As an entrepreneur, you’re always challenging yourself to reach new heights. When you fail to reach your goals, it isn’t because they weren’t attainable or you lacked the drive to achieve them. You definitely can! Successful goal setting requires a measured approach, including a plan to track them—and celebrate your wins.
The topic of setting and smashing goals has been covered extensively in books, podcasts, and TEDtalks, and there are plenty of open resources that give you a foundation of effective practices. But how do you manage and track your goals day to day? Enter goal-setting tools. Whether you’re using an app or simply a pen and notebook, a tool designed for goal setting can keep you accountable.
Ahead, find tools for every entrepreneur personality type, and pick the one that will best help you formulate goals, develop good habits, and stay on track.
What is a goal-setting tool?
A goal-setting tool is an app, software, or physical resource that aims to guide the user in setting, measuring, tracking, and achieving goals. These tools often offer prompts or a framework that simplify the goal setting process.
Digital goal-setting tools include mobile apps or software that can offer a customized experience based on inputs like preferred notification cadence and timeframe to achieve goals.
A manual goal-setting tool could be as simple as a notebook and pen. There are a variety of journals and planners designed for setting goals and providing a more structured framework. Additionally, some entrepreneurs use tactile methods of goal setting, like large whiteboards that can be visible to a small team.
What are the benefits of using goal-setting software?
Goal-setting software can be beneficial, especially to those new to establishing goals within a framework. Use apps and online or desktop tools to:
- Increase accountability
- Get frequent automated reminders
- Celebrate yourself through built-in reward structures, like badges or tiers
- Make your goals portable (e.g., a mobile app or online tool that travels with you)
- Customize your experience as the software adapts to your habits
- Work within existing frameworks (versus “winging it”)
- Improve team collaboration to reach company goals
For the pen and paper devotees, there are still benefits to be had by these tactile goal-setting tools. The motion of scratching out or checking off items on a to-do list is a motivating force. These tools also help reduce screen time, make room for doodling, and become a physical artifact of your success.
18 goal-setting tools for personal and professional growth
There are endless choices when it comes to goal-setting tools—and it’s in an entrepreneur’s nature to be curious. While you may be tempted to download every recommended tool, you might add to the noise rather than hone your focus.
This list includes high-rated mobile apps for goal setting, beloved goal tracking products, and a few tried-and-true basics. Choose one or two tools that work best for your lifestyle or business.
Mobile apps for goal setting
What it is: Tally has a clean interface that allows you to track daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals on the same screen with a simple one-tap function. Goals reset after each set timeframe.
Best for: Tracking personal goals or simple defined goals (like number of books you want to read this year or number of pages of your manuscript you hope to write).
What it is: This habit-tracking app slices your progress data in many ways and visualizes it as graphs, tracking your streaks and overall success. A social component adds relevant discussions to each goal page so you can swap tips with others who have similar goals.
Best for: Data lovers, those looking for community motivation.
3. BeFocused (Pomodoro Timer)
What it is: A timer app you can tailor to habits. Set the length of time of the activity (say, yoga or working on your business plan), the length of breaks, and the number of intervals you want to complete within a set timeframe. A customizable alert indicates the start and stop times of each interval.
Best for: Meditation and working from home.
4. Way of Life
What it is: This app tracks daily completion of goals, helps develop habits, and displays your progress in graphs. Add tags and leave notes on each goal journal to help organize, find, and reflect on your goals.
Best for: Those with many overlapping goals and tasks.
More examples of goal-setting software
What it is: A web app that syncs across all devices via iCloud. Import data and sync with other essential apps and tools like Google Cal and Apple Reminders to keep everything in one place with this goal-tracking software. Fully customize your planner with colors and icons that complement your brand or personal taste.
Best for: Those who need to reduce clutter.
What it is: Project management software with rich functionality designed for larger teams or more complex projects. Asana features a Goals product to help align members of a team around a set of goals and keep everyone on track. New entrepreneurs on a budget can try a free version of this goal-setting software.
Best for: Teams of any size, importing current processes into a new tool, setting broad organizational goals with many moving parts.
What it is: Another project management tool that’s designed for setting and tracking goals as a team. This is a beginner-friendly alternative to Asana with drag-and-drop functionality, integrations with hundreds of apps, and free templates for everything from people directories to goal setting and tracking.
Best for: Small teams, setting up a project management process from scratch, consolidating multiple to-do lists.
What it is: A productivity tool with desktop, web, and mobile apps. With more functionality than a to-do list, the tool allows you to move tasks into projects, add priority ratings, and delegate. Start with the Goal Tracker Template to use Todoist for goal setting.
Best for: Tracking short-term goals like a daily or weekly to-do list.
Paper goal trackers, planners, and journals
What it is: This journal was created in partnership with author James Clear, based on his book Atomic Habits. It contains four toolkits, perforated trackers, and a start guide in case you haven’t read the book.
Best for: James Clear fans, those who want a guided approach to reaching habit-based goals.
What it is: Inserts and covers sold separately so you can refill your planner each year and reduce waste. This approach also lets you customize your planner with the pages and layouts that work best for your goal setting style. Try the insert pack specific to goal setting.
Best for: DIY enthusiasts, eco warriors.
What it is: A super-sized tactile project planner with 52 vertical templated pages to map out tasks and goals for each week. Try the Weekly Action Pad for a landscape format version.
Best for: Specific project goals.
What it is: An economical planner with pages you purchase as digital products and print yourself. There are 11 page templates, including a monthly planner, goal-setting page, habit tracker, and to-do list. Just print, hole-punch, and pop into any binder (they’re already formatted to print on 8.5 by 11 paper).
Best for: Goal setting on a budget.
What it is: A companion notebook to complement The Bullet Journal Method, a book by Ryder Carroll. Start with the book and use the notebook and companion app to implement your learnings. 🎯 Bonus: check out our interview with Ryder on the Shopify Masters podcast.
Best for: Mindfulness buffs.
More goal setting tools
What it is: A large-format wall calendar that provides a snapshot of your milestones for the year. Get an at-a-glance view of your big deadlines and the critical dates leading up to them.
Best for: Family goal setting or small startup teams, monthly goals.
What it is: A stick-on whiteboard with a powerful but gentle adhesive back that can be applied anywhere. Use it in small home offices or large boardrooms, or resurface an existing whiteboard. Also try Think Board’s reusable sticky notes for a tactile kanban board.
Best for: Goal setting and planning as a team, a temporary brainstorming space for reaching goals together
What it is: A clean and customizable wall-mounted panel to keep your goals top of mind. Install it in a prominent place as a daily reminder of your big goals in every category from financial to family.
Best for: Overarching long-term goals, daily motivation.
What it is: Upgraded sticky notes in unexpected colors and shapes, including transparent notes. Use these in tandem with a wall calendar or whiteboard to rearrange milestones, group goals, and delegate tasks to a team in a visual and collaborative way.
Best for: Adding notes to vision boards, kanban-style goal tracking.
18. Wearable tech and smart devices
What it is: Wearable trackers are most common for fitness and health goal setting. Think Fitbit and Apple Watch. There’s even a version for your dog. Smart water bottles and their associated apps track your water consumption and send periodic reminders to drink up. Try HidrateSpark or Equa.
Other goals like optimizing your sleep, keeping your home energy use low, or staying on track while on the go can all be set and tracked using dedicated smart gadgets. These tools for goal setting often feature automatic progress tracking as they read data based on your use.
Best for: Personal goal setting, mini goals.
Pack your tool box, stick to your goals
As an entrepreneur, you already have enough on your mind. Whether you’re setting multiple business goals or a long-term personal goal, a goal-setting app, tool, or device can make light work. Get your team on the same page and keep employee engagement high with collaborative software, or track progress of small goals for your team of one with a to-do list template or apps with progress bars.
Tools for goal-setting can bring huge benefits to team productivity and time management, sending automated reminders to stay focused and keep driving toward your dreams.
Feature illustration by Alice Mollon
Goal setting tools FAQ
Which tools are used to set a goal?
Whether you’re setting personal goals, career goals, or organizational goals, there’s a tool that’s right for the job. To choose the one best for your goal-setting needs, consider your personal preferences, how much automation you might need, and who needs to access the tool. Tools for goal-setting can be as simple as a paper journal or as complex as multi-user goal management software.
What are the keys to effective goal setting?
Effective goal setting involves establishing realistic goals that are: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. This framework is referred to as SMART goals. Using SMART goals ensures that you have thought through the viability of your goal in the context of your life. This structure also prompts you to determine ways to track progress through measurable targets.
What are some goal setting techniques?
Some goal setting techniques include frameworks like: SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely), WOOP goals (wish, outcome, obstacle, and plan), PACT goals (purposeful, actionable, continuous, and trackable), and OKRs (objectives and key results). These systems can prompt you to set achievable goals and establish goal-tracking methods that help you stay motivated.