2018 Goal Retrospective

Every year I enjoy doing a retrospective on last year’s goals. I believe there is value is “open sourcing your brain”: your ideas may help someone and you may get invaluable feedback to help you improve. ┬áThere’s also a strange sense of social accountability created for myself that helps me ensure I improve this year.

So, with that in mind, here we go!

What worked

  1. Doing something small to move a goal forward. Once you see progress you’ll be motivated to dig into the goal more and make progress.
  2. Reduce friction on goals which you are not naturally motivated to achieve. For instance, if you want to drink more water everyday, buy a water purifier to make the water taste better.
  3. Scheduling time on Sunday to work on goals. Other days of the week are very busy and my mind is generally “spent” by the end of the week.

Some additional context on #1 & #2:

One of my goals this year was improving my health: losing weight, eating better, etc. This is something I’ve never been good at or motivated to improve.

I’ve found that if I’m not making progress on a goal, especially when I’m not naturally motivated to hit it, it’s because there is not a clear path to making progress. For instance, my health goal was to hit a specific weight and BMI. I don’t know how to work out: my family, friends, and school never taught me and I never invested in it. I have such little knowledge of the space I don’t really know where to get started.

What was really effective for me was setting up a little space in my house where I could do pushups and planks. I’m not sure if those exercises were the “best” to do, but I know how to do them well enough. I can do them at home, they don’t take much time, and it’s easy to see progress. I walk past the area I setup and it requires so little mental energy to take 10m and do the exercises that I’ve ended up doing them more consistently.

The lesson here for me is to break down large goals into a small actionable task and reduce the friction involved in accomplishing the task.

What didn’t

  • Quarterly review. We (my wife and I) did a great job on our weekly and monthly reviews, but just didn’t do the quarterly reviews. We also didn’t acknowledge this and adjust through the year.
  • Health goals. I don’t enjoy working out. It has always been a chore that required a bunch of my daily “decision making quota” to push myself to do it. I started making progress at the end of the year, but overall I barely made progress.
  • Not scheduling enough time on Sunday to work on goals. There was one goal this year which I didn’t hit just because I didn’t schedule a couple more hours to create a plan and strategy that I could easily execute on throughout the week.
  • Not bringing in help/accountability on a goal that is slipping. I’m wired to figure things out on my own, but sometimes (ex: exercise) it’s best to bring in a professional to help provide external motivation and personalized information to put me on a clear track to accomplishing my goal.
  • Developing new habits. I only have so much decision making power, or discipline, each day. Each time I need to make a decision I withdraw from my “decision bank account”. This is why automating or eliminating as many decisions as possible is very powerful. It’s also why I can’t seem to develop more than one or two habits at a time. This last year I was not intentional about which habits I was working on and didn’t ensure I had enough “discipline budget” to effectively build the habit.
  • Running a business by yourself can take over your life. It’s very hard to do anything but work on important and urgent items for the business.
  • I created a “2018 Goal Dashboard” and didn’t look at it at all. Keeping yet one additional thing up to date wasn’t effective and it wasn’t inspiring keeping a digital sheet full of gauges up to date. The meta-lesson here is being aware of adding more weight to a process. Be thoughtful about what the minimum overhead is required to accomplish your goals.

What am I going to change?

  • We didn’t stick to our quarterly reviews. I think we need to shorten the review to make it quick: ~30m. The length of time that it takes to effectively do the review is what caused it to be harder to execute on.
  • Don’t attempt to make big life or habit changes when you are starting a business. Be honest with yourself and realize that creating a successful business is going to take every ounce of effort you have and every other major category of your life will be on autopilot. The type of business does matter here: if you are creating a coaching business, a small info-product business, etc that you aren’t relying on to provide for your family this is a different story.
  • Every 2-3 months we need to schedule a 3-4 hour block of time on Sunday to work on our goals. This dedicated time on a day when there’s no other urgent obligations is critical to creating a strategy for moving forward on the more challenging goals.
  • There’s got to be an easy physical way to update the large goals for the year. Maybe some sort of board with the goals written down that you visit throughout the year.

I’ll report back in 2020 with how this year’s goals went.