I’ve been doing yearly retrospectives on my yearly goals for awhile now. My belief in incremental improvement being the key to achieving anything great life has only been strengthened as time has gone on. Here’s my review of last year’s goals and my thoughts about what I can change going forward.
- Focusing on just two habit changes for the year is the right balance for me. I think of a habit as a recurring behavior I want to change, as opposed to a specific one-time event or project completion. I implemented the two habits I targeted.
- Setting goals that are just hard enough is really critical. I set a couple goals that were just enough of a stretch that I felt like I could push and get them across the line. If they were 20% harder I probably wouldn’t have made it, but if they were much easier I would have left something on the table. It’s impossible to get this 100% right, but you get better at this with time.
- Defining the why behind goals has been really important. This helps filter out goals that don’t matter as much (if you can’t articulate a compelling why, you shouldn’t include it in your goals) and a crisply-written why helps maintain motivation over time.
- Tracking habit-like goals weekly on an excel sheet is a great tool for remembering to do them. However, (a) you can’t track too many goals and (b) tracking them has to be easy (< 30s to record).
It’s been interesting & rewarding to see over time how I’ve become more effective at setting goals. Sure, goal planning systems are more effective than nothing out of the box, but there’s a lot to learn by iterating on your own goal system that takes into account your specific psychology and quirks. It’s worth putting in the time to really think seriously about your goals and how achieve them each year.
- Goals without very clear, measurable metrics—or metrics that were hard to track/observe—were hard to hit. Even if you "complete" them it doesn’t give you the same feeling of acomplishment, and the lack of specifics doesn’t give you the motivation to push when it gets challenging.
- I wanted to do a screen-free day each week. Instead, I did ~20 over the course of the year. This was strangely hard to remember to do, and I’m not sure why. Weekly discplines (as opposed to daily discplines) are harder to build, especially when you don’t have anyone to hold you accountable. For example, I used to hate working out, but committed to a weekly time with a friend and now it’s a habit and I enjoy it. I need to determine how to pull that same sort of energy into changes that are not dependent on another person.
- I think part of the issue with the screen-free day and some other related habits is exatly what it means isn’t clear. Does it mean I should put my phone + laptop in another room? What if we committed to be somewhere and need to use the phone to get there? What exceptions exist? This muddies the waters and makes it hard to focus on this sort of goal during the whirlwind of daily life.
What Should Change
- I want to look into apps, or some other low-friction reminder tool, to help build habits. There are some smaller, micro habits (like taking a vitman every day, flossing, etc) that don’t fit well into the goal planning process. Streaks looks like a simple app that was recommended by a couple folks.
- If there are goals or habits which seem hard to build, put some time into really clarifiying the actions you need to take to make progress on the goal or the exact actions that the habit requires. As an example, I need to think on the screentime goal and determine how I can really intergrate this into my daily life and be reminded of this automatically.