Last year was a roller coaster ride for me. Started the year with new responsibilities and learnings at work. Took care of parents’ health issues. My mother successfully overcame covid after a tough battle. Got married and started a new phase of life. Ended the year asking and getting more challenging work. Along the line, I completely neglected my health, my reading habit and this blog. Because I’m pretty good at planning (if I may say so myself), let me show you how I arrived at my goals so that you can also plan better.
1) Identify the Focus Areas:
Before setting up a goal, it is good to analyse what you need to work on. Instead of rushing to pledge something on the 1st of Jan, take your time to carefully introspect what went wrong last year, what went well, what you need to immediately work on, what you would like/dislike to do, etc., and categorize what are the must-haves and nice-to-haves goals. Ask suggestions from the people close to you to know your blind spots.
Write down all the things you would like to accomplish, rearrange them in the order of importance and likes, draft a list of Pros and Cons if you have decisions to make and pick the areas to focus on. Even if you have already set a goal, do this exercise and see if you need to tweak your goals. You may also want to do this again throughout the year as life brings on new opportunities and challenges.
It is absolutely okay to start your new year resolution after a fortnight or even in February. Your life, your rules. Do make sure you are committing to something that is well thought out and will help you in the long run.
My focus areas:
This year, my main focus will be on fitness (because I’ve neglected it for too long and it needs immediate attention). Reading, blogging and professional learning will be my secondary goals. I want to read fewer books and review them in this blog. Why fewer? Because reading is mostly a sedentary activity and I need to focus on fitness which is my primary goal. This will leave some time for professional upskilling as well.
2) Set SMART goals:
Once you’ve decided what areas to work on, you need to frame them as SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Based. Set long term goals that you want to achieve at the end of the year or over a period of months/years. Next, set short term goals that will help you achieve these long term goals. Revisit them throughout the year and if they don’t seem to be relevant anymore, update your goals accordingly.
My long term goals:
- Be fit enought to climb 10 flights of stairs continuously without taking breaks.
- Read and review 12 books.
- Learn Python, identify some boring task and automate it.
My short term goals:
- Walk 7000+ steps daily on the first week
- Increase goal by 1000 steps every week till it gets to 15000+ steps daily
- Stair climbing training once a week with progressive increase in number of flights
- Its absolutely okay to skip a few days, do less or more as per the health condition and free time. As long as I’m progressing over time, I won’t be super focused on hitting a certain target daily.
Learning goals: #100DaysOfLearning
- Brush up on CS basics, math and/or practice coding daily. Ideally, it should be an hour, but this may not be possible every day and that’s okay.
- After 100 days, assess and set further goals.
- Audiobook Challenge
- The goal of this challenge is to find a new love for audios or listen to more audios in 2022. Audiobooks will help my fitness goals, so I aim for the Binge Listener level (20 to 30 books).
- Turtle Recall Challenge
- This challenge is to read books set in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. I’m signing up for The Counterweight Continent level (1-5 books).
3) Integrate your goals into your daily routine for effective execution:
Try to break up your goals into actionable tasks with daily targets. When you club your goals into a daily routine, it helps you remember to do them. For example, if you want to exercise more, you can try stretching during youtube ads. Maybe do planks before every meeting or a break. If you want to drink more water, you can store a bottle near you and target finishing it before lunch and again before dinner. If you want to take care of your skin, you can start a bedtime routine after you brush your teeth at night. Depending on your goals, some of them may even be clubbed together, helping with time management.
How I’ve combined my goals:
I decided to start walking every day first thing in the morning. I’m switching to audiobooks for reading and I’m only allowed to listen to audiobooks when I’m walking. This way, I can work on my fitness and reading goals at the same time. Also, the curiosity to read (or listen in this case) will push me to walk more. I will dedicate 1 hour per day to learning and/or practising coding. The trick here is to use the Pomodoro Technique and do some simple exercises during each break.
4) Flexibility in Tasks and Timelines:
Depending on your perseverance and self-motivation, you can be strict or flexible with your daily targets. In these trying times, with a new variant of covid cropping up every few months, it is especially difficult to stick to a plan. If you are someone who gets demotivated with a minor setback, it is better to be flexible with your targets.
For instance, my initial goals require around 2 hours of my time daily. It is a lot of time but doable on most days (unless life decides to surprise me) with some effort. I will be flexible with my targets. If I’m busy during a weekday, I will compensate for it on a weekend. If there is a festival or I’m going out during a weekend, I will compensate for it before or after. But if I or someone around me gets sick, I am going to focus on rest and precautions and skip those days.
Depending on your mindset and personal obligations, you can even set iterative sprints of strict timelines in your goals. For example, you can focus on your personal goals for a few days when time permits, stop for a few days (to work on other interests/duties or just relax), and then repeat. This way, you will not miss out on enjoying the events that are important to you while charging towards your goal.
5) Prepare for Success:
Before you start your journey, make sure you have the necessary tools to complete it. For my goals, I’ve installed step counter apps on my phone, practised daily walking at different timings to find what suits me, got 500+ hours of audiobooks ready for my walks, identified the resources I need to study and signed up for some courses. This is the reason I’m starting my 2022 challenges after 3 weeks of careful planning and prep work. You don’t need to get everything sorted when you are beginning, just the basics to get you started without any hiccups.
Also, in some cases, you may need some prep work before you start your journey. For example, if you’ve never been to the gym or you’ve not done justice to your past memberships, maybe you can try allotting some time for simple at-home exercises for a few days before signing up. Experiment with different timings to see what would generally work for you and then commit to a gym membership once you’ve developed the discipline to exercise regularly.
What are your goals for this year? Did you find my steps for goal-setting helpful? What more tips would you add? Comment below!