Setting goals for the year ahead: my blueprint so you can too!

Setting goals for the year

Hi friends, I have a good feeling about this year. To ride on that wave of goodness, I thought I’d share my big ambitious goals for 2018, but more importantly my process for setting goals this year. Read through and then please share what you’ll be up to in 2018!

Setting goals: the big picture

Either you’re reading this early in the year and feeling pumped about the 12 months ahead, or you’re reading this later and trying to give what’s left of the year some direction and intention. Either way, you get to dream big and steer the rest of the year the way you want it to go!

I’m going to ask you to set one to three big goals for the year – so big that they are currently out of your reach. That is key here, as:

  • Attainable goals aren’t as alluring as big, scary, juicy goals;
  • And big goals require you to stretch yourself as a person (in a good way) and learn in the process of doing so.

Take a few minutes to have a think. What do you want to focus on this year? Is it health? Wealth? Travelling? Finding love? I’ve chosen to focus on three key areas for me in 2018:

  • Health, as it’s the foundation of everything else;
  • Research work: I’m a PhD student with an ambitious research project;
  • Income: I want to start creating financial freedom for myself and my fiancΓ©.

Dig deep and think about how you want to feel. For instance, by focusing on my health, I want to feel toned, beautiful and confident. This is especially important to me right now as I’ve got a wedding to plan: I want to feel amazing rather than self-conscious on the day. I also know that my health is the basis for success in other areas and a prerequisite for my long-term goals (such as starting a family).

Setting targets for your big goals

Now that you have one to three broad areas and that you’ve thought about why you want to focus on them, it’s time to be ambitious and specific! Think about what targets you could reach that would take your life to the next level. This could be a yearly revenue target, or the minutes you want to cut off your half-marathon time. Be specific: numbers help but aren’t always necessary.

Now take those one to three targets and see what happens if you double them, or even multiply them by ten… Does your internal self-talk start telling you that they aren’t possible? That’s a good sign! You want to set goals that you don’t yet have the “recipe” to reach. The idea is that you spend the rest of the year bringing yourself and your skills as close as possible to reaching that goal.

For example, my big, scary goals for 2018 are:

  • Reach 80% lean body mass
  • Develop a methodology for co-creating a citizen science project in Rio (and get it approved by my PhD supervisors);
  • Earn Β£10,000 in extra income [beyond my PhD scholarship].

Dare to be vulnerable and share your big goals in the comments below!

Focus on the effort: quarterly action steps

If you look carefully, the three goals above are outcome goals. To put it otherwise, they’re not something I can simply do, but the possible outcome of the many things I will do during the year. We’re now going to set action steps to guide us towards attaining those goals. There’s a very important distinction here between outcomes (big scary goals for the year) and effort (quarterly action steps).

Take some time to jot down 25 action steps that will help you towards your big goals for the year. Focus on what you do, not the outcome. For instance write “contact ten people about X” rather than “get three new clients”. You should also have the sole responsibility for these action points. They are what you’ll do your best to complete, no matter what, in the next three months.

By the way, I use a simple A5 notebook, as well as the Todoist app, to keep track of these different “tiers” of goals and action steps.

For example below are my 25 action steps for January to March.

Health action steps

My health-related action steps are:

  • Have a soup every day for a week – done 07/01/18;
  • Do all the videos of the TRUE 30 Day Yoga Journey;
  • Take part in three parkruns;
  • Go to three green gym sessions;
  • Have a smoothie every day for a week;
  • Have a salad every day for a week;
  • Show up to a zumba class;
  • Show up to a dance class;
  • Write about fitness efforts and progress on the blog.

Research action steps

You might notice a theme with my research-related action: they are quite literature review-focused. I’m a first year PhD student, so a lot of my job is reading and extracting little nuggets of wisdom from what’s already been written.

  • Send second draft of citizen science literature review to supervisors – done 05/01/18;
  • Do reading for winter school;
  • Send third draft of citizen science literature review to supervisors;
  • Attend classes at Reading;
  • Send first draft of second literature review to supervisors;
  • Read Everyday Experts: How People’s Knowledge Can Transform the Food System;
  • Send second draft of second literature review to supervisors;
  • Send third draft of second literature review to supervisors.

Income action steps

These action steps are very much about building up this blog to later support income streams.

Breaking it down: monthly checklists

Have your list of 25 action steps ready? Good, now you’re set to prepare your monthly checklists.

At the start of every month, I use a fresh page in my notebook, on which I’ll list the actions I’ll take towards my three different goals. I also leave space to list the items I have ticked off my bucket list. Start where you are, even if it is the middle or the end of the month when you are reading this. You’ve then got a shorter deadline to propel you into action!

I focus on the amount of action steps or experiences that I will tick off, not what they actually will be. Those decisions happen at the weekly level, which is detailed later on. The number of action steps I’m aiming for depends on the month. As some of them are cumulative, I expect to get more of them done on the last month of the quarter than on the first. So in January I aim to accomplish two action points in each area (health, research, income), in February three, and the rest in March.

Setting goals that stretch you – or why you should have reading targets

To account for being more action-oriented at the end of quarter, I give myself higher reading targets the first two months of the quarter. Yes, as well as the monthly action steps, I give myself monthly reading targets. I aim to read three books in the first two months (e.g. January and February) and two in the last month (March).

Remember when I wrote that you should choose goals that stretch you? And that you shouldn’t be able to figure out how to get there from the start? Well, that’s why you have to do some homework to get there! No matter what your goals are, someone will have written a book about it. There are loads of biographies or personal development books out there, so take your pick! Order them on Amazon or get them from your library, but in any case start reading about how others have accomplished what you are aiming for.

Keeping momentum: weekly action steps

Now we’ve arrived at the immediate future. This might be a bit scary as it involves action in the short-term, but that will allow you to quickly build momentum!

This advice is short and sweet: pick three action steps from your 25 to work on each week. Depending on how many you have ticked off this month, you can focus on the cumulative ones. For example, you could aim to get halfway through a 30-day yoga challenge this week, if you’ve already ticked off your action points for the month.

I have also identified daily habits that set me up for success, such as waking up at a given time in the morning. Every month I track my habits on a bar chart in my goals notebook. I might blog about habits at a later date. So subscribe in the box to the right if that’s something you’re interested in!

Bonus: rewards for reaching each milestone

Setting goals can be rewarding in more ways than one! For every time frame (i.e. year, quarter, month, week) I assign a reward. I write these down in my notebook and I will focus on them to help me push through. If I tick off all my goals or action steps for that given time, I enjoy my reward!

Examples could include:

  • Buy Christmas presents from me to me: a book, sunrise simulator and leggings;
  • Buy new sports clothes;
  • Book a weekend away;
  • Book a holiday somewhere new.

They could also be non-monetary things, like having a bath or taking an entire day off. Just make sure your rewards move you forwards and don’t sabotage the success you are building!

Action steps to take right now

  • Dream big and jot down your ambitious goals for the year, as well as this quarter’s action steps. Write down your targets for the month and week you’re in. If you want to feel a bit more accountable, share them in the comments below!
  • Listen toΒ this podcast that inspired my whole process of setting goals this year. Sam is very inspiring – you can’t help but feel determined when you listen to her!
  • Subscribe to my blog to not miss any insights on how to create healthy habits and keep going with your goals. Just add your email address to the little box on the right!

How are you setting goals for the year ahead? Was my approach helpful to you? If so, please do share this article! In any case, don’t just wish for a fabulous year ahead – make 2018 your year!



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