Published on July 19, 2021

Why You Need Intermediate Goals And How To Set One

Why You Need Intermediate Goals And How To Set One

One of the surest ways to improve your life, your sense of well-being, and fulfillment in life is to set goals. A study carried out by the Dominican University discovered that students who wrote their goals were much more likely to accomplish higher income levels than students who did not write their goals.[1] And one way to effectively set goals is to set intermediate goals.

There are many other reasons why we should be taking goal setting seriously, but before we get into the heart of this article, we should first define what we mean by” intermediate goals.”

What Is an Intermediate Goal?

From daily goals to lifetime goals, there are multiple types of goals, so what would an “intermediate goal” look like?

An intermediate goal is any goal you would like to accomplish in the next three to five years. We could give or take a year or two here, but a good reference point is between three and five years.

What Do We Use Intermediate Goals For?

An intermediate goal is a goal that bridges the gap between the goals you are working on this year and next year and your longer-term lifetime goals. For instance, if you plan to have $2 million in your retirement fund by the time you retire, that would be a long-term goal. So, an intermediate goal that bridges that gap would be to save X amount of dollars in the next three years.


The problem with long-term goals is they are often a long way into the future, which means that the rewards for achieving those goals are too far away to excite us today. An intermediate goal bridges this gap by bringing a reward closer to you.

Our brains are programmed to crave instant gratification.[2] This is one of the reasons why losing weight is so hard.

Aside from the science on how our body stores and retains fat, losing weight is the basic principle of eating less and moving more.[3] The trouble is that when we feel hungry, our bodies desire food now! We need that instant gratification. So, no matter how much we know eating that extra portion of rice will not help us lose weight, we eat it anyway because our brain prioritizes instant gratification over our longer-term desires.

View Intermediate Goals as Stepping Stones

You should view intermediate goals as stepping stones towards something much bigger. One reason why so few people set and accomplish goals is their motivation over a long period falters and declines. Goals that are too far in the future are often forgotten about and only reappear when we think about our New Year’s resolutions.

Ultimately, whether you succeed with a goal or not is down to why you want to accomplish the goal. Your reasons must be strong enough to pull you towards the goal. If your reasons are not strong enough, it will be like pushing a large, heavy rock up a never-ending hill. On the other hand, your reasons why you want the goal, if strong enough, will be like a magnet pulling you towards accomplishing it.


If your dream is to own a yacht because you want to impress your old school friends, you will ultimately fail because achieving something to impress others is a weak reason for attaining a goal. If, on the other hand, your reason for wanting to own a yacht is so you can live a life on the open water and have a place to go where you can enjoy the peace of nature, your reasons why will likely be strong enough to pull you towards achievement.

This is why setting intermediate goals works. They act as magnets to pull you towards achieving your long-term goal.

Create Milestones and Pathways

Imagine you have just graduated from school, and you start your first job. Your long-term goal could be to become a senior executive at the company. However, that could take ten to twenty years, which is a long time for a twenty-something to wait.

To make the goal more achievable, you can break it down into intermediate goals. For instance, you may discover that all the top executives at your company have MBAs, so one goal could be to study for and complete your MBA. Another goal could be to get yourself promoted to a managerial role within five years. Once you know what you want to achieve over the next three to five years, you can figure out how to make it happen.

Instead of having a big, long-term goal with an unclear pathway, you have created a clear path towards achieving your long-term goal. Once you achieve your intermediate goal, you can pause, reflect and look for the next stepping stone towards the longer-term goal.


This methodology works with fitness goals, too. For example, let’s imagine one of your long-term fitness goals is completing the Boston Marathon in five years. Now, the Boston Marathon is unique in that it has tough qualifying times. You must be able to prove you have run a marathon previously under a specific time for your age and sex. For instance, to qualify for the 2021 marathon, if you are male, aged between 45 to 49, you would have to have run a marathon in under three hours and five mins. A female aged between 45 and 49 would need to have run a time under three hours and 50 minutes. That’s a tough time to achieve.

If you have never run a marathon before, you would need to start with some shorter-term goals—perhaps beginning with a 5k race followed by a 10k and gradually increasing the distance until you run your first marathon. From there, you would have enough information to modify your training so that you could run a marathon before the Boston in the qualifying time.

These shorter-term goals not only move you closer towards your ultimate goal, but they also give you the incentive to keep going until your reach your longer-term plan. They pull you towards your longer-term goal.

How to Set Intermediate Goals

If you want to reap the full benefit of intermediate goals, you first need to establish a long-term goal—a goal that is sufficiently big enough to motivate and excite you.

To give you a real example, my wife and I have a long-term goal to build our house—a house we designed ourselves. We have estimated how much this is likely to cost—which is a lot—and so we have broken down the steps into intermediate goals.


The first is to save a given amount of money—enough to cover 50% of the total cost. The next is to find and purchase a piece of land on which we can build the house. Then we need to set about building the house. In that longer-term goal, there are three intermediate goals. Save money, purchase land, build the house.

I have this long-term goal set up in my projects section in my notes app, together with images of the kind of house we want to build (to keep me focused), and this is broken down into the three intermediate goals. Now, we are currently well into the saving money intermediate goal.

Your long-term goal is the ultimate destination. It gives you a direction and a purpose to wake up in the morning. To make that goal more achievable, intermediate goals serve to provide you with the stepping stones that will keep you on track and ultimately pull you towards your destination.

Key Takeaways

Everyone has long-term goals. But sometimes, it’s important to first take a step back and set intermediate goals that will allow you to eventually reach your long-term goals. Here are the key takeaways on how to set intermediate goals.

  1. Establish a long-term goal and why you want to achieve it.
  2. Break your long-term goal down into sections that cover three to five years.
  3. Decide what you need to do to complete your first intermediate goal and start doing it.
  4. Review your intermediate goals frequently (at least weekly).

More Goals Setting Tips

Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via



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Carl Pullein

Dedicated to helping people to achieve their maximum potential through better time management and productivity.

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Last Updated on January 14, 2022

7 Best Goal Planners To Get in 2022

7 Best Goal Planners To Get in 2022

A few of the many obstacles to setting goals is that you either forget your goals entirely or you put them off for so long. One of the most effective tools in handling this problem is through having goal planners.

Goal planners are a way to put your goals to paper and allow you to focus on that goal. These are great tools to be implementing new habits and boosting your overall productivity.

With so many of these goal planners available, our editors picked out a small sample of some of the best goal planners that you can get to achieve what you want in 2022!

Best Goal Planners Criteria

Through our research, all the best goal planners that we picked out meet the following criteria:

  • Undated – A big issue with some planners is that they have days and years written in them. This is problematic especially when starting out goal setting. Undated versions allow you to start, stop, and take breaks without feeling like you’re wasting paper.
  • Science based – Either in their methods or in the activities these planners get you to do, these goal planners are smartly structured to help you get the most out of your day.
  • Simple, clean and organized – All of these planners are clean and organized to the point that these planners can serve as an extension of your brain. They’re able to easily organize jumbled thoughts and help you plot out your goals.

1. Full Life Planner


    Lifehack’s Full Life Planner is a planner system built around the Full Life Framework. It’s a planner that helps you to organize every aspect of your life. The Framework has been going strong for 15 years and provides some of Lifehack’s best practices and proven success formulas.


    Get your Full Life Planner here, or try the digital version here.

    2. Panda Planner

      The Panda Planner has been highly reviewed as another one of the best goal planners to get. On top of it providing sections for monthly, weekly, and daily planning, it offers free videos as well as e-books to show you all kinds of strategies to help in all kinds of aspects of your life.

      You can get the Panda Planner here.

      3. Law of Attraction Planner

        This is the planner for people that want to manifest something new or exciting in their lives. It helps you to set goals through prompts, to-do lists, and goal-setting tools to establish habits. On the manifestation front, it provides sections for you to show gratitude, allowing you to be thankful for what you do have and are working towards. The planner also comes with a video to help establish a 10-minute morning routine and various stickers to make your planner more unique.


        Purchase the Law of Attraction Planner here.

        4. Little More Daily Organizer

          While it only has 328 undated pages, it offers a great focus on monthly and daily goal setting. It’s ideal if your goals and habits that you’re invested in and really want them to be sticking. How it’s able to do that is through its flexible design and also providing space for you to outline actions steps, reflect on processes, and prioritize multiple goals.

          Grab your Little More Daily Organizer here.

          5. Erin Condren Petite Planner

            Only 80 pages long, it’s efficient with its space as its packed with all kinds of features for setting goals and stick to your plans. You’re able to describe your goal, outline a “why”, and put together an action plan. The other page is a way for you to chunk large goals and put them into more manageable tasks. All around it’s a fantastic planner.


            Try the Erin Condren Petite Planner here.

            6. The 100-Day Goal Journal

              If setting goals for a year seems daunting, another one of the best goal planners that’s short is the 100-day goal journal. It has monthly spreads, daily reflection pages where you’re able to practice gratitude and check overarching goals. It even has space for you to reflect on current challenges and offer solutions to your problems.

              Take a look at the 100-Day Goal Journal here.

              7. SELF Journal


                The final of the best goal planners we have to offer is SELF journal. It offers daily gratitude acknowledgement, sections to track goals on a weekly basis and also has inspirational quotes to provide that extra push of motivation. It’s only got enough pages for 13 weeks, but it’s ideal if you set a lot of shorter-term goals and want those small habits to stick.


                Check out the SELF Journal here.

                Final Thoughts

                All of our goals are achievable with the proper mindset and a system to support it. Planners have been able to precisely assist those who struggle with getting started and need help in organizing their thoughts and putting it to paper.

                For those who want to stick to habits, try out one of these planners to help you with that process.

                Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via

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