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Why 90-Day Goals Are More Practical Than Annual Goals


It’s that time of year. In January, you’ll typically find a lot of content being published about goal setting. Blog posts and podcasts urging you to set goals for the new year. Believe me, there is no bigger proponent of goal setting than myself. In fact, at EMI, we work with engineering companies to help them ensure their leaders are focused on the right goals. That being said, I have found that most professionals who set goals will spend less than one hour in late December or early January creating a list of goals for the year, only to file their list of goals away and rarely look at it again for the remainder of that calendar year.

Try Setting 90-Day Goals Too

If you are one of those professionals who set lofty goals on or about January 1st, but then get buried in your projects and neglect them, try setting shorter-term goals in addition to your larger goals. I recommend 90-day goals, also known as quarterly goals. At EMI, we have strategic initiatives from our strategic plan from which we reduce strategic actions, which get further reduced down to quarterly goals for each team member.

Let’s be honest: one year is a very long time, especially when you get dealt curveballs like a global pandemic. To think that your goal at the end of the year will still be the same as it was 365 days ago isn’t very realistic and doesn’t allow for flexibility.

90-Day Goals

Instead, by creating shorter-term goals that can act as stepping stones to your larger goals, you can monitor progress and make adjustments as needed. For example, if you have a goal of passing the PE Exam in 2022, maybe one of your quarterly goals for Q1 is to submit your exam application. (By the way, check out the Pass the PE Exam YouTube channel if this really is one of your goals.) If you have a goal of becoming fluent in a language in 2022, maybe your Q1 goal is to find the right books and courses you will need to succeed.

Conduct Quarterly Check-Ins

At EMI, we utilize the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) to run our business, which is built around 90-day goals. As part of the process, EOS recommends doing quarterly check-ins where you review your goals for the past quarter and then set goals for the next quarter accordingly.

What I really like about this process is that it is a way to ensure that you are constantly assessing your progress toward your longer-term goals, and making adjustments should you be behind schedule. When you allow for a lot of time between these types of check-ins (e.g., six or 12 months), you don’t have the flexibility that is often needed when chasing a larger goal.

Yes, It’s a Marathon, but Break It Down

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint” is a saying we hear often, and while I agree that while pursuing meaningful goals is a marathon, it doesn’t have to be run all at once.

So please, when you set your goals for 2022, don’t just set annual goals. Set quarterly goals, and take the time every 90 days to assess your progress. Lastly, in conducting these reviews, you might also find that your annual goals are no longer relevant, and therefore you change them. We’ve all learned that change is necessary in today’s world. That’s a much better approach than continuing to work on a goal that is no longer meaningful simply because it was on your list.

“The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.” ~ Bill Copeland

About the Author, Anthony Fasano

90-Day GoalsMost engineering professionals want to become leaders in their organizations, but the people leadership and project management skills they need are hard to obtain. Anthony Fasano, licensed professional engineer, realized this and left his engineering career in 2009, founding the Engineering Management Institute to help solve this problem. EMI has four active podcasts, three YouTube channels, and three blogs dedicated to helping engineering professionals become better managers and leaders.

You can access all of these free resources, along with EMI’s coaching and training programs, at www.EngineeringManagementInstitute.org.

We would love to hear any questions you might have or stories you might share about setting 90-days goals. 

Please leave your comments, feedback or questions in the section below.

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To your success,

Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success



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