Writing Effective Specific Goals

Helping Students Move Beyond General Goals

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Once you have determined a general goal and you think you know why it appeals to you, you are ready to write it in a way that will help you make it happen.


Studies of successful people have shown that they write goals that contain similar elements. To write a goal like winners do, be sure that:

  1. It is stated in a positive way. (eg. I will..." not, "I might" or "I hope..."
  2. It is obtainable. (Be realistic, but don't sell yourself short.)
  3. It involves your behavior and not someone else's.
  4. It is written.
  5. It includes a way to measure successful completion.
  6. It includes the specific date when you will begin working on the goal.
  7. It includes a projected date when you will reach the goal.
  8. If it is a big goal, it is divided into manageable steps or sub-goals.
  9. The projected dates for working on and completion of sub-goals are specified.

Despite the length of the list, great goals are easy to write. The following are examples of goals containing the necessary components.

  1. General Goal: I will be a better basketball player this year.Specific Goal: I will get 18 baskets in 20 tries by June 1st of this year.
    I will begin working on this goal on January 15th.
  2. General Goal: I will become an electrical engineer someday. Specific Goal: I will have a job as an electrical engineer by January 1st.
    I will begin working on this goal on February 1st.
  3. General Goal: I will go on a diet.Specific Goal: I will lose 10 pounds by April 1st.
    I will begin dieting and exercising on February 27th.

Now, write your general goal. (Be sure to start with "I will.")


Now make it more specific by adding the manner of measurement and projected completion date.


I will begin working on this goal on (date) _______________________________

Considering how completing this goal will benefit you is quite important because this benefit will be the source of motivation for the work and sacrifice needed to complete your goal.

To remind yourself why this goal is important to you, complete the sentence below. Use as much detail as you can by imagining the goal completed. Begin with, "I will benefit by meeting this goal because..."


Because some goals are so big that thinking about them makes us feel overwhelmed, it is necessary to break them into sub goals or the steps you need to take in order to meet your major goal. These steps should be listed below along with a projected date for completion.

Creating Sub-Goals

Since this list will be used to schedule your work on these steps, you will save time if you set up a table on another piece of paper with a wide column for listing the steps, and a number of columns to the side which will eventually be used to indicate time periods.

On a separate sheet of paper, make a table with two columns. To the right of these columns, attach gridded or graph paper. See the image at the top of the page for an example.

After you have listed the steps you will need to complete in order to attain your goal, estimate the date by which you can complete all of them. Use this as your projected ending date.

Next, turn this table into a Gantt chart by labeling columns to the right of completion date with appropriate time periods (weeks, months, or years) and color in the cells for the times you will work on a particular step.

Project management software usually contains features for making Gantt charts and make the job more fun by automatically changing related charts when you make a change in any one of them.

Now that you have learned to write a great specific goal and to schedule sub-goals on a Gantt chart, you are ready to learn how to maintain your motivation and momentum.

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Your Citation
Kelly, Melissa. "Writing Effective Specific Goals." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/writing-great-specific-goals-8079. Kelly, Melissa. (2023, April 5). Writing Effective Specific Goals. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/writing-great-specific-goals-8079 Kelly, Melissa. "Writing Effective Specific Goals." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/writing-great-specific-goals-8079 (accessed June 1, 2023).