When it comes to being goal-oriented vs task-oriented, you can find plenty of interesting perspectives favoring one or the other.
The good news?
They’re not mutually exclusive.
At least, they don’t have to be.
To live a meaningful and purposeful life, you need to know what you want to accomplish and why.
But you also need to learn how to get there.
Success often involves being either task-oriented or goal-oriented, depending on what the situation calls for.
So, how do you get better at both?
What Does It Mean to be Goal-Oriented?
Goal-oriented people are focused on the bigger picture: what they want to accomplish and why they want to accomplish it. And knowing both is a good thing.
Some folks are naturally more goal-oriented than task-oriented. They need to see the bigger reason behind every action they take.
And they’ll use any of the following tools to help them get closer to their goals:
- Vision boards (physical, virtual, or both)
- Yearly Planners
- Journals (bullet style or old school)
- Apps for habit tracking (like Productive) or tracking progress toward a goal
- Bucket lists
Goal-oriented people know the importance of habits and how they contribute to their overall success, and the time it takes to get there. No task is an end in itself.
What Is Task-Oriented?
The task-oriented approach focuses on action in the here and now. It has to care not only about what you want to accomplish but how you’re going to achieve it.
It puts a priority on being fully present in order to do your best work for the given task.
Task-oriented people focus on doing each and every task as well as possible. If the bigger picture is not apparent, they can be content with doing their best at the task given them.
They find enough meaning and purpose in completing each of their tasks to the best of their ability.
So, they focus on improving the quality and efficiency of their work. To that end, they’ll make use of any of the following tools:
- Productivity timers (like a Pomodoro timer app)
- Daily and weekly planning/to-do lists
- Spreadsheets for tracking tasks and related details
- Task management software (like Trello)
- Challenging/motivating deadlines and structured timeframes
The task-oriented person is generally more receptive to shortcuts, as long as they don’t compromise their work quality or do more harm than good in the long-run.
Task-oriented doesn’t mean heedless of the future; it’s just more present-focused.
Task-Oriented vs. Goal-Oriented: 13 Ways To Improve Both
The question, now, is how to improve your ability to navigate both approaches.
You might lean toward the goal-oriented approach and struggle with your employer’s micromanaging task-oriented leadership.
Or you might be more task-oriented and feel less valued by your goal-oriented peers because you just want to focus on your specific part of the bigger project — and go home.
Neither approach is wrong. But, whatever the situation, the more flexible you are, the more you’ll find value and even enjoyment in the work that needs doing.
What steps can you take to improve both your task-oriented and goal-oriented skillsets? Consider the following action steps for each.
Goal-Oriented Action Steps
1. Write down your goals, including the reasons behind each one.
Know what you want and why you want it before you develop your plan of action.
2. Break down those goals into smaller tasks with measurable targets.
Communicate both to your team to show how the tasks tie into the larger goal.
3. Keep track of your progress toward each goal.
Goal-oriented apps help this, but you can also use a spreadsheet and charts to track your progress.
4. Celebrate important milestones — and include those who helped you.
Honor those wins to keep you and your teammates motivated.
5. Develop habits that help you get closer to your goals.
Choose, in particular, those that help you become the person you want to be.
6. Find an accountability partner or mentor.
Make regular check-ins with each other a priority to ensure you’re still headed in the right direction.
7. Ask for feedback and learn from it.
Be prepared to make course corrections when necessary or to modify the tasks chosen to reach a specific goal.
Not all who help you reach your goals will prefer the goal-oriented approach. Keep this in mind as you work with them and find a way to incorporate the kinds of rewards they find most helpful and encouraging.
While you might be leaning in the other direction, you can learn to speak both languages.
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Task-Oriented Action Steps
1. Set measurable targets for each task.
Create a data sheet for recording relevant details for each completed task.
2. Allocate a reasonable amount of time to the completion of your task
Give yourself no more and no less than you need. Consider factors that can either cost or save you time.
3. Limit your daily to-do list to a few items you can realistically finish.
Anything beyond that is gravy. And completing each day’s tasks is its own reward.
4. Plan each day’s tasks to choose the most important ones.
That way, you’re less likely to spend the day in reaction mode with “urgent” ones.
5. Prepare a to-do list for the next day before your workday is done.
You’ll be better able to relax for the rest of the day and start the next with fresh motivation.
6. Use a productivity timer and other tools to help you focus.
Make sure to schedule regular breaks to avoid burnout and to refresh your mind and body.
Don’t forget to make room for spontaneous, creative diversions from the original plan. Too often, task-oriented leaders leave no room for solutions, changes, and ideas that stray from the chosen path.
Just because you’ve decided on a particular set of tasks doesn’t mean there can’t be a better way or that other ideas no longer matter.
On the other hand, while it’s good to consider alternative viewpoints and ideas, you can’t please everyone.
Good solutions don’t always present themselves at the most opportune times, and you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of each proposed change.
Are you more task-oriented or goal-oriented?
Now that you know how to hone both your goal-oriented and task-oriented skills, which will you focus on this week?
What tools will you pick up to help you improve your work quality or get closer to your big picture goals?
Don’t take on too much at once. Give yourself the time to get acquainted with each of the tools and tactics you’re less familiar with before you move on to the next.
Your personal development and well-being are worth the time you give them.