Self Improvement

How to Build Effective Goals in 4 Easy Steps

Bryan Clark 21-10-2015

What’s the difference between someone who’s always stuck in the planning phase and someone who actually achieves their goals? It boils down to proper goal definitions 5 Critical Mistakes To Avoid When Setting Goals Goal setting is a great way to cut down on procrastination and boost productivity. If you don’t have goals, you don’t have direction. Without direction, it’s easy for you to feel lost and confused. Fortunately,... Read More .


In short, actionable goals are much more effective than vague generalities.

For example, saying “I’m going to learn a new language How I Finally Learned a Different Language. And You Can Too. No single language learning app is the magic wand. The secret to learning a new language is a blended solution. With desire and motivation you too can learn any foreign language. Read More ” is a vague goal. It offers no actionable steps that you can act on. Instead, “Every day I’m going to study flash cards for 45 minutes and have a conversation with my language partner” is much more action-oriented.


Heidi Grant Halvorson, the associate director for the Motivation Science Center at Columbia University Business School and the author of the bestselling book Nine Things Successful People Do Differently, raises four key points to making vague goals more actionable:

  1. Establish your goal: Learn a language
  2. Break the goal into three subgoals: Order food in a new language. Converse with a local. Speak with a language partner without needing to translate.
  3. Create an action plan to achieve subgoals: Study flashcards every day. Watch four hours of Spanish television a week.
  4. If-Then plan for subgoals: If I struggle in my language partner conversation, I’ll write down words that I didn’t know. If I can’t remember those words after the conversation, I’ll define them and add them to my flashcards.

If you need more help turning your vague goals into actionable ones, this tool over at Harvard Business Review should help.


What are your current goals? What are you doing to ensure they’re actionable? Let us know in the comments below.

Image Credit: patpitchaya via

Related topics: Productivity, Task Management.

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  1. Anonymous
    October 21, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    There is a typo in the name of the author for the book. The last name should be Halvorson, not Lavorson.

    • Bryan Clark
      October 21, 2015 at 6:54 pm

      Thanks for pointing that out. It's fixed.