Goals that are difficult to achieve and specific tend to increase performance more than goals that are not. A goal can become more specific through quantification or enumeration (should be measurable), such as by demanding "increasing productivity by 50%"; or by defining certain tasks that need completing.
Setting goals affects outcomes in four ways:
- Choice: goals narrow attention and direct efforts to goal-relevant activities, and away from perceived undesirable and goal-irrelevant actions.
- Effort: goals can lead to more effort; for example, if one typically produces 4 widgets an hour, and has the goal of producing 6, one may work more intensely than one would otherwise in order to reach the goal.
- Persistence: An individual becomes more prone to work through setbacks if pursuing a goal.
- Cognition: goals can lead an individual to develop cognitive strategies to change their behavior.