how to determine realistic goals for a project?

BY Gino Borlado3 mo ago9 MINS READ
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Project planning is crucial to achieving your goals. It helps you see things in a broader context and ensures you don't miss any critical steps.

In other words, it's crucial to set realistic goals for a project. But how do you know if they are practical and doable? The truth is that you need to ensure that your goals are within your reach. You can't just set an arbitrary goal and expect it to be achieved.

In this article, I will explain what a realistic project goal is, how it differs from a project objective, and how to achieve desired results. 

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What are project goals?

A project goal is the end result of a project. It can include the product you want to build or the result you want to achieve. It could be something like "make a new website with a beautiful user interface" or "increase our sales by 10% in a year". Your project goal is a quantifiable goal that you can use as a basis for planning. 

To understand what goals you should set for your projects, you need to consider the type of project you are working on. Are you building a website? Maybe you are designing a video game? Or perhaps you are trying to complete a creative writing assignment for class?

Regardless of what type of project you are working on, your goals are the same: you want to create a specific outcome. Whether it's a website, a video game, or a story, you want to end up with something good, interesting, or valuable.

Project goals vs project objectives

There are two significant differences between project goals and project objectives.

A project goal is quantifiable, specific, measurable, and actionable. You know what it is, and you can write it down. Here are some examples of a goal:

  • Publish the top 100 most popular blog posts on my site each month.
  • Develop a video game that will be a blockbuster hit with audiences in multiple countries.
  • Grow my business. 
  • Get a better job.
  • Learn a new skill.

Project goals are generally broad, but they are clear. You know precisely what you want. You can get an idea of when you will be done, too. But you can also break down that goal into smaller, more manageable chunks.

Project objectives, on the other hand, are much more specific; they are steps that must be taken to achieve the result of a project. In short, they are milestones.

If your goal is to develop a video game, a section of your project objective could be something like this:

  • Create a playable first level that will orient them to the game controls and give the players an idea of the main character
  • Create multiple types of obstacles to overcome and enemies to kill.
  • Add enemy A.I. with variable intelligence and adjustable difficulty levels.
  • Add a boss fight to mark the end of Level One. 
  • Another example is if your goal is to revise your existing website, your project objective could be something like this:
  • Create a new homepage with a different colour scheme. 
  • Create a layout for the homepage with a revised landing page. 
  • Add social media integration. 
  • Integrate contact forms.

Because it is more efficient, project objectives are broken down into small steps. You can still break down a simple action like "creating a homepage with a different colour scheme."

For example:

  • Research which template to use
  • Find out what colour combination is more appropriate for the target audience.
  • Research which plugins to use. 
  • Study and implement required coding. 

These are all things that can be done separately, or if the steps or tasks are assigned to a team, they can be done in different timeframes or all at once.

The critical thing to remember is that they are all connected, and every single one needs to be met to complete the project. 

In summary, when it comes to project management, project goals define the result of what you are trying to achieve. Project objectives are concrete steps you need to take to reach each milestone and, eventually, the end result. 

Quick 4-step guide to remember when setting a realistic goal for a project

Project management is the process of planning and keeping track of resources while a project is being developed and put into action. It can be difficult if you are a beginner. A lack of experience may lead you to set unrealistic or impractical goals that would delay the progress of a project. As such, it's critical to follow a 4-step guide when setting realistic goals. 

Step 1: Define project goals

To start, you must clearly define your project's goal. Without a defined goal, there is no way of measuring whether or not you have been successful. The more clearly you define your project's goal, the better your chances are of reaching it. When describing a project goal, start with the result and work backwards.

For example, if your project's goal is to redesign your product's website, you must first figure out what that entails.

Let's use the website revision project as an example. Your goal could be something like this:

The website should make it easy to get to all the important pages and have a layout that works well on different devices.

Next, you can decide on the features and functionality you want to be included in the new site. Perhaps it should include upgraded user registration and an account management system that allows users to sign up for a free account quickly, or maybe it will include a blog feature. 

By defining the goals of your project, you and your team can set a timeline for when you expect the project to be finished and give each task a clear place to start. Your goals should also be clear to everyone to track how far the project has come and how much longer it will take to finish. 

Step 2: Create an action plan

Once you have defined the goals and objectives of your project, it's time to move on to the next step—defining the methods that will be used to achieve your goal. This might include brainstorming ways to implement the new design or updating existing content. 

Your action plan may include the following components:

  • Write down the steps needed to complete your project. 
  • Describe the roles, skills, and resources required. 
  • Specify when and how often you will review the action plan. 
  • Define the milestones for the project's completion. 
  • Describe the deliverables for the project's completion. 
  • Include a detailed schedule and description of how much time it will take to complete the project. 
  • Set deadlines for each milestone and, overall, the project. 

Once you have written down everything, you can share it with your team members to ensure you are all on the same page. 

Step 3: Explain your team their objectives

At this stage of your project, you must communicate with your team exactly what your goal is. It is also essential that your team understands why they are working on this project and what they expect to accomplish.

This will ensure that everyone on your team works toward the same goal and will help you avoid misunderstandings. 

Also, be sure to set some expectations for yourself and your team. For example, you might state that you expect the work to take four days, while you know you will need six days to complete the job. You can also ask your team to prepare and submit their weekly update at the beginning of each week. This will allow you to see the progress and any issues that have come up along the way and ensure that you can solve any problems that arise.

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Implement S.M.A.R.T. objectives framework

S.M.A.R.T means Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-Based.

It's a standard measure of performance that helps you set goals and objectives for your team and your project. Here is a quick breakdown of how you can apply this framework when setting realistic goals for a project:

SPECIFIC: What exactly do you want to achieve with this project? Be specific; make it easy to measure. Example: "Design a landing page that allows users to sign up for a free newsletter."

MEASURABLE: Make sure your goals are measurable. Example: "This goal is based on the number of conversions daily."

ACTIONABLE: Break down your goal into small steps. For example, if your goal is to increase conversions by 15%, break down the goal into "Design a landing page that allows users to sign up for a free newsletter." You can create sub-goals to achieve this larger goal. For example, "Create an email template that increases conversion rates." 

REALISTIC: The word "realistic" doesn't just mean you're being overly optimistic. Set your expectations appropriately so that they are measurable. A realistic expectation is based on data. Example: Based on the data, we're aiming for a 10% conversion rate with the improvement of the landing page. 

TIME-BASED: This is another one of those "duh" things, but still significant. Set your goal in terms of time or activity, not just numbers. Example: "Increase the conversion rate by 1% each week." 


Setting realistic and practical goals for a project separates successful from unsuccessful projects. Setting a clear path to your goals and objectives will allow you to see where you are lagging and track the progress of a project more efficiently.

Efficient project management requires the right tracking tools. While many software programs on the market allow you to track a project's progress, most are too expensive, especially if you only have a small business and budget. 

In my experience, Kanban-style project management software is the most efficient. It allows you to visualize and keep track of your tasks and project progress on a single platform. 

My team's favourite project management software is Edworking; it's free to try, scalable, and doesn't require an arm and a leg if you want to use the full features. Click here if you want to check out the features of Edworking.

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