Goal-setting worksheets are helpful tools for creating, tracking, and achieving effective goals. There are many template options available, but overall, a good goal-setting worksheet forces you to detail your desired goal and the actions necessary to achieve it. To help, I've created five of the most useful goal-setting worksheets you can download free as well as listed other available options.
These five free goal-setting worksheet templates each build off each other. First, understand the "SMART" goal-setting format. From there, determine which areas of your life you want to set goals. Then, define your short-term, annual, and longer-term goals. You can download all five goal-setting worksheet templates below and read specific information on how to use each.
SMART Goals are goals written in a framework where they are specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time-bound. Goals written this way using the SMART acronym are more thoughtful and effective goals because they are clear and well-defined. Regardless of the types of goals you set, everything should be written in the SMART format. For specific background information, check out my article on SMART goal-setting.
The SMART goal-setting worksheet below helps you transform any goal, wish, vision, or desire into an actionable and achievable SMART goal. This is why it's first on the list. With it, you can better utilize the remaining goal-setting worksheets in this article by ensuring everything you do follows the SMART method of goal-setting.
All goals should be specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time-bound. However, often times people set vague goals that make it easy to fall off track. To help, it's important to follow the SMART goal-setting framework, which ensures each goal you set hits on all five of the relevant points mentioned.
Using the SMART goal-setting worksheet, start by defining your primary goal, which may still be vague or hard to fully understand. That's ok as a starting point. From there, define your (albeit vague) goal's importance to you so you have a firm understanding of the "why" behind your desire, making it easier to stay motivated in the pursuit of its achievement.
Once you have that, the worksheet walks you through each of the five SMART elements, asking questions of your previously-stated primary goal that help you fit your identified desire into the correct SMART format.
After you have each of the five elements defined independent of each other, the worksheet has you combine all five SMART elements into one cohesive goal that reads clean, has a well-defined reason for existing, and touches on all the important aspects of an effective and motivating goal. Only then should you identify and list out necessary action items for achievement.
The annual goal-setting worksheet can help you set one or more annual goals that should take four full quarters to achieve and isn't required to start on January 1st. Because a year can be long, it's important to define your annual goal but then break it down into smaller, quarterly goals that build off each other and help you get closer to achieving your 12-month goal.
For this reason, the annual goal-setting worksheet first helps you outline your annual goal (using the SMART method) and then works backward in time, defining necessary achievements on a quarterly basis. This ensures that everything you do is in direct service of your longer-term goal but allows you to take it in more manageable bite-sized chunks that begin with the end in mind.
The annual goal-setting worksheet takes your annual goal and works backward, identifying the quarterly goals necessary to achieve your annual goal in 12-months. The reason why you start at the end and work backwards is because it better helps you identify the required work and the timeframe necessary for completion.
For example, if your annual goal is to write a novel in 12 months, it's harder to start from the beginning and identify what you need to have done by the end of the first quarter (Q1) in order to have a finished novel by years-end. Conversely, it's easier to identify what you need done by the end of the third quarter (Q3) in order to complete the book by the end of the fourth quarter (Q4), and so on.
If your annual goal is to have a self-published novel live on Amazon by the end of Q4 (Dec 31st), perhaps that means the draft manuscript must be completed by the end of Q3 (Sept 30th) so you have time to edit the draft with your editor. This means your Q3 goal is to have your first draft manuscript complete by September 30th.
In order to do that, this means you'll have to have half your book written by the end of Q2 (June 30th), so your Q2 goal is to have half your manuscript complete by quarters-end. This means that you should be able to write the first half over the three months of Q2 and the second half over the three months of Q3, leaving the first quarter (Q1) dedicated to outlining your story, which is your Q1 goal.
This way, it's easier to identify the actions necessary to achieve your annual goal on a quarter-by-quarter basis, ensuring that everything you do, even if it's 12-months out, is in direct service of your annual goal. Use this worksheet to help translate your longer-term goal into four manageable chunks, including a list of immediate action items.
Long-term goals are ones that take five years or more to complete. Because of this longer timeframe, these are more visions than they are goals. Often times, goals this far out are used more as a compass or guiding light and direction to follow, rather than a more hard-nosed SMART goal that's more clear because the timeframe is more immediate.
For this reason, the long-term goal-setting worksheet is designed to help you translate your 5+ year goals into one or more visions, then using that defined vision to breakdown your longer-term goal into more bite-sized annual goals. Once you have each of these annual goals defined, use the annual goal-setting worksheet to break the most immediate one down into quarterly goals, then use the SMART goal-setting worksheet to translate those into actionable, short-term goals.
How to Use the Long-Term Goal-Setting Worksheet
Goals with an estimated time to completion longer than five years are typically used more for vision-setting and as a guiding light to follow. You may or may not actually achieve them, but by setting out in their general direction, you get increasingly closer to your ideal life over time.
Another reason why these long-term goals are used as a direction rather than a destination is because things change a lot over a five-year span. Things that interest you today may not interest you tomorrow, and vice versa. This is why it's important to have a vision and take consistent action towards the achievement of that vision, but remain flexible enough to evolve your goals over time.
Using the long-term goal setting worksheet, start by translating your longer-term wishes into more actionable visions. Then, break down your five-year goal into five annual goals, starting at the end and working your way back toward year one. Remember, your defined goals for years 2-5 may or may not be the goals you actually want two to five years, but they give you a direction to start.
While you may only want a goal-setting worksheet that helps with a single goal, the fact of the matter is we often need to set goals in multiple areas of our lives. To help, this worksheet was created to identify the areas of your life in which you want to set goals (like "family" or "career") and then outline your short-, medium-, and long-term goals in each of those areas.
If you'd like, it's possible to use this to zero in on the number of long-term goals you want to set and why, and then use the long-term, annual, and SMART goal-setting worksheets to break each of those areas of life into manageable and actionable shorter-term goals.
Start by identifying each of the areas of life that are important to you. List them in the left-hand column. Common areas of life include things like "financial", "health", and "family." Then, in each of your identified areas, outline your overall long-term vision and your broad goals over the short-, medium-, and long-term.
This should help you focus your goal-setting effort in the areas of life that matter to you. This way, you see tangible improvement in the places you care about. Use this sheet to identify your life areas and broad goals, then use the previous worksheets to translate each of those goal-setting areas into manageable initiatives.
Similar to our different areas of life, we also play different roles in life. Some of us are siblings, parents, spouses, friends, neighbors, and anything else you might label yourself. Like our life areas, our life roles are important for us to focus on and set goals in each of the important roles we play.
Start by defining the different roles you play in life that are important to you. List them on the left-hand side of the worksheet. Then, for each of your roles, outline your vision for that role and define the broad short-, medium-, and long-term goals that will help you achieve that vision.
Once you've done this, you can use the long-term, annual, and SMART goal-setting worksheets to translate each of your life roles into actionable goals that build off each other and help you become the best version of yourself.
While the five free goal-setting worksheets above should cover your goal-setting needs, they aren't the only templates available. Some prominent gurus such as sales expert Zig Ziglar offer goal-setting worksheets, and there are numerous other resources on the web. Here are a couple of alternative options to point out.
Zig Ziglar is a famed sales and management expert best known for his motivational content. As part of his teachings, Ziglar outlines seven steps to goal-setting and offers a goal-setting worksheet to help. Below is an example of his goal-setting worksheet that uses his defined steps.
Alternatively, a simple search of "goal-setting worksheets" around the web will yield you dozens if not hundreds of options. However, I caution you that many of these free templates are suspect and don't provide any science or actionability behind some of what they promote. For that reason, I recommend using the five templates I've provided above or a template from a reputable source.
Sometimes the best way to set goals ins't to use a worksheet at all. In fact, there are many digital tools and options available that help you set, track, and achieve goals without having to print anything out. Two of those options is the project management tool Trello as well as various goal-setting apps.
Trello is a project management tool that can double as a goal-setting worksheet. With it, you can create cards with due dates, notes, checklists, and more. Then, you can create columns that denote various items and drag cards across the different columns. This way, you can outline well-defined goals, categorize them for specific areas of your life, and track their progress in real-time.
Alternatively, there are many goal-setting apps available with the specific purpose of helping you set, track, and achieve goals. These apps range from simple habit-forming tools to full-blown communities with coaches and peers. With the number of apps available, there's certainly one that can provide the benefits of a goal-setting worksheet in a digital way. If this sounds interesting, I wrote an article on the best goal-setting apps available.
Is There a Simple Goal-Setting Worksheet?
The simplest goal-setting worksheet is one that follows the SMART framework. All SMART goals are specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time-bound. The most effective simple goal-setting worksheets help you set a single goal using the SMART methodology.
What’s the Best Goal-Setting Worksheet for Business?
Businesses can be complex entities and therefore may require a more detailed goal-setting worksheet. However, all businesses should have a vision that's translated into annual and quarterly goals, making the annual and long-term goal-setting worksheets best.
What’s the Best Academic Goal-Setting Worksheet?
The best academic goal-setting worksheet is one that's habit forming, because often times an academic goal such as "pass a test" requires consistent study habits. To help, use a SMART goal-setting worksheet to define the "why" that motivates you to study consistently.
What’s the Best Goal-Setting Worksheet for Teenagers?
Everyone should start goal-setting with the SMART framework. Because of this, it's important to teach teenagers how to set effective goals using the SMART methodology. The SMART goal-setting worksheet is therefore best.
Overall, the five goal-setting worksheets provided here should give you the ability to define your vision, translate that vision into a series of annual goals, break down those annual goals into quarterly initiatives, and create everything using the SMART framework. If you're looking for a digital option, check out the goal-setting apps mentioned above.