How to Set Different Types of Goals

An Ink+Volt Planner is open on a desk alongside a gray planner cover, two rolls of washi tape, a silver Carnan D'Ache pen and a butterfly faceted foil notepad

We love setting goals at Ink+Volt. 

We love them so much, our mission strongly reflects that love and commitment. And we know goals are just as important to you, too. 

That’s because goals transform your life. Goals are powerful and are the catalyst for big, wonderful things. 

But have you noticed you sometimes get stuck in a rut when it comes to goal-setting? Or maybe you feel like you’re not making progress in certain areas of your life? 

Every now and then it’s important to evaluate the types of goals you’re setting. Which ones are you most commonly setting and why? Spending some time reflecting on the the types of goals will help you set better goals in the future. And when you think about it, we’re only as strong as the goals we set. 

Here’s how you can think about different types of goals and the impact each has on your life, making revamping your goal-setting easy and straightforward. 

Why you should set different types of goals

When you sit down to set your goals, it makes sense to build on the past. If you had a fitness goal to complete 30 pushups a day and now you want to be able to do 50, you needed that first goal as a base to build upon. 

But if these kinds of goals — the ones that build on each other — aren’t resulting in the progress you want to see, or if you find yourself feeling tired of working on the same thing over and over, it’s time for a change. 

When you make the same types of goals over and over, expanding on the ones you had before, you’re not branching out and considering other aspects of your life that can benefit from goal-setting too. You forget that there are many different types of goals, and the goal that works for one aspect of your life doesn’t necessarily impact or touch all the other parts of your life. The consequence is that there are often gaps, like maybe you have strong fitness goals but weak financial goals.

The bottom line: it’s important to remember that different types of goals are important for different components of your life. Each one has a unique purpose that will help you grow and become stronger. 

Types of goals

You can think about the types of goals in a few different ways: categories or themes, timing or duration, and size. Having a mix of these different types of goals leads to more balanced goal-setting.

Broad, general categories of goals help you group the more specific goal ideas you have when brainstorming. It’s typical to have an idea for a specific goal, like the pushup example above, that will fall under one of these broad categories. For example, broadspecific goals may look like this:

Education/professional developmentcomplete a degree/certification, complete continuing education course

Career/professional developmentget promoted, negotiate a higher salary

Community/giving back/volunteeringvolunteer at local soup kitchen, support fundraising activities for charity

Environmental, minimizing waste/excessbringing reusable utensils to work, using reusable bags at the grocery

Personal development

  • Health/physical fitnesstrain for a 5k race, walk 10,000 steps a day
  • Wellnessmeditate 5-10 minutes a day, write in gratitude journal 5 times a week
  • Spiritualconnect with nature and the universe more holistically, start the day with a prayer or meditation
  • Financialcreate an emergency fund, be debt-free
  • Intellectuallearn a new language, learn and use one new word a day


  • Friends, socialcheck in with long distance friends regularly
  • Family membersbe present when you’re together, spend more time together
  • Significant otherdedicate alone time together, improve communication

Time-bound goals are those that you set to last for a specific amount of time, for example weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly, 5-10 years, or lifelong.

Maybe you’re really good at setting a yearly goal, but haven’t tried setting weekly and monthly goals to help you achieve your yearly goal. Goals that you accomplish over different periods of time typically reflect the size of the goal as well. Bigger goals will need a year or 5-10, whereas smaller ones that are less complex may only need a week or a month.

Goals that are different sizes are just that. Some are big, some are small, and others are somewhere in between. The big ones will take a long time, a lot of effort, and significant dedication. The smaller ones won’t, but in both cases the goals are probably going to be equally significant and impactful to you and your life. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have chosen that goal in the first place.

Which types of goals do you commonly set?

Take a look at the types of goals you’ve set in the past and compare them to the types of goals described above. Depending on how long you’ve been tracking and setting goals, and how old you are, you may be going back a ways or just a year. What category have they been falling into, are you setting goals of different duration, and different sizes?

Then consider if there are areas of your life that would benefit from goals in some of the other categories that you hadn’t considered setting goals in. 

And look to see if the goals you’ve been setting are actually getting you to bigger goals or the success you’re ultimately looking for. 

By going through this process, you’re evaluating whether or not it’s time for a change in the types of goals you’re setting now as well as going forward. By being more aware, you’ll find more balance and strengthen areas of your life that have been neglected or avoided.

Setting different types of goals — don’t go overboard

To revamp the types of goals you set, it helps to make sure you don't have too many goals under one broad category, time duration, or size. Keep in mind that some types of goals will be more at the forefront or larger than others at different times in your life and that’s okay. It’s something to be aware of and note.

Instead, try to seek a balance by choosing goals under more than one category, that have different time durations, and are different sizes. 

You don’t have to have a big, significant goal in every category; it’s not realistic and you could be setting yourself up to fail. Pick your biggest goal that will take you time, then choose smaller goals in other categories for the duration you’re working on your big goal. This way, you’ll have goals of different durations and sizes, but also in different categories. You’ll be more likely to succeed on all of your goals by taking this approach and you’re less likely to miss major categories of goals all together.

Different types of goals are treated the same

For every type of goal you set, keep in mind that the process for creating and defining the goal remains unchanged, you’ll treat them all the same way. 

All goals should be SMART in order to be successful:

  • S - Specific and precise, it should be very clear and obvious what your goal is in 1 to 2 sentences.
  • M - Measurable in terms of how much, how many, how far, how long, etc. so that you will know when you have achieved the goal.
  • A - Achievable and realistic goals take into account resources and constraints, hurdles and limitations.
  • R - Relevant goals are applicable to you, what you want, and where you are.
  • T - Time-bound goals have a target date that will keep you accountable and on track; it helps you to focus on what you can do today, this week, within 3-4 months, etc.

Goals help you achieve what is important to you. Follow these steps to achieve balance and success in all areas of your life. Happy goal-setting!

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