2020 Goal Retrospective

Another year, another yearly goal retrospective. This year included a grab bag of curveballs, most notably COVID. Although there was a lot of loss this year, I'm blessed to be able to say this year was really good for me and my family.

Without further ado, here's the retro!

What Worked Not doing the quarterly reviews and focusing on the monthly reviews. In this season of life (young kids) quiet/focused time is precious and it's not possible to spend too much time planning together (or individually) for that matter. Small, specific goals that created a habit or helped figure out a workflow worked well. We should continue to pick key habits and work on them through a focused goal. It's important to have only one or two of these per year to prevent your goals from becoming too boring. The simple habit tracking sheet (gsheet with the number of times per week I did my target list of habits) provided a nice weekly reminder of the habits I want to build. I started this year reconnecting with a group of friends focused on changing a handful of specific habits. It's been a great motivator to 'flip the defaults' on some behaviors at the beginning of the year. I spent a lot of time over the last year being more intentional about my screen time usage. This has paid off: I feel more focused and less distracted than in the past even if it means I'm the "horrible texter" in group chats. It's worth continuing to improve my systems & disciplines around controlling screen time, it pays a handsome dividend. What Didn't Goals that required lots of communication/coordination with my wife and weren't essential to this year, didn't get done. Getting time alone to work on common projects is challenging with young kids. I don't think there is a great solution to this other than being very careful about committing to goals that fall into this category. Goals that weren't impactful to get done this year were hard to prioritize. Be thoughtful about goals that are 'nice to haves', or something that is very exciting/an important long-term goal, but not something that can be tied to real progress this year. If the goal isn't really important to get done by the end of the year, don't include it. For example, one of my goals was completing a list of house projects. Most of these were not essential and I made progress on these without intentionally prioritizing them. I enjoy learning new skills and doing things with my hands, so I'd made certain improvements a priority without any additional willpower. We didn't hold each other accountable for goals that didn't make any progress by default. In our monthly review, we spent time reviewing the month and what we could improve, but not tracking against the goals we committed to. We didn't adjust our goals and revisit some of the things that were just impractical after covid hit. Historically, we've been bad at adjusting goals after setting them. It feels like admitting defeat, which is something I hate doing. I need to get better at just accepting that life is dynamic and the focus of a year could change on a dime. I naively thought we had the parenting thing down. Kids pushed the limits of our parenting skills this year. My wife and I have spent a lot of time in the second half of the year talking, reading books, implementing new ideas, etc relating to our parenting. This took a lot of time and was the right place to put our efforts, but it was not reflected in our goals (either explicitly or by reducing the number of additional goals). I don't expect this year to be too different as our oldest continues to get... well... older and we continue to attempt to figure out how to parent well. What Should Change? Don't include goals that impact us more than a year out. Don't include goals that aren't critical and will partially get completed by default. Think about which goals require dedicated willpower to change behavior or make significant progress and focus on those. Make reviewing our goals and keeping each other accountable to them part of our monthly review. Either have goals tied to parenting or leave lots of margin to include time for parenting over the next year.

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2019 Goal Retrospective

I've been doing retrospective's on my yearly goals for a couple years now. Although it's a little late, I wouldn't want to break the habit (plus, I'm trying to open source my thinking).

Let's go!

What Worked Creating a distinction between habits and goals. I have a separate "habit document" where I document habits that are important to me. Setting a goal to kickstart a habit. Habit-goals shouldn't be all, or even most, of your goals for the year but having one or two habit-goals can be really effective at changing behavior. It was useful to commit to an action (like hiring a personal trainer) to force building momentum for a specific habit. If you've set a goal for the last couple years and haven't been able to make it happen, consider doing something drastic. How can you up the ante and put something on the line associated with the goal? Maybe it's hiring a coach, tying money to it, making a commitment that you can't back out of without causing issues for someone else, etc. Figuring out how to raise the stakes has been hugely helpful. Including a just-for-fun goal: vacation, hobbies, etc that you'll be really motivated to accomplish. This has helped me be excited about the year and maintain motivation for the important but not exciting goals. Setting aside project time as a married couple. It was fun to work on our goals together, and we got some important and run things done during this time. Looking forward to more of this. Joint goals or projects with my wife was really fun and motivating. For instance, we built a garden together this year. Zero-targets. Setting a non-action goal was a great way to break some behaviors I wanted to change. What Didn't Goals that weren't exciting or specific enough fell to wayside. We didn't do the quarterly review at all. This is the second year that this wasn't an effective practice. In the season of life that we are in (little kids), we just don't have the time to really set aside the time to do a proper quarterly review. We need to rethink this. This may be obvious, but having a kid is a goal in and of itself. We knew we were going to be growing our family, but I didn't account for this in my list of goals. Make sure to a in that year and you need to plan for that. We didn't create "project time" that often individually or as a couple. I wish we blocked off time for projects 2-3x more than we did. What Needs to Change? Remove the quarterly review. We haven't stuck to it for the last two years and with two young kids carving out that amount of time just isn't practical. Next iteration on this is adding reminders to our monthly review to ask a couple of the questions that we wanted to incorporate into the monthly review. More project time. This is super fun if you set goals at a couple and helps create focus around making progress on goals that are slipping.

Here are some other reflections I had about the year:

Many of the exciting life changes have come and gone (moving, buying a house, etc) and we are in a season where family (kids) take up the majority of our time. This means that most of our goals are less exciting, and that's ok. We have to remember that raising amazing kids and being present to them is our top priority. What that requires shifts and changes throughout the year. Some things in our life which need to change are hard to tie to a specific and measurable goal. Mostly because we don't know exactly what needs to change. With two young kids "improving our family balance" is a thing we need to improve, but what that exactly means isn't clear. What we decided to do was pick a specific thing that represented the best forcing function we could think of for improving on the vauge state that we are marching towards, and then adjust the specifics of that goal as we move through the year. Most of your goals shouldn't be actions that you naturally motivated to take. I tend towards this mode and need to think hard about what goals work against things I don't

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Life Categories for Your 2020 Goals

Each year my wife and I go through a review process where we set goals and habit targets. We've been doing it for five years and it's amazing to see the progress we've both made. It's also been powerful to set joint goals that we can work on together.

I've found it helpful to think over the "categories" of your life. A couple of years ago I wrote out my main life categories and it's time to update that list:

Spiritual Marriage Kids Health Intellectual Work Adventure, beauty, and fun. Intentionally pursuing outdoor adventure and just-for-fun activities with friends is a new thing for me. In the past the first thing to go with this sort of self-care, but I've found this to be more and more critical to achieving the life I want to have over the long-term. Financial Relationships

This list is stack ranked against what my long-term priorities are. For a season, one category will be more important than other aspects of my life but over the long term, I want to ensure I prioritize my life against this stack-ranked list.

It has served as a good gut check for me at the end of each year: is my time aligned against how I want my life to look?

 

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2017 Goal Retrospective

I love yearly goal planning with my wife. It's been an awesome practice that we started years ago thanks to The Best Year Ever program and the promptings of David DeWolf. It's truly changed our lives: it's amazing to see how many big, important goals you can hit each year if you have focus and clarity at the outset of the year.

I try to do a retrospective in most areas of my life, but I especially enjoy doing one in regards to my yearly goals. I've found identifying and implementing small, incremental improvements to important aspects of life to be incredibly useful.

What worked:

Our weekly review reminded me of key goals and maintained momentum towards hitting them, even when I lost motivation or felt overwhelmed with other demands on my time. This last year was a busy one for us, and we paired down our goals from the outset to account for this. Being realistic about what can be accomplished based on your season of life is important. Although our goals were "boring" this past year, they were the right ones for our season of life. It's ok to have boring goals that are important—but not every year! Over the long-term, they need to be exciting. Two of my goals were habits that I wanted to develop. I think if there were more than two habits, this wouldn't be as effective, but having two habits to focus on each week was very powerful.

What didn't:

We only did our quarterly review once. We use the quarterly review time to edit our goals (and sometimes remove!), change our strategy, or adjust goal metrics if what we originally set out to do was unrealistic. Additionally, not having this time set aside eliminated the possibility for us to have dedicated time to work on key goals that were slipping.

I also find that keeping goals around that need to removed or edited is demotivating. I skip over them and immediately discount them, which affects how I perceive the rest of the goals on my list.

Here's what needs to change:

We need to add more fun to the quarterly review process. For the yearly review, we try to take a trip and get out of our normal life for a couple of days, but for the quarterly reviews we've never done this. Combining the process with a fun experience will help us look forward to the process more and make sure it happens. A Groupon hotel deal is a great (and cheap!) way to make this happen. There's a distinction between key habits and goals. For us, we've always treated habits that we want to develop as goals. However, there are important habits that we've developed (or are still working on!) that we want to make sure we maintain. I'm going to try to develop a list of habits and creatively think of a way to track our commitment to critical habits over time. Not sure how to do this yet without creating more work/time for us.

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2015 Goals Retrospective

I've been making intentional yearly goals using Michael Hyatt's Best Year Ever program for the last couple years. The simple workbook that Michael provides is effective in reviewing the past year, and defining goals for the upcoming year.

A "retrospective" is a process common in Agile Software Development, but I've started applying it my personal life planning lately. I made a lot of progress on key goals this past year, but still made a lot of mistakes; below is a retrospective on my 2015 goals.

Here's what worked:

Getting clear on my goals, and the reasons (or motivation) behind those goals. Adjusting my actions and strategies to align against my goals.

Here's what didn't work:

I didn't track my progress against my goals in a consistent and disciplined way. Although my goals were trackable (a key element of a successful goal!) I didn't track against the metrics embedded in the goal. I didn't adjust my actions and strategy, even though it was clear that my original strategy wasn't bringing me towards my goals fast enough–and in some cases–was just the plain wrong strategy. I didn't have a process in place to remove goals that weren't right anymore. A goal that makes sense at the beginning of the year may not make sense mid-way through the year, and that's ok.

My plan is to fix what went wrong with two simple tweaks:

I'm setting up a monthly recurring task in my task management application (todoist) to review progress on goals in a simple google spreadsheet. I've blocked off a day each quarter for a "quarterly checkin" to ensure that 1) all my goals are still the right goal and 2) the strategy and actions aligned against each goals are correct.

I'm thrilled to jump into 2016 with all I've got. I'm excited about these changes to my goal planning process; I'll report back next year to see if it worked!

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