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How to Set Goals That Work

written by: N Nayab•edited by: Ginny Edwards•updated: 10/4/2011

Goals provide direction and purpose to an endeavor. Effective goal setting involves formulating specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound objectives, or listing out tasks to complete, aimed at achieving things and changing behavior.

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    Importance of Goals

    Effective Goal Setting 

    Never underestimate the importance of goals. Goals provide a specific and measurable target or reference indicator that lend clarity to what is required and expected at any given time. It allows the goal-setter to prioritize and focus attention to tasks, work to the pace required, and achieve a specific or long-term purpose.

    A study by Locke et al. (1981) indicates that 90 percent of all research on the topic concludes that the presence of goals results in higher performance than in situations with no goals. While such studies concentrate on the traditional office settings, the fact remains that goal setting is even more important in the home office, and serves as an important guide for the home worker to self-regulate performance.

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    Key Determining Factors

    Effective Goal Setting The process of setting goals first requires an understanding of what one wants, conceptualizing the end in mind, and then clearly identifying the systematic progressions required to attain such ends. The best goals are specific, measurable, attainable, result-oriented and time bound.

    Success depends on many factors, such as:

    • The stated goals being realistic, or within the realm of possibility
    • The ability to fulfill what is written down. Ability is much more than technical competence and skills. It includes self-belief, a positive attitude, and a good awareness of one's own strengths and weaknesses.
    • The stated goals being desirable. Goals need to serve some sense of purpose, such as fulfilling ambition or realizing something that needs doing. Such a “pressing want” is of critical importance to ensure that the individual remains motivated and committed to attaining the goal.
    • The stated goals being constructive, or not destructive to the goal setter and other stakeholders. In other words, goals need to express legitimate wants, needs, feelings, and ideas and create honest relationships with others. This might require negotiating with others on a win-win perspective rather than a win-lose perspective, and incorporating the needs, ambitions, desires, and competency levels of others involved in the tasks that lead to the attainment of the goal.
    • Flexibility to cater to any unexpected developments, but still stating a definite call for action, without any “this or that” alternatives. Flexibility rather means periodic review of the set goals and making necessary changes to reflect the new ground realities.
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    Scientific Reinforcement

    A study by Locke and Latham substantiates much of the key considerations of effective goal setting. This study finds that effective goal setting depends on:

    • Goal commitment, or the importance attached by the self and others to the expected targets
    • Self-efficacy, or self-belief of ability to achieve set goals
    • Extent of commitment made to other stakeholders
    • Feedback that allows employees to check how effectively they perform relative to the goals
    • Task complexity, or the extent to which the task is difficult or easy relative to one's competencies
    • Employee motivation, or the extent to which the employee remains motivated to attain such goals

    Proper goal setting helps the home worker balance work and domestic considerations well and thereby realize his or her purpose of working from home.


  • BYU Marriott School. "Understand and Apply the Principles of Effective Goal Setting." Retrieved 05 January 2011.
  • University of Kentucky. “Effective Goal Setting.” Retrieved 05 January 2011.
  • Latham, G.; Locke, Edwin A. (2002), "Building a Practically Useful Theory of Goal Setting and Task Motivation", The American Psychologist 57 (9): 707–9
  • Image Credit 2: Terms of use
  • Locke, Edwin A.; Shaw, Karyll N.; Saari, Lise M.; Latham, Gary P. (1981), "Goal Setting and Task Performance: 1969–1980", Psychological Bulletin (American Psychological Association) 90 (1): 125–152,, Retrieved 05 January 2011.
  • Image Credit 1: Kiel under CC 2.0 license