Goals vs Objectives: What is the Difference & Examples

On the path to setting goals, you need to clearly differentiate between objectives and goals. The two terms tend to be used interchangeably, but there are some differences that you should be aware of.

Establishing attainable objectives and goals is a surefire way to propel your career forward and elevate your personal life.

This post will discuss the differences between goals and objectives and how to set them effectively. Then, we’ll showcase several examples of goals and objectives to give you better clarity.

What Are Goals?

A goal is a desired outcome that an individual or organization aims to accomplish. Your goal is generally a brief statement focusing on the ideal results. The time frame for completing the goal can span from weeks to years.

The right kind of goal needs to align with your values and interests. They should push you closer to your long-term aspirations in life.

A few common examples of goals are:

What Are Objectives?

Objectives are actionable targets that must be attained to meet a specific goal. In other words, objectives describe the activities or actions required to achieve a goal within a relatively short time.

They provide a clear understanding of what tasks need to be done to move closer to your target.

For instance, to accomplish the goal of losing 10 pounds, a person could have an objective, such as “going to the gym three times each week.”

Continuing with the previous example, here are more objectives for clarity:

  • Drink 16 ounces of water daily
  • Run outside for 20 minutes a day
  • Attend yoga class on the weekends
  • Sleep before 10 PM every night
  • Stretch for 8 minutes each morning

Goals vs Objectives: 4 Key Differences

There are significant differences between goals and objectives. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Time Frame

Goals tend to have a more extended completion date than objectives. For instance, a goal might be “to save $5,000,” while an objective could be “skip out on monthly TV subscriptions.”

This objective can be tackled almost immediately while saving up $5,000 needs to be worked on slowly; it won’t be achieved overnight.

2. Feasibility

Another difference between goals and objectives is feasibility. While most goals are feasible, some may be stretch goals that push the goal-setter beyond their limit. But all objectives are achievable since they are more narrow and described using precise tasks.

3. Specificity

Objectives are more specific than goals. While goals look at the destination, objectives are precise actions for achieving a specific project or task. This is why OKR (Objectives and Key Results) is a popular goal-setting framework. Focusing on the objectives allows for easier tracking than goals.

4. Measurement

As stated previously, goals are broad statements of desired outcomes. But objectives are specific, measurable steps taken to accomplish a goal.

For example, a goal could be to boost sales by 15% within the following year. And to meet that goal, your objective may be to implement a new marketing campaign. Of course, it’s plausible to have objectives that aren’t directly related to a goal.

Let’s say an objective is to “reduce the number of customer complaints by 5% over the next 6 months. This objective doesn’t directly relate to increasing sales, but it’d be necessary to reach that goal.

5 Tips for Setting Goals and Objectives

Consider the following tips in mind to develop amazing goals and objectives for yourself:

1. Create a List of What to Achieve

As you begin chasing your aspirations, start creating a list of what you aim to accomplish. Don’t worry about whether that action item works better as an objective than a goal.

Concentrate on listing as many items as possible. To make it easier for yourself, you should recognize your personal values and use them as a guidepost to point you in the right direction.

2. Organize Your Goals and Objectives

Once you have your list, decide on what’s an objective and what’s a goal. This is where you consider the time frame, specificity, measurability, and scope.

Using the key points, we discussed above, do the action items make more sense as a goal or an objective? Ensure you have that figured out first before anything else.

3. Make Your Goals SMART

The next step is to follow the SMART framework for your goals. It’s essential to understand what SMART stands for:

  • Specific: What exactly will you achieve?
  • Measurable: How will you know you’ve achieved it?
  • Attainment: Are you able to realistically complete this?
  • Relevant: Does this align with your interests and values?
  • Time-based: What is the expected end date for the goal?

If you are missing even one of these criteria for your goals, then you must fine-tune it. Following all 5 SMART criteria is crucial for setting practical goals and having a clear action plan.

4. Share Objectives and Goals With Others

Sharing your goals and objectives with other people may boost your chances of success. Why? Because sharing them helps you be more accountable. This accountability is a great motivator to stay the course and achieve your dreams.

Talking to someone else can be beneficial if you are struggling to push through your action items or are unsure what your next steps should be. They can provide some valuable advice or suggestions you haven’t considered before.

sharing goals

Ultimately, sharing your goals and objectives is instrumental in reaching success. If you are seeking extra inspiration and support, this method can be a fantastic way to receive it.

5. Turn Your Objectives into Actionable Tasks

Since objectives are specific, they serve well as actionable tasks. You can take smaller, more manageable steps to reach your goals.

For instance, say your goal is to start a business. You’ll need to develop objectives like writing a business plan, doing market research, etc.

These are all tasks that need to be completed to meet your goal. Once you have a list of smaller tasks, you can start working on them individually until you’ve finally accomplished your goal.

Goals vs Objectives Examples

Below we’ll deep dive into examples of goals and objectives:

Example 1: Increase Productivity

As a project manager, you want to increase your team’s productivity. You’ve been tracking their progress, and on average, they complete about 50 tasks per week.

You’d like to see that number increase to 60 tasks per week. To do this, you plan to hold weekly meetings to check their progress, set deadlines, and be available to answer any questions.

Let’s break down this example based on the SMART criteria and goal vs. objective definitions we’ve covered in this post.

SMART goal example: Increase team productivity by 20% by the end of the month

Why is this a SMART goal?

  • Specific: It determines the amount of productivity increase you’re aiming for
  • Measurable: It states precisely how you will track progress
  • Attainable: It’s a reasonable SMART goal from their current average
  • Relevant: This relates to your plans for growing the business
  • Time-based: Goal attainment is expected by the end of the month

Objectives:

  • Hold weekly meetings to check in on the progress
  • Set deadlines for tasks
  • Be available to answer questions

Example 2: Lose Weight

Losing weight is a common goal, but it’s not always easy. To lose weight, you must make lifestyle changes and be consistent with your efforts. For instance, you might need to exercise more often, eat healthier foods, and avoid eating late at night.

SMART goal example: Lose 20 pounds by the end of the year

Why is this a SMART goal?

  • Specific: It defines how much weight you want to lose
  • Measurable: You could track your progress on the scale
  • Attainable: It is a realistic goal to lose 1-2 pounds per week
  • Relevant: The statement is pertinent to your health and overall well-being
  • Time-based: You are expected to reach your goal weight within a year

Objectives:

  • Exercise three times per week
  • Eat healthier foods
  • Avoid eating late at night

Example 3: Communicate Effectively

For many people, effective communication is a goal. Whether you want to communicate better with your boss, co-workers, or customers, the objectives will be different.

SMART goal example: Effectively communicate my ideas to others without feeling anxious or tongue-tied within the next two months.

Why is this a SMART goal?

  • Specific: You know exactly what you want to achieve.
  • Measurable: You’ll know you’ve achieved it when you’re able to communicate your ideas effectively without feeling anxious.
  • Attainable: With practice, anyone can learn to communicate more effectively.
  • Relevant: This goal is relevant to your career or personal life.
  • Time-based: There is a two-month deadline for meeting this particular goal.

Objectives:

  • Attend a communication workshop
  • Read a book on communication
  • Practice communicating your ideas to others
  • Get feedback from others on your communication skills

Final Thoughts

Did you know that goals and objectives work in tandem? A goal is a high-level statement of your ideal outcome. Objectives are specific milestones to meet your goals.

Both are essential to helping you make tangible, concrete steps toward your desired outcomes. And for the cherry on top, make sure you use the SMART framework to develop practical goals to increase your likelihood of succeeding.

Failing to have a well-defined plan is a disaster in the making. And don’t forget to actively track your progress consistently.

Most people cannot achieve their goals because they don’t regularly check in on their progress. They end up losing hope and miss out on crucial opportunities for lasting success.

Do not allow that to happen. Take advantage of objectives and goals, and you will soon attain your happy ending.

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