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As a time management coach, I help clients avoid goal setting mistakes so they can achieve their goals simply and easily.   When coaching  clients I see a number of common goal setting mistakes people make again and again.

If you can identify these goal setting mistakes upfront it will help you set better goals and ensure you make progress on actually achieving your goals every day.

People often experience mistakes when setting goals because they think that setting goals is all they need to do.   Goal setting mistakes happen when you have vague goals or you set too many goals.

We experience mistakes in goal setting when our goals are not measurable and our goals don’t have a deadline attached to them.

In this article I’m going to share what goal setting is, the benefits of goal setting and share 11 goal setting mistakes to avoid.  If you’re making any of these goal setting mistakes you can implement the strategies I’m about to share to help you overcome them.

If you want a proven process for setting goals, read my step by step process on goal setting.

What is goal setting?

Goal setting is the act of setting clearly defined goals and then working towards goal achievement every day.  Having clearly defined, measurable goals should be something you want to achieve in the future with a clear date to achieve the goals by.

Goal setting is a powerful process for thinking about and creating your ideal future.  To set a goal, think about something specific you want to achieve in the future.  Put a measurement to your goals, this must be a number or an event, and then set a deadline for achieving the goal in.

Why is goal setting important? 

Setting goals clarifies your long-term vision and provides short-term goals to focus on each day.  Having a proven goal setting process provides the framework to organise your time, energy and focus each day.

Having goals to work towards provides motivation and excitement that guide your daily actions.

Goal setting gives you a destination to work towards and daily direction.  The process of setting goals is important because it helps to clarify what’s truly important to you, and gives you a clear path and plan to pursue those goals.

In addition to improving your daily performance, people who set goals are more productive, more creative, have more confidence and are less stressed.

Effective goal setting gives you clarity on what you want to achieve in life and gives you a proven framework for taking action to achieve those goals in a focused, effective and decisive way.

The benefits of setting goals 

The benefits of setting goals are tangible and significant.   If you can successfully set and achieve your personal and business goals you will experience many benefits and improvements.

Setting goals gives you a picture of who you wan to be in the future.  Goals provide direction, clarity and focus.

Goal setting triggers new behaviours, guides your daily actions and gives you a clear purpose in life.  Goals give you focus.  Without a measurable goal you can be confused and lack direction.  Goals help you clarify what matters most in business and life.

Setting goals transforms how you invest your time, energy and focus and provides motivation to take action on achieving your goals.

Read more about the benefits of goal setting.

Top 11 goal setting mistakes to avoid 

Here are the 11 most common goal setting mistakes to avoid.

Goal setting mistake 1. Setting unrealistic goals 

Setting unrealistic goals, and failing to achieve them,  can put you off setting goals forever.

When you set goals that are unrealistic, and fail to achieve them, it can affect your confidence, self-esteem and motivation.  Not reaching your goals can make you feel frustrated, guilty, disappointed and frustrated.

If you want to achieve your goals, start by building up your goal achievement muscle.  Start small and set goals you can actually achieve.  Achieving goals, however small, builds motivation and momentum.

Once you achieve that first goal, you can start setting bigger and better goals.  Read more about how to achieve your goals.

Goal setting mistake 2. Setting too many goals 

A common goal setting mistake is setting too many goals.  When you set too many goals can make you feel scattered and unfocused.

When you have too many goals it’s difficult to decide on your most important goal and know which goal to focus on first.

Setting too many goals can lead to failing to achieve your goals.  This failure leads to guilt, frustration and disappointment.

To overcome this goal setting mistake, choose a small number of goals to focus on achieving within a specific time period.  By recognising that you have to prioritise your goals, you can identify which goals are the most important to you right now.

Read more on how to set SMART goals.

Goal setting mistake 3. Not writing down your goals 

It’s so important you write your goals down if you want to achieve them.  People often make the goal setting mistake of not writing down their goals.  You are more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down.

Writing your goals down not only forces you to clarify exactly what you want to accomplish, but the process of writing down your goals plays a crucial role in motivating you to complete the tasks necessary for goal achievement.

When you take the time to set goals in written form there is a powerful connection with your brain about how important your goals are.  Your brain starts looking for ways to help you move forward on achieving your goals.

When you set your next goal, take the time to write down your goals.  Read more on writing down your goals.

Goal setting mistake 4. Setting vague goals 

If you want to achieve your goals it’s important to set goals that are measurable. A common mistake people make in goal setting is having goals that are too vague.  When you set vague goals you have no clear destination and nothing to review your goal progress against.

Measurable goals should be a number or an event.  When you set measurable goals you have clarity on whether you have achieved your goals or you haven’t.

Having measurable goals allows you to track your progress against a specific result.  Making progress on your measurable goals builds motivation and momentum,

If you only have vague goals it’s difficult to see any tangible progress.  Measurable goals help you prioritise your time, energy and focus towards achieving a measurable result that is important to you.  Read more on setting measurable goals.

Goal setting mistake 5. Not setting a deadline for your goals

It is essential to set an end date for your goals. When you set goals with a deadline you know exactly when you want to achieve the goal by.

If you want to achieve your goals you must be intellectually and emotionally engaged with the outcome you want to achieve.  A key component of this goal engagement is setting goals with a deadline.

Without a deadline, your goals have no destination or direction.  A goal without a deadline lacks purpose, motivation or commitment to achieving the goal.

If you want to achieve your goals, set a clear deadline for reaching them.  Read more about setting short-term goals.

Goal setting mistake 6. Setting goals without intention

If you struggle with goal setting it might be because you haven’t set goals that are intentional.  I see this goal setting mistake all the time.

People set goals but there is not intention behind their goals.

Setting intentional goals helps you clarify exactly what goals you want to achieve and why you want to achieve those specific goals.  Being intentional about your goals clarifies your purpose and helps you understand the difference achieving goals will make in your life.

When there is intention behind your goals your motivation and energy is sky high and your focus on goal achievement amplifies.

Read more about being intentional.

Goal setting mistake 7. Not setting exciting goals 

It’s essential to set goals that are exciting.  A common goal setting mistake people make is not setting exciting goals.  If you want to achieve your goals, the goals must be exciting and motivating.

When you goals are uninspiring it becomes difficult to take action.  If your goals are exciting you will want to take action and make progress every day,

Exciting goals are motivating and inspiring.  If your vision of achieving a specific goal in the future isn’t exciting and motivating, pick another goal.

Goal setting mistake 8. Not knowing the benefit of your goals

A typical goal setting mistake I see people make all the time is not understanding the benefit or result of achieving their goals.  They haven’t taken the time to picture themselves in the future having achieved their goal, or seen the benefit achieving their goal will make in their life.

Effective goal setting starts with seeing yourself in the future having achieved your goal.  If the benefit of achieving your goal isn’t motivating or exciting enough you won’t take the daily actions needed to achieve your goals.

Goal achievement takes time and work.  If the benefit of achieving the goal isn’t big enough you won’t take action and you may even give up on your goals.

Goal setting mistake 9. Not breaking down your goals

Setting goals is the first step towards goal achievement.  A common mistake people make in goal setting is failing to lay out the action steps needed to achieve their goals.

There is no plan and path to follow to provide daily direction. The first step is to set your goals.  Then start breaking your goals down into actionable steps you can take daily and weekly to achieve your goals.

It becomes easier to work on your goal if you know exactly what to do.  What first step to take.  Breaking down your goals and scheduling in the action steps needed provides focus and direction which builds confidence and motivation.

Goal setting mistake 10. Not reviewing progress on your goals

A critical goal setting mistake is not setting your goals in such as way that you can track progress.  Tracking progress on your goals is crucial to goal achievement as it provides extra encouragement and motivation.

When you set goals that are measurable and have a deadline, you have a framework to measure your progress daily, weekly and monthly.

When you measure progress on your goals ensure you measure backwards from where you started so you can see the incremental gains you make.  These gains build confidence and momentum

Read my guide to effective weekly planning to help you review progress on your goals.

Goal setting mistake 11. Not identifying obstacles to your goals  

One of the most powerful ways to achieve your goals is to identify the obstacles that stand in the way of your goal achievement.  Yet, few people use this process when setting goals.

When you set goals there will always be obstacles to overcome to achieve your goals.  Identifying, and overcoming those obstacles, will speed up your goal achievement.

When you next set a goal take the time to identify all the obstacles that stand in your way.  Identify the biggest obstacles and then develop a strategy and action plan to overcome each of the individual obstacles.


There are many goal setting mistakes people make that stands in the way of their goal achievement.  In this article I’ve highlighted 11 goal setting mistakes to avoid.

When setting goals, ensure your goals are measurable and have a clear deadline.  Take the time to write down your goals and be intentional about achieving your goals.

If you’re currently making any of these goal setting mistakes, use the tips to overcome them and move closer to your own goal achievement.

Now I’d love to hear from you.

What’s the one thing that stops you from achieving your goals?

Can you identify with any of these goal setting mistakes?

Let me know in the comments.

About Mark Pettit

Mark Pettit is a time management coach and accountability coach based in Colchester, Essex, UK.  He is the Founder of time management coaching company, Lucemi Consulting.

Mark provides time management coaching and accountability coaching to entrepreneurs and leaders in London, Essex, Suffolk, East Anglia and across the UK and US.

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