The differences between long-term and short-term planning

Last updated on: October 26, 2022

Sometimes, planning is easy – you know exactly where you want to go for lunch and your plan for the future is crystal clear.

But more often than not, planning is difficult – from lack of resources to lack of vision, from not knowing where and how to start to having difficulties with setting effective goals. The future can be unpredictable and planning can be tricky.

Yet, it’s not impossible. In this article, we’ll go over what long-term and short-term planning mean, what is the difference, as well as how to successfully do both. Of course, with examples included.

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Table of Contents

What are long-term and short-term planning?

Let’s start by defining what long-term and short-term planning are.

What is short-term planning?

Short-term planning is usually considered to take 12 months or less. Your daily, weekly, monthly, even quarterly and yearly goals – all can be filed under “short-term goals.” They are stepping stones that will help you to reach your big goal(s).

That type of planning requires you to look at the current situation and fix potential issues as soon as possible. Sometimes “as soon as possible” takes a day, sometimes 6 months, depending on the complexity of the issue.

Here are some examples of short-term goals, divided into five categories: career , education, personal development, finances, and marketing.

  • Career goals : “Apply for a job”, “Make a website for your business.”
  • Academic goals : “Take another marketing course”, “Pass the AP Statistics exam.”
  • Personal development goals : “Start going to bed before midnight”, “ Track your time for a month”, “Join a gym.”
  • Financial goals : “Pay off the debt”, “Get a raise before the end of the year.”
  • Marketing goals : “Increase brand awareness”, “Boost website traffic.”

💡 If you need help with setting short-term goals, these articles can come to the rescue: How to plan your day and stay organized & How to make productivity plan in five easy steps . For easier planning, check out Online planner templates too.

What is long-term planning?

Long-term planning involves goals that take a longer time to reach and require more steps; they usually take a minimum of a year or two to complete. They aim to permanently resolve issues and reach and maintain success over a continued period.

We’ll discuss an exact strategy to set and complete long-term goals later in this article.

Before that, let’s go over a few examples of long-term goals:

  • Career goals : “Build a profitable business”, “Turn your passion into a career.”
  • Academic goals : “Get a Bachelor’s degree”, “Get a Master’s degree abroad.”
  • Personal development goals : “Learn a foreign language”, “Travel on all 7 continents.”
  • Financial goals : “Save for retirement”, “Become a millionaire.”

What is medium-term planning?

That’s not all, folks: there’s also medium-term planning . It entails applying more permanent solutions to short-term problems and implementing policies and procedures to make sure that those short-term problems won’t happen again. If a piece of equipment breaks, a short-term solution would be to fix it, while a medium-term solution would be to invest in a service contract.

Another example of medium-term planning is investing in employees’ training programs rather than organizing a workshop from time to time (which is a short-term solution).

Key differences between long-term and short-term planning

The most obvious difference between long-term and short-term planning is the amount of time each one takes; while short-term planning involves processes that take 12 months or less, long-term planning is, as the name suggests, longer – there’s no upper limit to the longevity of a long-term plan.

There’s an anecdote that Ingvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA, told a group of managers that it’s “important to think where we should be in 200 years.” (You don’t have to think that far ahead – a 5-year plan is completely fine.)

Another difference is their complexity: long-term planning is more elaborate, tactical, and involves more steps. As opposed to that, short-term planning is often quite straightforward. Short-term goals usually serve as milestones that get you to your long-term goal.

In business, short-term goals are mostly focused on internal issues, such as customer complaints or inefficient management, while long-term goals cover both external and internal issues. When you’re planning long-term, you need to be aware of external factors, like global trends and changes, political situation, the ways current events may affect the economy, and so on.

The difference between long-term and strategic planning

Another frequently asked question is: Is strategic planning the same as long-term planning? If not, what’s the difference between the two?

Strategic planning consists of statements and goals that determine things such as:

  • Where your company should be in the next couple of years and how to get there;
  • How to successfully respond to changes in the environment;
  • What’s the anticipated financial performance;
  • What’s the most effective business strategy.

Strategic plans are not actionable – that’s where long-term planning comes in.

Long-term planning determines concrete processes and actions needed to achieve strategic goals. It also focuses on setting priorities, aligning resources, forecasting, and handling unexpected changes.

In other words, strategic planning determines what and long-term planning determines how .

How to set long-term goals in 5 steps

As setting good long-term goals is the foundation of every other planning you’re going to do, it’s important to get it right. That can often be hard and overwhelming, especially if you’re making plans for the distant future, e.g. 10 years in advance – which is why we made this step-by-step guide.

Step 1: Define your vision

Ask yourself: What is your (or your company’s) vision? What is your purpose? What are your core values? If you’re a company: what problem do you want to solve and how would the world look without that problem?

Ideally, where would you want to be 3, 5, and 10 years from now? What is, right now, stopping you from achieving that? What changes do you need to make? If (or better to say, when ) you manage to achieve your goals, how different would things be, and in what way?

All these questions will help you clarify what do you want to achieve. The next step is – how to get there?

Step 2: Set SMART goals

If you’re sure in the direction you want to take, it’s time to set goals. They should be challenging, yet achievable, and most importantly, they should be SMART.

The examples I’ll provide to explain each letter of this acronym are mostly short-term goals as it’s easier to understand that way, but these criteria can (and should) be applied to any type of goal, including long-term goals.

  • Specific : Once I heard someone say that “goals should have their name and last name”, meaning they need to be as particular and well-defined as possible. “I want to find a job” is not a specific goal, while “I want to land a _____ position in ____ field, preferably in ____ type of company in ____ area” has a name, last name, even a middle name.
  • Measurable : In order to know if you’re making progress, you need to be able to measure it. That’s why setting goals such as “increase brand awareness” is not very good – how do you know if you accomplished it or not? Instead, try something like “get 5K followers on Instagram and 1K likes on our Facebook page.”
  • Attainable : As we mentioned above, the goals you set should be challenging, but possible to achieve. “Earn a million dollars in a week” is measurable and time-bound, but not realistic, at least not for most of us (that being said, if it’s realistic for you, go ahead and set that goal).
  • Relevant : Relevant goal is a goal that fits your vision and has importance to you. If you want to be a lawyer, setting a goal of graduating from medical school doesn’t make a lot of sense for your career path.
  • Time-bound : Give yourself a specific time frame to complete the goal; if it has multiple steps, impose a deadline for each milestone.

Step 3: Break down your goals into smaller ones

After you set your SMART goals, it’s time to break them down into smaller chunks, that will again be divided into series of actionable steps.

Big goals often consist of a few milestones that you need to reach; each one should become its own short-term or medium-term goal. Think of them as checkpoints in a race or levels in a game – you need to pass them all to get to the finish line and win.

Keep dividing it until your big goal becomes a weekly or daily to-do list. The more complicated the goal is, the more times you’ll have to break it down into smaller parts.

Let’s say you just got into university and your goal is to get your Bachelor’s degree.

  • First, you’ll divide it into 3 or 4 goals (depending on how many years it lasts): “finish 1st year”, “finish 2nd year”, and so on.
  • To be able to do that, you need to pass your exams, and each of the exams will become its own goal.
  • To pass each exam, you usually have to take quizzes, write papers, make presentations, etc; again, each of those pre-requirements becomes a subgoal.
  • Then you divide that into concrete steps: doing research, writing the first draft of your paper, editing it…

By making tiny steps like these, you’ll eventually and gradually accomplish your long-term goal.

Step 4: Prioritize

Go through your list of goals and put them in the order of their priority. That will facilitate making short-term goals and organizing your time, energy, and money in the right way. First focus on the goal(s) that will make the most difference and that align with your values the most.

Also, ask yourself: Are there some areas that need immediate assistance? Are any of those goals time-sensitive? What is the likely outcome of (not) making this a priority?

Step 5: Keep updating your list

Goals and priorities may change over time. Because of that, it would be a good idea to occasionally go through your list, make sure it’s up to date and change something if needed.

There are different types of planning: short-term, long-term, and medium-term. Short-term planning focuses on resolving present issues and takes 12 months or less.

Long-term planning is more complex and tactical and takes more time.

Medium-term planning means applying long-term solutions to short-term problems.

What all of them have in common is that all of them require thinking ahead, setting goals effectively, and problem-solving.

✉️ Do you find long-term and short-term planning difficult? What are your long-term and short-term goals? What is, according to you, the best way to plan for the future? Write to us at blogfeed[email protected] for a chance to be featured in future articles.

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Dunja is a content manager passionate about time management and self-improvement. After years of trying out all the productivity techniques she managed to come across, her goal become to share her knowledge and help others to become the best, most successful versions of themselves.

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Short-Term, Medium-Term & Long-Term Planning in Business

  • Small Business
  • Business Planning & Strategy
  • Business Plans
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Aggregate Planning Concepts

Issues to discuss at safety committee meetings, the difference between operations & strategic human resources.

  • Primary Responsibilities of a Human Resource Manager
  • What Is the Meaning of Organizational Strategy?

Business owners develop plans to reach their overall goals, and they usually find it useful to separate planning into phases. This allows you to track immediate improvements while evaluating progress toward eventual goals and targets. The different time frames of the planning process place the focus on time-sensitive aspects of the company's structure and environment. You can differentiate planning based on the time frames of the inputs and expected outcomes.

Strategic Planning Characteristics

Many businesses develop strategic planning within a short-term, medium-term and long-term framework. Short-term usually involves processes that show results within a year. Companies aim medium-term plans at results that take several years to achieve. Long-term plans include the overall goals of the company set four or five years in the future and usually are based on reaching the medium-term targets. Planning in this way helps you complete short-term tasks while keeping longer-term goals in mind.

Short-Term Planning

Short-term planning looks at the characteristics of the company in the present and develops strategies for improving them. Examples are the skills of the employees and their attitudes. The condition of production equipment or product quality problems are also short-term concerns.

To address these issues, you put in place short-term solutions to address problems. Employee training courses, equipment servicing and quality fixes are short-term solutions. These solutions set the stage for addressing problems more comprehensively in the longer term.

Medium-Term Planning

Medium-term planning applies more permanent solutions to short-term problems. If training courses for employees solved problems in the short term, companies schedule training programs for the medium term. If there are quality issues, the medium-term response is to revise and strengthen the company's quality control program.

Where a short-term response to equipment failure is to repair the machine, a medium-term solution is to arrange for a service contract. Medium-term planning implements policies and procedures to ensure that short-term problems don't recur.

Long-Term Planning

In the long term, companies want to solve problems permanently and to reach their overall targets. Long-term planning reacts to the competitive situation of the company in its social, economic and political environment and develops strategies for adapting and influencing its position to achieve long-term goals. It examines major capital expenditures such as purchasing equipment and facilities, and implements policies and procedures that shape the company's profile to match top management's ideas.

When short-term and medium-term planning is successful, long-term planning builds on those achievements to preserve accomplishments and ensure continued progress.

  • Small Business: Business planning: Short, medium and long-term objectives
  • Info Entrepreneurs: Strategic Planning
  • Board Effect: The Difference Between Short-Term and Long-Term Goal Planning

Bert Markgraf is a freelance writer with a strong science and engineering background. He started writing technical papers while working as an engineer in the 1980s. More recently, after starting his own business in IT, he helped organize an online community for which he wrote and edited articles as managing editor, business and economics. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from McGill University.

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How to set up and achieve long term goals for a business

Download our free Strategic Planning Template Download this template

What are long-term goals for business?

Long-term goals for business are the high-level goals of your strategy that you aim to achieve in the next 3-5 years or even longer. They are the objectives that, once reached, bring you closer to your vision.

They are the milestones for your vision.

They tend to be resilient to environmental changes like technological, political and others. Long-term goals determine the direction of your company and solidify your strategy regarding your position in the market and the industry. In other words, they outline the high-level objectives you choose to accomplish to bring your vision to life.

Free Template Download our free Strategic Planning Template Download this template

Why it’s important to set long-term goals

They provide clarity ..

A business with weak or non-existent long-term goals is like a leaf in the wind.

It moves in no particular direction and is subject to every and any change in the environment. It jumps from trend to trend without understanding what causes them, trying to get as much benefit out of them as possible. Sometimes it succeeds, others not so much. As a result, its performance is a roller coaster and its future unpredictable and uncertain. These kinds of businesses move fast towards nowhere.

A business with no long-term goals is in reactive mode .

On the other hand , organizations with long-term goals deriving from their vision have a more steady course. They have clarity on what they wish to become in the next 3-5 years, which guides their decisions. It’s easier for them to spot meaningful trends and take advantage of them in the short term to succeed in the longer term.

Clarity in the organization’s future state, when combined with a concise view of its current state , is a powerful tool. It enables an accurate gap analysis and the grounding of the strategy in reality.

A business with solid and aligned long-term goals is in proactive mode .

How short-term and long-term goals differ

Long-term goals differ from short-term goals in four key traits:

  • Short-term goals are malleable .
  • Short-term goals are specific .
  • Short-term goals are measurable .
  • Short-term goals are sacrificable .

short term and long term goals difference infographic

Short-term goals change often. As they should. They correlate to the tactics you choose to pursue your strategic objectives. And your tactics change when the environmental circumstances change, e.g., your competitors launched a new product, a global pandemic came out of nowhere, your country leaves a state union , or a new tech disrupts your industry. All of these changes force you to adapt your short-term expectations and tactics. Your long-term goals are more resilient to these changes.

Short-term goals love specificity. This is goal setting 101. Remove ambiguity and make sure that everybody interprets the goals the same way. Make your language simple and your description longer if you have to. Clarity in goals informs decisions. Of course, long-term goals should be clear, as well, but they don’t have to be so specific. 

Short-term goals have numbers in them. They are not metrics or KPIs because they’re lagging indicators of your progress. But they are indicators nonetheless. They inform you whether you and your people did a good job to achieve them. Long-term goals don’t need numbers if they don’t make sense. For example, “Dominate our category” could be accompanied by a number like “Own 70% of the market”, but that doesn’t exactly sum up what “dominating a category” really is.

Short-term goals are sacrificed for the company’s greater good. We’re past the time where quarterly numbers are the holy grail of strategy. Leadership with a clear vision recognizes that sometimes you have to make short-term sacrifices to achieve long-term success. It’s how you build sustainable and stable growth. The reverse is what creates soaring short-term results but destroys the culture and leads to ethical fading.

How long are short-term and long-term goals

The scale is relative.

A colossus like Amazon can’t really keep up and survive with a strategy shorter than 3 years . The bigger the organization (and its market cap), the longer the span of its long-term goals. Planning for so long ahead allows the company to manage its resources efficiently and direct its effort towards the most promising big move.

In his book “Invent & Wander: The Collected Writings of Jeff Bezos,” Jeff Bezos says that each quarter is baked three years earlier .  Not three months. Not three quarters. Three years. Which means that the numbers of the latest quarter indicate the quality of the company’s 3- year-old strategy. And it makes sense. It’s impossible to coordinate over a million employees if you change the company's direction with every small trend you spot.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the strategy doesn’t adapt to environmental changes.

Complacency is the enterprise killer . Large organizations might be more resilient to threats, but they can become irrelevant very fast, remember Blockbuster and Kodak. However, with size comes one huge advantage. Data. Large organizations have access to huge amounts of data that can generate market insights, spot trends and almost “predict the future.”

Short-term and medium-term goals are decided based on those findings. Due to their dependence on environmental conditions, short-term goals can’t be yearly . Even longer than quarterly is stretching them. In a time of a crisis, short-term goals could be as short as daily and in more peaceful circumstances as long as quarterly.

Long-term goals examples

The further you look into the future, the more uncertain it becomes. The closer your milestones are to your vision, the less specific they become.

Let’s take, for example, The Walt Disney Company . Disney’s vision statement is:

“To be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information.” When Bob Iger took over as Disney’s CEO, his strategy was summed up in three priorities, 3 long-term goals :

  • Create content of the highest quality
  • Adopt cutting-edge technology to create content & connect with the customers
  • Expand globally

These goals are specific enough to guide the decisions of everyone inside the company and are vague enough for everyone to interpret them differently. In other words, they are contextualizing the content of the rest of the strategy.

Other long-term goals examples are:

  • Dominate our category
  • Create a community-like culture
  • Lead the sustainability transformation in our industry
  • Create the most comfortable/cheapest/easiest to use [product]
  • Digitize our processes

Short-term goals examples

Short-term goals are very specific.

Each department, team and individual has its own short-term goals to meet. What’s important is to have all of them aligned, some shared between teams and people and none isolated. Choosing short-term goals is the last step of your strategy’s implementation and should derive naturally from your strategic priorities.

Here is a list of short-term goals:

  • Increase our revenue by 15% by the end of Q1 owned by Jane Doe.
  • Reduce safety incidents by 70% by the end of Q1 owned by John Doe.
  • Increase customer retention by 30% by the end of Q2 owned by John Doe.
  • Hire 5 new salespeople by the end of the month owned by Jane Doe.
  • Increase ad conversion by 10% by the end of the next month owned by Jane Doe.

How to set long-term goals

Long-term goals have 3 important components:

  • Duration (NOT deadline)
  • Specificity to dictate choices
  • They are memorable

They don’t have a specific deadline. They have an estimated duration. You don’t “Dominate your category” by Dec 31, 2025. You “Dominate your category” in the next 3 years. If in 3 years you haven’t achieved your goal, then something went wrong. That’s how you should think of your long-term deadline, not as a hard date but as an estimated duration.

They dictate choices. Long-term goals outline the company’s strategy and inform every employee’s decision-making process. Ideally, when a team leader needs to make a decision, crucial or not, they can easily align it with the company’s strategy simply by visiting the long-term goals. That’s why they can’t be overly specific because they will only inform certain types of decisions and be useful to only a limited part of the organization. Thus, creating a big risk of internal misalignment.

They are easy to remember. If your people need to check the company’s long-term priorities every time they make a decision, they won’t. Make sure everyone understands and is on board with your priorities by simply making them memorable. In the end, you want the priorities to provide context, not represent all of your strategy’s details.

Benchmark the duration of your goals externally

Take as much guessing as possible out of the process. Have a hard look at your industry’s history and how long it took certain players to achieve their long-term aspirations. Find out what were their strengths, weaknesses and mistakes . Contrast them to yours and then make an educated estimation of your goal’s duration.

Do better than “best”

Shy away from generic goals like “be the best/first/most innovative.” Nobody perceives these the same way. For example, specify your ideal customer so your people know who NOT to target. Specify your product’s niche , e.g., “perfect scale models” instead of “just toys.” In essence, provide a context to decisions that will dictate a clear set of choices on every organizational level.

Write them for 5-year-olds

If a young child can’t understand your long-term goals, chances are your people will have a hard time remembering them. Simplify the language, avoid jargon, use verbs and be specific in your adjectives . Go beyond 3 goals and you risk giving your people contradicting priorities. Clarity unifies collective effort towards one direction .

How to achieve long-term goals in business

With shorter-term goals.

When you write your strategic plan , start from the end and work your way backward from your vision towards your current state. Here’s how to think about your plan:

  • Your vision is your destination.
  • Your long-term goals are your milestones.
  • Your shorter-term goals are your odometer.

how to achieve long-term goals in business infographic

Your strategic plan also contains your Focus Areas and your strategic objectives . They break down your direction even further. 

Starting with the end in mind gives your shorter-term goals a predictive power

So basically, your strategic plan works like a roadmap towards your long-term goals. Here’s how to think about tracking your progress: if you complete all of your strategic objectives, will you have achieved your long-term goals? If you haven’t achieved at least an 80% progress towards them, your tracking is off. You need to revisit your strategic objectives.

This tracking process cascades from the top of the strategic plan to the bottom. Check out how Cascade brings this strategic model to life and aligns your people’s day-to-day work with your company’s vision as a goal management software .

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Short-term vs. long-term business goals: comparison + examples

Not unlike the recipe for your mum’s famous chocolate cake, the recipe for business success calls for various ingredients and steps plus time and patience. It requires short-term work (baking) to yield long-term results (happy tummies). 

In business, short- and long-term goals are used tactically to help a business move forward. But what are they? And how are they set? We’ll define and compare short-term and long-term goals and show you 15 examples of what they look like in business.

What is a long-term business goal?

It’s all in the name — long-term outcomes are what your company wants to achieve in the long term. They’re high-level goals or strategies you want to accomplish in the coming years, driving you closer to your vision. Good long-term goals should be adaptable to technological, political and other environmental changes.

No exact period defines long-term goals, but most organisations think of them as goals you aim to achieve in the next one to ten years. While ambitious, they inform short-term goals and day-to-day business flow and vice versa. Knowing a general direction is essential, but keeping a bottom-up approach that supports adaptability, creativity and more input into decision-making is still crucial.

What is a short-term business goal?

The term ‘short’ is key in describing short-term goals. They define business goals you want to achieve in the near future, which can span from a week to a year, depending on the project and organisational preferences. They focus on the present, promoting productivity and good time management.

Short-term goals are clear, easily actionable and geared toward individual or team efforts rather than overall strategy. That being said, short-term goals should still be set with long-term strategy in mind — to set short-term goals, you need to know generally where your business is heading. In simpler terms, short-term goals are the steps you need to take to get where you want to be and a tool to check you’re heading in the right direction.

Short-term vs long-term goals

Short-term and long-term goals may differ, but it’s not quite David and Goliath. Below we’ve listed three key factors that set short- and long-term goals apart.

The biggest difference between short-term goals and long-term goals is their purpose. Long-term goals are strategic — they’re a plan for the future of the business. Short-term goals contribute to business success but have more to do with your current performance.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to defining what’s considered short-term or long-term, but generally speaking, short-term goals are more likely to be measured by weeks or months and long-term goals by years. Long-term business strategies require many short-term goals to meet.


Short-term goals and long-term organisational goals are also different in adaptability. Short-term goals are typically more clearly defined and actionable, whereas long-term goals are flexible to changes in strategy.

Examples of both short- and long-term goals in business

Looking for some real-world examples to help you write business goals? Using the SMART methodology — which requires goals to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound — we’ve compiled some examples of long- and short-term business goals that are easily adaptable.

Short-term vs long-term marketing goal examples

A long-term marketing goal might sound like this:

  • Drive more traffic to the shop tab on the website

And the short-term goals that support this long-term strategy might look like this:

  • Develop a social media strategy that boosts posting from 3 times a week to daily
  • Plan an email campaign that achieves an average click rate of 10% before new product launch 

Short-term vs long-term finance goal examples

The following might be a long-term finance goal:

  •  Reduce operating costs 

And to support the long-term strategy, short-term finance goals may look like this:

  • Automate 50% of payroll duties by adopting accounting software by June 30
  • Reduce cost of goods sold (COGS) expenses by 20% this quarter

Short-term vs long-term HR goal examples

Long-term HR goals would include:

  • Improve employee retention rate

Whereas the short-term HR goals for the long-term strategy may look like this:

  • Allocate 10% of HR budget to personal development training
  • Implement one feedback form a month for more visibility across company issues

Short-term vs long-term sales goal examples

A typical goal for long-term sales growth may look like this:

  • Increase total sales revenue 

In contrast, the short-term goals for sales might be as follows:

  • Generate 50% of sales from clients X and Y by the end of June
  • Make $30,000 in new deals by the end of the quarter

Short-term vs long-term customer service goal examples

An example of a long-term customer service goal might be:

  • Increase customer satisfaction

Whereas customer service short-term goals are more likely to be specific:

  • Increase the first-contact resolution rate by 10% by the end of quarter
  • Improve first reply time by 5% overall by the end of the month

How to set short- and long-term goals with OKRs

Whether you’re 20 years into trading or in the early stages of business, getting past the ‘vision’ part of goal setting is not always easy. You may know where you want to be, but getting there is the hard part.

A goal-setting framework like Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) bridges the gap between vision and strategy. It uses short-term targets to support medium- and long-term goals. 

If your long-term vision is to grow revenue, your quarterly OKRs may look like this:

Objective: Improve monthly sales revenue

  • KR1: Increase number of cold calls from 10 to 20 a day
  • KR2: Increase average purchase amount from $300 to $500 per person
  • KR3: Reduce customer churn from 40% to 15%

The process to turn goals into OKRs is simple:

  • Write down your goal
  • Pick up the best metrics and/or KPIs that have a high correlation to success
  • Set a target for improvements

Of course, there's a bit more subtleties to master, but there are some guides that can help you turn a vision into a simple set of OKRs .

How to track short and long term goals

long term plan in business meaning

Benefits of tracking your goals

Setting goals is only the first step you take to achieve success. Without goals, it's difficult to determine what you want to accomplish and how to reach your destination.

But, tracking your progress towards your goals is equally important. This is what helps you stay focused and motivated. By tracking your short-term and long-term goals, you can keep yourself accountable and on track towards achieving your objectives.

Short-term goals help you maintain a sense of urgency and motivation while working towards a larger long-term objective. Long-term goals, on the other hand, help you maintain a clear vision and a sense of direction. Tracking both short and long-term goals helps you maintain a healthy balance between the two.

Limitations of spreadsheets for goal-tracking

Using spreadsheets to track progress can be limiting, as they do not provide a comprehensive view of your progress. Spreadsheets are static and require manual updating, making them prone to human error. It can also be difficult to extract meaningful insights from spreadsheets as they don't provide data visualization tools that can help you identify trends and patterns. Spreadsheets also have limited functionality, which makes them unsuitable for complex tracking needs.

Why should use a proper goal-tracking software

A good goal-tracking platform provide a more structured and organized approach to setting and tracking goals. It allows users to define specific objectives and key results, assign ownership, and track progress against each goal. This structured approach ensures that goals are aligned with business priorities and that progress is measured against specific metrics.

A good platform will allows users to track progress against key results, see trends and patterns, and get real-time updates on progress. This level of visibility enables users to make informed decisions and take corrective action when needed. This, in turn, can help organizations improve performance, foster a culture of transparency and accountability, and achieve their business objectives.

Simplify goal setting with Tability

Set, share and track goals without a hitch using user-friendly software like Tability . Tability's easy-to-use tools and check-in emails support team buy-in, making it easy for your business to adopt it. Give it a go with a free trial today.

long term plan in business meaning

Monika Gudova

Content Writer and Editor

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long term plan in business meaning

Long-Term Planning versus Short and Medium-Term Planning

  • Leadership & Management
  • Aug 2, 2023
  • By Traqq Team

long-term planning

We live in a world of rapidly changing economic and business environments. To survive in such a highly competitive market economy, you need to think strategically and tactically. That’s where setting goals comes in.

However, you can’t make goals and objectives without a plan. Planning is essential to achieving short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals. It enables you to measure performance or progress in the workplace or in your life. So you know where you’re falling short.

The problem is that while most of us can make good plans, we never get to execute them for various reasons. In this post, we discuss the difference between short-term planning and long-term planning. We also talk about the relationship between the two and how to make long-term planning help you realize your full potential.

The Difference Between Short-Term and Long-Term Planning

What is short-term planning.

Short-term planning involves strategies that focus on the results within a short time, say a year. These are the strategies to be used in achieving specific milestones. Short-term planning aims for an immediate period and helps you fix the challenges you’re dealing with in the present.

Short-term goals facilitate long-term achievement. If not effectively planned and executed, it becomes much harder to attain long-term goals. So, whatever your short-term goals , make sure they align with your long-term vision.

One short-term plan example is saying to yourself, “I’d like to lose 30kgs in six months.” You can further break it down to losing five kgs every month. Another short-term plan example is to raise turnover by 10 percent and profit by 12 percent by the end of the financial year.

What Is Medium-Term Planning?

Medium-term planning entails strategies that focus on permanent solutions to short-term concerns. It’s the implementation of policies and procedures to ensure short-term problems do not recur.

In a business context, employee skills and attitudes or product complaints are short-term problems. Initiating employee training and development courses and revising the company’s quality control program may be medium-term solutions.

Another medium-term goal example is to invest in a service contract instead of repairing a piece of broken equipment every time it does. You want a solution that will prevent the machine failure from affecting the company’s productivity.

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Medium-term planning may cover a period of up to three years. It’s long enough to be meaningful for your long-term objectives and vision, yet short enough for you to project the targeted result.

Here’s another example. You could be planning to open a new branch in another city or introduce a new product to the market. In two or three years, you’ll be able to assess your current situation and determine whether you’re achieving success. You can then decide if the strategy is working or you need to change it.

What Is Long-Term Planning?

Long-term planning, as the name suggests, means setting goals that will take a longer time to come to fruition. These goals might take between four to five years to be met. The timeframe will vary from one business and individual to another, as well as the type of goal.

Long-term planning is strategic since it shapes the overall direction of the company or your career and personal goals. It involves formulating and implementing strategies that will insulate a business from the upheavals that periodically come up.

Long-term goals can tie closely in with personal goals and work-life balance. A good example is planning to become a millionaire before turning 40 or visiting all the continents within five years.

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easy and accurate time tracking

Planning anything for more than ten years in advance can be tricky. That’s why you should be prepared to continually adapt and adjust your short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals to take account of changing circumstances.

Long-Term Planning Vs. Short-Term Planning: The Key Differences

Generally, short-term planning is conducted for current and immediate concerns. The outcomes are usually expected within a year. The main focus of short-term planning is on the prevailing situation, whether in your career, personal, or business goals.

Long-term planning, on the other hand, takes longer to achieve and is based on how effectively short-term goals are accomplished. For example, let’s say you want to open multiple branches within and outside the state.

You will first need to lay a solid foundation that will attract and maintain new clients. To do so, you must research the area, gather marketing collateral such as interactive brochures and other online content, study the competition, and hire consultants to help pinpoint potential customer buying trends.

As you can see, it takes several short-term plans to reach your long-term goal of running several successful retail chains.

Short-term goals are flexible and straightforward. They act as stepping stones that contribute to achieving long-term vision and goals. Short-term goals can be adjusted daily, weekly, or monthly to ensure they work efficiently to fulfill your objectives.

Meanwhile, long-term planning is complex and tactical. It has elaborate steps that not only focus on future success but also how to get there. That’s why you should formulate short-term goals that naturally lead to your long-term goals.

In other words, you need to be flexible, realistic, and reasonable when setting goals. Circumstances change, but most importantly, you change and grow. The goals should align with your career and personal plans, as well as commitments.

Short-term planning pertains mostly to internal issues, like aging and new hires, organizational structure, the relationship between your staff and stakeholders or customers, etc. Long-term planning focuses on external and internal issues, such as the loss of a key supplier or competition pressure.

Long-term planning must consider external factors in which the business operates. These are legal, social, political, economic, cultural, and legal issues that might affect your efforts to achieve your vision.

Important tip : Every step or action you take affects the outcome. Therefore, make sure your short-, medium-, and long-term goals are interlinked and aligned toward your success.

What’s the Relationship Between Short-Term Planning and Long-Term Planning?

Planning ahead is critical – plain and simple.

Planning is the most crucial process for a business or individual with career aspirations. Basically, the short-term plans are what drive sustainable solutions, as well as steer decisions in the right direction.

The truth is, you can’t separate short-term goals from long-term goals. What you need is a way to blend short-term and long-term plans to achieve your career, business, or personal objectives.

The mission and vision start by having a longer-term target. You then break the long-term goals into a series of short- and medium-term goals as milestones along the way toward the final result.

What’s the Difference Between Strategic Planning and Long-Term Planning?

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that 90 percent of businesses that start without a strategic plan are doomed to fail.

According to research published in the Harvard Business Review , 85 percent of executive leadership teams spend less than an hour every month discussing strategy and 50 percent no time at all. The study also shows that, on average, 95 percent of the workforce doesn’t understand its organization’s strategy. The rate of success in such an organization is close to zero.

However, you may be wondering, “Isn’t strategic planning the same as long-term planning?” Well, not quite.

Strategic planning is a structured process that involves creating specific business strategies, implementing them, and evaluating the outcome.

It is broader and determines what strategic objectives and initiatives you should put effort into achieving your vision and goals. Strategic planning can be performed in three fundamental steps:

  • Formulation
  • Implementation and execution

While long-term planning defines the actions needed to achieve specific goals, strategic planning makes those goals more realistic. From a business perspective, it enables employees to better understand the relationship between their performance, projected outcome, and the potential rewards.

In turn, this fosters better commitment that leads both employees and managers to become more innovative and creative. Consequently, company and individual success become easily attainable.

4 Key Steps to Creating Long-Term Goals

Step 1: clearly define your vision.

The obvious place to start is knowing where it is you want to end up:

  • Is it to increase ROI by 10-15 percent?
  • Is it to increase sales by five percent?
  • Is it to open multiple stores by 2025?
  • Is it to create five million dollars worth of assets before handing over the business by 2030?

The best approach is to write down all your organizational, personal, or professional goals and aspirations for the next ten years. It doesn’t matter how far-fetched or impossible the objectives are at this moment. You’re simply setting up the stage, and once you have it figured out, you can now start to narrow it down by setting S.M.A.R.T goals.

If it’s a business, develop a statement of your vision and make it publicly available to your staff and customers. This is the most critical step in creating a long-term plan. Therefore, it needs to be well thought out and formulated.

Remember, make goals, not wishes. Dreaming of winning the lottery is a wish, not a goal. Wanting to make five million dollars within ten years is a goal, not a wish.

Step 2: Determine the S.M.A.R.T Goals

Now that you’ve painted a clear picture of where you’re headed, the next step is to set goals. Your objectives become much easier to accomplish when they are S.M.A.R.T. Here’s what it means:

  • Specific . What do you want to achieve in the short term? Short-term goals can be defined by several hours, days, months, or up to two years, depending on several factors, like company size. Just make sure they are clearly defined, so there’s no room for ambiguity.
  • Measurable . You can’t know if you’re making progress unless you measure it. A goal, such as, “I want to increase the number of followers in my social media accounts” is not specific, time-bound, or measurable. Instead, change it to something like, “I want to reach 1,000 followers on Instagram and 1,500 on Facebook by December 31.
  • Attainable/Achievable . What are you trying to get out of your short-term goals? Is it achievable? Setting unrealistic goals can kill motivation. Try to focus on goals that are challenging yet not out of reach.
  • Relevant . Your goals should align with your career, mission, and vision. Don’t set goals that are on the opposite path of what you want to achieve. Other alignment criteria include value, feasibility, appropriateness, and cost-benefit.
  • Time-based . An open-ended goal may take too long to achieve due to a lack of urgency. Giving yourself a specific timeframe within which to hit your target is more compelling, and will push you to put your best foot forward.

Step 3: Set Milestones

The next important step is to break down your long-term goals into smaller, attainable goals. So, you want to make five million dollars by 2030? How do you get there? Well, that’s by covering one step at a time.

If you’re already running a business, you’ll start by performing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis to determine its current situation. You’ll be able to answer questions like:

  • What’s holding you back?
  • What weaknesses can your competitors exploit?
  • What resources do you lack?

When you identify what your company does best now, find ways to devise better strategies to increase profits or beat the competition. Getting to the level of success you want is going to be a long journey, that’s why you need to break it into smaller portions.

Step 4: Reevaluate and Adjust

When you make a commitment to achieve, consistency will help you cross the finish line. Don’t lose sight of what you want or where you want to be. Think of the reward that awaits you when you reach your goal, and let that be your motivation.

Problems will always arise, and when they do, we tend to forget the long-term goals. If one approach hits a dead end, devise another approach. As someone once said, “If the plan doesn’t work, change the plan but never change the goal.”

Plan for Success

Remember, the road to success isn’t a straight one. It requires setting S.M.A.R.T goals, as well as strategic planning. Even with enough motivation, failing to plan is planning to fail.

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Short-term planning and long-term planning play an essential part in your future success, and each step contributes toward achieving the results you want. Just be sure to frame your objectives in a way that’s easy to measure. The more specific your goals are, the easier they are to achieve and track their progress.

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