a record of tasks more than a plan of thoughtful daily goals.
Do you set goals for yourself? Big goals, small goals? Any at all?
Our brains love setting goals — especially when we can cross them off a list. Daily to-do lists can be our best friends. But are those goals? A task list is fine, but our careers (and life satisfaction) benefit when we also set goals.
Real goals can give direction and meaning to that never-ending task list. Plus, daily goals help us prioritize what matters.
Learning how to set daily goals is an important skill that is easily overlooked. But being able to set specific goals won't only help you for the next day or on a daily basis, but down the road.
To help you out, we'll explain the benefits of daily goal setting, how to do it, and how to avoid one of the biggest threats to our goals: distractions.
What are daily goals?
Our daily goals are targets that we'd like to achieve by the end of each day. A goal is anything we direct our efforts towards achieving. Daily goals can be as ambitious as you want.
They’re probably part of your larger, long-term goals, or they could be something you want to accomplish each day, like forming good habits.
When we think of goal setting, we might only think of big goals that involve a longer time frame to complete and demand a lot of effort. But don't let yourself be fooled: daily goals require hard work and effort.
Why is setting daily goals important?
Some of our goals will take a long time to accomplish, and that's perfectly fine. It's a good thing, actually. Patience is important. But daily goals are important for grounding us in the present. They force us to look at our situation today, not tomorrow or next week, but today.
When we set daily goals, we're productive each day. We're constantly creating action plans, and they teach us the importance of planning. Our daily goals also help us feel productive to stay motivated.
Author and public speaker Samantha Kris gave a TedTalk on setting goals that matter, where she explained that we need to set goals that align with our values and that benefit us and what we want our futures to look like.
We can't follow goal-setting paths that others take but instead must carve one out for ourselves.
What Kris says is true. Whether big or small, prioritizing our own goals helps us work towards living a meaningful life that we can feel proud of. We can learn how to set daily goals at work that help us professionally or for our own personal development. This makes our larger goals more manageable.
We can set goals for our well-being, career development, and communication skills. If you’re struggling, BetterUp can help you narrow down what you want to work on and work to build the skills that will help you in the future.
5 benefits of setting daily goals
The benefits of daily goal setting and more short-term goals can impact everyone differently, but there are a few common things that everyone can enjoy. If you still need some insight on what daily goal setting can do for you, here are five benefits to review:
- Procrastination is less of an issue with smaller goals
- You can keep track of and manage your progress more easily
- You feel more obligated to complete them
- You'll feel satisfied because you're accomplishing something each day
- They help build momentum and motivation for larger goals
4 tips for setting daily goals
Just because you want to learn how to set goals everyday doesn't mean it'll happen with the snap of your fingers. Knowing what goals work for you and benefit you the most takes effort and self-awareness.
Before you start to write your first set of daily goals and work to achieve them, here are four tips to consider:
1. Make sure your goals are SMART
Goals can be made without much thought or consideration, but SMART goals are the opposite. They ensure that you're setting specific goals that are achievable and time-bound.
Your action plan is well-thought-out with details that give you a clear sense of direction. Even if your goals are small and incorporated into your daily routine, they can still be SMART.
2. Don't set too many goals
It's OK to get excited about goal setting, but don’t go overboard. This is where you want to get clear on the difference between goals and tasks, too.
Daily goals should ladder up to your monthly and longer-term goals. If not, it’s just a task. That doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary — picking the dog up from the vet needs to be done, but it probably isn’t furthering any goals. You also need to be realistic about what you can accomplish in a single day.
Reflect on your time frame and how long each goal will take in your daily routine (and around those critical tasks). Remember that you don’t need to accomplish 10 goals a day.
You can choose to work on some tomorrow or make them into monthly goals. This will help you celebrate your major milestones as they arrive, too.
3. Practice writing down your goals
Let's face it, we forget things from time to time. When we set our daily goals, we need to write them down so we don't forget and focus more on them.
One study done by psychology professor Dr. Gail Matthews at Dominican University in California found that people who wrote their goals down were more likely to achieve what they set out to do.
Participants were more accountable and committed to the goals they wrote down.
4. Check that your goals match your values
Take a moment and visualize your values. What kind of goals match up with them? The daily goals we set should align with what kind of lifestyle we want to live, and what's important to us. Both professional and personal goals benefit from smaller steps that align with your values.
They can turn into bigger goals that open us up to greater opportunities and new experiences. When you set your goals, never forget your overall intentions with your actions.
When is the best time to write daily goals?
Now, this part may cause a bit of a divide. When we learn how to complete daily goals, we have to learn when to set them. But what matters most is that you set them.
Writing your goals in the morning sets your intentions for the day. They'll help you start and devote your focus for the rest of the day and keep them fresh in your mind.
If you choose to set your daily goals first thing each day, make sure you're setting aside enough time in your morning routine. The last thing you want is to feel rushed and under pressure to outline your important tasks.
But this could be a way of centering yourself and finding some calmness in your otherwise busy morning.
Setting goals in the evening the night before is an entirely different experience. It allows you to brainstorm for the next day after reflecting on the day you just had. Perhaps you didn't get something done that you wanted to achieve, or you had a great idea pop into your mind.
Writing your goals the night before or at the end of the day can help you plan ahead. If you know your morning will be hectic, writing them in the evening already checks one thing off your list.
Maybe you have no idea which works best for you. The best way to solve this is to find out. Next time you go to write your daily goals, switch it up.
How many goals should I set?
We can run into the problem of deciding how many goals to set that are still realistic. Remember, these are the daily goals, not weekly ones. Choosing a manageable number is challenging.
At the same time, setting six goals a day may seem impressive, but if they don't challenge you, they aren't teaching you as much as they could. Brainstorm a list of goals that require an effort but are still attainable.
It's better to accomplish fewer meaningful goals than many goals that don't serve you as much purpose.
In your day, it could be attainable to set four goals. That's at least one for the morning, afternoon, and evening, plus an extra one to work in.
If you find that some days are busier than others and you can't manage four, then scale it back by one. Sometimes, life happens. Have compassion for yourself. Being able to adapt your goals is an important skill to have, too.
How to avoid distractions
As your day is moving along, you could be on a roll. Checking things off here and there and feeling productive with your goals makes you feel good. But then, of course, your phone starts to beep. Then your dog wants to play fetch, and you notice how cluttered your desk is starting to look.
Distractions can come from anywhere, and they can hinder our progress. Luckily, there are ways we can eliminate the number of distractions in our work environment.
Here are five tips to help you minimize distractions as you work on your daily goals:
- Remove physical and virtual clutter from your office space
- Use apps and settings like Forest or Downtime to stay productive
- Close your door or use headphones to make your room quiet
- Set boundaries on when you take breaks and when you work. Try time-blocking to make sure you honor your breaks
- Don't multitask, but remain focused on one task at a time
8 daily goals examples
Our daily goals can be anything, and that's one thing that actually stands in people's way sometimes. They can be specific goals for work or trying to wake up earlier. We can get caught up in trying to set the most impressive goals possible and forget what we need.
To give you some inspiration, here are eight examples of simple daily goals you can set:
- Practice one form of self-care each day
- Do some meditation and mindful breathing exercises
- Read 25 pages of a book
- Brainstorm future goals for your work team
- Move your body for 30 minutes
- Organize something in your home
- Cook at least two of your meals at home
- Practice speaking a new language
How can daily goals help you to accomplish long-term goals?
Setting goals of any kind is beneficial to us. Even when we learn how to set daily goals, they help in the future. Daily goals aren’t the only types of goals we want to set, but the habits and practices we learn from setting daily goals are handy.
They show us the importance of creating an action plan, having good time management skills, and being able to brainstorm our intentions.
By developing these skills, which include building self-confidence, we can achieve any of our goals with hard work. If you're intimidated by setting more long-term goals now, reflect on all the daily goals you accomplish.
Life is full of smaller goals and the tasks of daily living that add up to reaching your life goals. Your daily goals are an achievement. They represent living your life today and moving with purpose toward the future. Celebrate the daily wins! They will motivate and inspire you to keep leveling up.
If you’re struggling to meet your goals, you don’t have to do this alone. At BetterUp, we believe that anyone can benefit from coaching, whether you need to learn how to be more confident or how to better manage your time.