How to develop and track personal goals

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6 min read

We all have ambitious dreams we whisper to ourselves under the covers. Perhaps it's mastering a new language or finally conquering a 5K race. Or maybe you want to launch your side hustle. But let's be honest: setting goals and translating those dreams into reality can feel like trying to herd cats.

Information overload, scattered to-do lists, and that nagging voice whispering, "You'll never do it anyway" — yep, we've all been there. But fear not! We're here to be your goal-setting hype man, offering a toolbox of killer iOS apps designed to turn those hazy aspirations into laser-focused achievements.

Personal vs. professional development plans

Let's start with the basics. Personal goals focus on your well-being and development. They look at your life outside of work, whereas professional goals target your achievements and aspirations with your career.

Personal goals can include anything from improving your health and learning a new skill to traveling and strengthening relationships. On the other hand, professional goals could include getting a promotion, mastering a new software program, or starting your own business.

There can definitely be overlap, though! For instance, improving your communication skills could benefit your personal and professional life.

How personal goal setting affects work performance

Personal goals can help you significantly improve your performance at work. There are three key personal goals that you can utilize in any work setting:

  • Skill development goals. New skills can open doors to more complex tasks and projects. They also improve your value as an employee, as you can offer additional skills to the company. For example, a personal goal to learn a new language could enhance your ability to communicate with international clients.
  • Performance goals. For example, a simple goal like "Reduce time on social media by 25%" could be akin to "Reduce turnaround time by 25%" for project delivery.
  • Self-development goals. Many personal goals, such as improving communication, delegation, and problem-solving skills, can also help you advance your career. For example, you can set a personal goal such as "I want to gain leadership experience" - and then take on a project management role.

As much as we may try to separate our personal and professional lives, the truth is that they go hand in hand. Setting great personal goals carries over into your work life, too.

How to write effective personal goals

Writing effective personal goals begins with the ability to crystallize your vision and make it tangible. A good strategy is to craft SMART goals.

  • Specific: Be specific and clear when defining your goal. Instead of "Be more productive," aim to "Reduce daily email check-ins to three times."
  • Measurable: A sense of achievement keeps you going. But how will you meaningfully achieve anything if you cannot reasonably track it? An example of a measurable goal would be something like, "Work out at least 100 times this year".
  • Achievable: Create a goal that challenges you but remains attainable. If you want to run a 5k race, perhaps you can set a time goal. If your current time is 35 minutes, you could aim for 30 minutes for the 5k.
  • Relevant: Check that your goal aligns with your aspirations and values. If you like boxing, don't go to yoga because it's popular with your friends and on Instagram. Choose something that is true to you.
  • Time-bound: Set deadlines for each step towards achieving your goal. "3 hours of Spanish until next Monday" sounds good and achievable.

Using the SMART goal method will allow you to set top personal development goals that align with who you are and what you want to achieve.

5 tips and tools to help you reach your goals

On the way to your goal, don't give up the tools that can make your journey easier.

Meditate on your goal with Mental Walk

Mental Walk

When you set goals, it's a good idea to understand your motivations and achieve your aspirations more deeply. Journaling is one of the best ways to do this. But starting from scratch can be difficult. That's why we recommend Mental Walk.

Mental Walk is a kind of digital diary filled with prompts to boost self-reflection, regardless of which area of your life needs it most. Career aspirations? Check. Relationship issues? Check. It's just perfect for focusing on your feelings, thoughts, and concerns. This app makes journaling and setting personal goals at work and home a pleasure. 

And if you are someone who is private, Mental Walk encrypts your entries. What you write is for your eyes only.

Manage your tasks with 2Do list

2Do list app

If you have life-changing personal development goals, you must have a plan. Create a clear sequence of steps and tasks that will lead you to your goal, and your path will become more conscious. 

2Do is everything you need to manage the goals you set. The app has one of the best customizations ever. You can add details to each goal: deadline, image, audio note, location, call, contact, URL, search engine page, notifications, and more. 

With 2Do, you can group tasks, which is great if you're working on several goals (e.g. "Health", "Gym", "Language", etc.). Choose your prioritized ones, color-code them, and never miss anything with regular notifications.

Visualize your goals with MindNode

MindNode mind mapping

If you like to visualize your plans and build mind maps, then MindNode is a perfect fit for your goal setting.

MindNode is a digital whiteboard that helps you display your ideas effectively. By using MindNode, you choose a creative platform instead of chaos. Whether you want to add images, notes, tasks, links, or words, MindNode makes it all possible.

You can even elevate your mind map with nice themes and stickers. By seeing your ideas as beautifully individualized platforms, you will feel inspired to make it all happen!

Save efforts with Awesome Habits

Awesome habits goal tracking

One of the most difficult things to do to achieve a goal is to repeat the same actions every day: training, studying, reading, etc. It's hard to keep them in mind. It's easier to automate these actions - namely, to make them a habit. Like brushing your teeth.

Awesome Habits will help you develop habits gradually and without any stress. All you need to do is set goals for self-improvement and decide how often you want to practice them (e.g. "Walk every day at 2 p.m."). The app will help you by setting reminders and tracking your progress. It also monitors the history of your habit development. 

If you choose to break the habit instead (good bye, late-night snacking, and a bag of potato chips!), you also don't have to sweat it. There is no judgment here. Instead, the app will gently nudge you back on track, reminding you of the awesome path you're on.

Get motivation from best-selling books with Headway

discover Headway app categories

It is easier to achieve goals when you are armed with knowledge. How to motivate yourself? How to earn more? How to overcome anxiety? How to become a team player? These and hundreds of other questions you may be asking have already been answered. And they are short and clear if you use Headway. 

Headway is an app that presents you with the key takeaways from industry-leading books without the time commitment of reading hundreds of pages.

Summaries are available in both written and audio formats. 1 book = 15-minutes audio. You can set a daily goal, for example, to study for 15 minutes. This way, in one week you get a summary of seven books. Isn't that great?

Check your self-improvement goals off your list

Personal growth and goal achievement are not easy. If you see tools that can help you, just grab them. You won't regret it.

You can find all of the apps described above on Setapp, a platform with dozens of macOS and iOS apps available in a premium, ad-free version starting at $9.99. Sign up now and try all of them for free for 7 day right now.

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