Each year I take time on my birthday setting my goals for the coming year. I do one last look back at the goals I set for the previous year, look at what I accomplished, what I missed, and what ended up not mattering. Some of these incomplete goals I will carry over into the new year, some I will disregard as having lost their importance as the year progressed
I have leveraged (or maybe just personalized) the approach to goal setting that I first learned from Chris Guillebeau on his blog The Art of Nonconformity. A great read, I highly recommend. I took a lot of inspiriation from Chris’s explination of his process and incorporated many of the elements, deviating where it make more sense to me and my life.
Two small ways I have adapted Chris’s model are numbering the goals by age and that I update these goals not at the turn of the calendar year, but the turn of my own year.
Numbering by age
I don’t update this document but once a year, on my birthday. As I write out my goals for the upcoming 12 months I I make sure the number of goals is incremented. by one to match the new age. (E.g. my 43 goals in my 43th year or just my 43 for 43 ).
Birthday goal setting
This timing just happens to work better for me. I find the tradition time for goal-setting, New Years, just exhausting. I barely feel afloat by the end of the December. I am much less ready to reflect and commit to large objectives for the upcoming year.
And I have a Spring birthday, months removed from the havoc of the holidays. The weather is turning warm finally, the cherry blossoms are starting to bud and it feels like a time of renewing. This works especially well for goals that are activities like hiking or exercise, it feels much more achievable time to get started.
I break down the goals into the following categories:
- Health and Fitness Any goals related to commitments to weight or working out but also one off goals like biking to work.
Goals related to removing debt and maintaining financial stability. Also goals related to getting my kids started investing or having a will and related documents in order.
One of my favorite categories to explore. Where should we go over the next year. This is where I start planning both exciting weekend trips or large vacations either domestically or abroad.
This category covers a lot of area and varies wildly from year to year, but more recently has been focused on finding and committing to activities with myself and my kids or with my wife as well as a family. I love when it can include introducing new things like camping, playing tennis together or learning to ski.
This is where I commit to the personal and fun projects for the next year such as building out the Fastcon conference or finishing the game of Pandemic Legacy that stalled after seven or so games.
- Spiritual & Giving
I underutilize this category, keeping mainstays like attending church or giving to charaties. I am sure there is more I could and should be including here.
This tends to be more focused on personal branding so making sure I stay active in the design community, finding engagements if possible and posting articles, Dribbbles and Codepens. This post is actually part of a goal for this year, my 43 at 43 of at least 1 Medium posting per month
- House and Home
Simliar to travel, this grouping tends to lead to thinking big ticket about what needs to be done around the home, be it get a new sofa or determine a plan for landscaping, clearing out the garage or starting a garden.
Lastly, where can I grow and know more. This is anything from attending a conference, to expanding my Chinese vocabulary, to taking golf lessons to finding an app that teaches the ukelele. Wherever I am looking to broaden my knowledge.
Revisiting the Goals
I keep this lists in a doc file in my Google Drive for now. I am dissatisfied with this as it quickly becomes out of sight and out of mind. I am looking to find a better solution.
When I remember that I have successfully (or sometimes inadvertantly) completed a goal, I go into the doucment and strike-through that item. Goal completed. That’s such a good feeling.
Sometmes I come to realize when reviewing the list that some of these list itemsare not as valuable as I thought they would be in the Spring when I added them as goals. A Travel trip falls through or a House and Home project is no longer a high priority. I don’t amend or replace, but I will often shade those lighter to note they are not going to be focal points moving forward.
Then I try to pick one, two, five that I want to see real progress on in the next few weeks and try to determine what is the first action needed, adding an event to a calendar, or making a phone call or looking up where to find a course or activity. How can I get started.
At the Year’s end
As the next birthday comes around, I give the previous year’s list one final review. First filling in anything that was completed in the last few weeks as well as adding any new shows or books or giving.
Then I will start a new document and keep both open on the screen so I can reference the previous year’s list. Anything that wasn’t shaded out as not a priority or struke-through and completed is worth reconsidering. Often it’s still a valid goal that just didn’t get done and so I move it over to be reset as a new goal for the coming year.
If you want to get started
… it’s really not hard. I generally find it takes only an hour, if that, to compile the initial list and then 5–10 minutes each month to check in.
What are your thoughts on this approach? Would it work for you? Or do you have your another of working towards your longer-term goals. Let me know. Thanks for reading.