What Is the Difference Between Goals and Objectives?

An objective is usually a short-term aim that is governed by a time line and is specific, while a goal is usually a long-term proposition that is more general. The accomplishment of an objective should be easily highlighted, while the accomplishment of a goal is harder to quantify. The two terms are used in connection with each other, since the achievement of a goal is usually accomplished by successfully completing several objectives.

An example of a goal is, "Our marketing campaign wants to be successful." This statement does not specify a time frame in which success is expected, nor does it define what success is in the mind of the person who set the goal. An example of an objective is, "Our advertisements on the local channel should increase sales of our product in the town by 100 percent next month." This statement explains the definition of success in a way that is measurable and constrained by time.

Educators often differentiate objectives from goals by using the SMART acronym, which stands for testing an objective to see if it is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timed. If a statement fails to achieve one or several of these factors, it is more likely a goal rather than an objective.