It is important to understand the difference between direct goals and indirect goals when setting your targets and monitoring your progress. Read our last blog post which introduces the key concepts underlying these types of goals. In this blog post, the key points are revisited in more detail, as well as some challenges you might face.
The difference between direct and indirect goals
To recap, direct goals are short-term actionable targets, and indirect goals refer to longer-term outcomes. Take this example which illustrates the difference between these goals. Say you had the indirect goal of scoring at least 75% in a test. Every time you under-performed, it is technically a failure to achieve your goal. It doesn’t matter if it was because you didn’t know a certain topic or because you were stressed on the day. The problem with this is that repeated failure can be demoralising. This makes it harder to achieve your goals.
Recognise the type of goal that you set
This means it’s important to be able to recognise what kind of goal you have set yourself so you can work around it. It is fairly easy to do: when setting the goal, ask yourself if it’s something you can do right now if you wanted too, and had the resources. At any given moment assuming I had the time and materials, I can sit down and do an hour of studying. I can do a practise paper, run for ten minutes or eat an apple. Remember, these are all direct goals. On the other hand, I can’t instantly take that test and get 75% without studying. I can’t immediately make my whole diet healthier without actively changing what I eat. These were your indirect goals.
Procrastination presents issues for both direct and indirect goals. While it’s technically impossible to procrastinate indirect goals, you can put off studying. This, in turn means you’re more likely to not achieve the goal. To illustrate that, you either will or won’t score 75% but you can’t procrastinate knowing the right answers.
As your direct goals are your actions, they are also easier to procrastinate. This can have one of three results: you don’t do it, you put it off for so long that you can only partially complete it, or you complete it later than intended. The outcomes are that you either fail your goals, or you achieve them but at the cost of them eating into your personal life. This can cause you to become less motivated.
Improve your chances of achieving your goals by being specific. It can be harder to know how to achieve your indirect goals. What’s the best way to do well in a test – is it to write notes or do practise papers? Study more often or focus on your health more? How long should be spent revising? How often? The effort put into simply thinking how you achieve your goals can be confusing and overwhelming in its own right. This can also negatively impact your overall productivity. As well as this, a big problem with indirect goals is the lack of being specific. Often, targets can be things like ‘study more’, ‘eat healthier’, or ‘do better in school’. To combat this, always aim to be specific. For example, to go from a B to an A grade. Otherwise, it can be hard to decide when you have actually achieved your goal. Doing this leaves less room for interpretation.
To summarise, direct goals are more efficient – they give you a better measure of success, and you can act on them immediately. A mixture of the two, however, can provide a good short- and long-term perspective. This can help you achieve both goals faster and help you beat procrastination. If you set yourself the goals ‘study for an hour every day’ and ‘get 75% on a test’ at the same time, you let your direct goal help you achieve your indirect goals. Comment below your take on direct and indirect goals and any tips you have to share!
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