A common trait of successful people — and businesses — is that they set goals for themselves. A Harvard Business School study even determined a direct connection between goal setting and success. In the study, which reviewed one class of Harvard MBA graduates, the 3% who set goals for themselves and wrote them down earned 10 times as much as the remaining 97%.

What does that mean for you? You should set clear goals for yourself if you want to be successful.

Creating clearly laid out objectives will help you know and understand what you're working toward in both your professional and personal life. This focus allows you to hone in on the daily tasks that will move you toward your long-term goals.

It's not always easy to stay on track, though. Even the most diligent workers and business owners fall victim to procrastination and time management concerns. This article will offer useful tips on prioritizing your work, providing a step-by-step approach to achieving your important goals.

How to Prioritize Your Work

If you have a lot on your plate, work prioritization allows you to determine the important tasks that need to be tackled first and can help you stay flexible as new assignments cross your path. Don't worry about having enough time to complete everything that needs to get done in record time. This section will help you understand various prioritization methods and how to shift gears for urgent matters that affect your workflow.

Create a Task List

Build a list of all the tasks you need to complete, writing them out and keeping them in one place. Your list will serve as a visual reminder of your goals.

When creating your list, ideally, you'll organize tasks into several categories. Your daily list should include your short-term goals and the high-priority tasks that need to be completed on a tighter deadline, such as by the end of the day. A weekly or monthly list of goals will keep you on track for midsize projects, while your long-term list keeps your big picture goals in mind.

Determine Task Deadlines

With your task list in hand, you next need to determine your deadlines. In some cases, that will be easy to figure out, as an external force — like your boss or a client — will require a due date.

For other items on your to-do list, identify every step required to accomplish them and estimate the amount of time it will take you to get them done. Can you complete a task within a workday or do you need more time?

It's important to review these items with a critical lens so that you can set an accurate timeline for each task. Then, assign yourself a deadline for each item and work on those with the nearest deadline. Those should be your highest priorities.

Assess the Importance of Tasks

As you review your to-do list and assign deadlines, assess the importance of each task. To do this accurately, you'll need to have a deeper understanding of your professional goals and company culture.

Also, check in with your bosses, employees, co-workers, and clients for feedback on tasks and to determine your most important work. Understanding the perspective of all stakeholders involved will help you make the best choices when prioritizing your goals.

Complete Tasks and Reexamine Your Task List

As you complete tasks, reexamine your task list. Life is unpredictable, especially when it comes to business. You never know what new tasks will pop up as you're working on a project. Be prepared to adapt your deadlines to problems and new priorities that arise. Flexibility will take you far as you set goals and work to achieve them.

How to Achieve Goals

The prioritization of your workload is just one step to achieving your goals, both short and long term. Here are some other tips for project management and goal setting.

Clearly Define Your Goal(s)

Whether you're working for others or running your own company, the first thing you need to do is define and set your goals. To do this properly, you need a deeper understanding of yourself and your business.

Ask yourself a few questions: What's important to you personally and professionally? What gives your life meaning? What are your best skills? What is the most important problem — big or small — that you could see yourself tackling through your career? Where do you see yourself in 20 years?

The answer to these and similar questions will help you set goals — and not just any goals, but ones you can actually achieve.

An excellent tool for establishing clear, reachable goals is by using the SMART method. Your goals should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-based

As you set goals, compare them against these five qualities and tweak them until they fit within those parameters.

Focus on a Few Specific Goals at a Time

If you take on too much at once, you'll spread yourself too thin and lose focus. This is why you should focus on a few specific goals at any given time. Working on too many goals could lead to burnout and, possibly, failure to meet your objectives. Goal setting will improve your focus and make you a more effective worker.

As you set goals for yourself, be smart about it. Be aware of your time and availability, your current workload, other goals, and client and employer expectations.

Break Down Goals Into Manageable Tasks

Once you determine your end goal, break it down even further into more manageable, actionable steps. Define milestones toward your goal and create specific task lists to reach them.

Completing an intricate, complex project in a series of mini-tasks helps you accomplish your goals with less effort. Through these bite-sized tasks, you're less likely to burn out and more likely to stay on schedule, feel confident in your work, execute your goals, and find success.

Manage Progress Toward Your Goals

Once your goals and tasks are set, you should actively manage your progress throughout the course of working toward your end result. If you don't, you run the risk of getting off-track and losing sight of your planned outcome.

Time management is imperative as you manage your to-do list and track your progress. Oversee your progress through lists — either handwritten or digital — your favorite app, or workflow management software.

Achieve Goals and Reflect on Them

Once you've completed a project or achieved whatever goal you've set for yourself, take the time to reflect on your work and achievement. Making this a habit at the completion of any initiative can help you learn from your experiences and use that knowledge on your next project.

Review the process of achieving your goal. What challenges did you face? What approaches worked for you? Where did you excel? Apply what served you well to future projects and figure out how to avoid any issues you previously dealt with.

Effectively Manage Your Financial Goals With Skynova

Use Skynova's all-in-one accounting software to manage and meet your financial goals as you complete projects and other tasks. Our centralized platform makes it easy to track your income and expenses so you can accurately and effectively manage a project from start to finish.

Our software products and business templates simplify your bookkeeping process, streamlining your filing management and allowing you to customize invoices, receipts, orders, deposits, and other important documents. Skynova's platform is dedicated to helping professionals successfully plan for and reach their goals.

Notice to the Reader

The content within this article is meant to be used as general guidelines and may not apply to your specific situation. Always consult with a professional to ensure you're meeting industry standards.