Goal Setting

sketch of monthly calendar with days marked off

I’ve been setting goals for myself since my college days. It all started with a leadership seminar during my junior year. The presenter shared a quote about how those who plan ahead are more successful than those who don’t. I didn’t know how success was measured or if there was legitimate research behind his claim but as a young impressionable student I ate it all up. From that moment on, I’ve been setting yearly goals.

As I reviewed my resolutions throughout the years, I noticed that I could only cross off about half the items listed. I wanted to be more productive and get better at reaching my goals. So last year, I decided to be a bit more ambitious with my intentions. To help me stay on task, I borrowed a component of teaching and lesson planning. I decided to break my yearly goals into monthly benchmarks, much like breaking down a unit plan into individual lessons. This was an easy way to keep track of the goals I’ve set for the year. I could also use the monthly check-ins to tweak my approach if something was amiss.

The change to my goal setting was helpful as I was able to accomplish a number of different goals last year. I started NineOverFour and published a handful of essays and weekly updates. I picked up the guitar, learning most of the basic chords and a simple song or two. I read 17 books and over a million words on Pocket . And I started cultivating culinary skills by working my way through a cookbook.

To build on that success, I decided to step up my goal setting by adding another layer to the process. The addition will be to make this year’s goals and results public. This will keep me accountable and raises the stakes on my goals. It will also help me stick with the monthly assessments of my results and future objectives. Last year, I missed the last two or three months of goal setting check-ins. I still ended up crossing off a bunch of items on my list but could have done more if I remained focused.

So with that, here is a picture of my goals for 2016:

photo of my written 2016 goals

My goals for 2016

Below is a transcription with some additional thoughts:

  • Read 20 books - I want to read more than I did last year and improve my writing by reading great stories.
  • Write 8 essays –I created this website to share stories and to do that I have to actually write.
  • Continue Weekly Thoughts – The weekly updates force me to write and share something every week.
  • Pass SE Exam – Passing the grueling 16 hour test and getting my engineering license will be a big step in my career.
  • Learn 5 new recipes – This year I’m looking to finish reading my current cookbook and add new tools to my culinary toolbox.
  • Learn 3 new songs on guitar – I plan to pick up the guitar again after letting it sit in the corner and continue refining my musical skills.
  • Meditate 3 times a week – I want to make a more concerted effort to practice meditation and keep from being distracted by technology and everyday life.
  • Travel to somewhere new – Exploring new cities lets me learn about various cultures and try new cuisines.

It’s now more than four months into the year and this is the first time I’ve posted this essay and my goals for 2016. I’d meant to get this out earlier in the year but ran into a productivity and life slump. At this point, I realized that I was going to short on many of my 2016 goals; I’d read only two books, wrote and published one essay, and already missed several weeks of my update. I am off pace and it would take a lot of time, which I’m not sure I have, to reach my numbers at the end of the year. I was depressed and decided to take a hard look at what I was trying to accomplish.

After digging through some of my usual sources of inspiration and creativity , I realized that I was trying to do too much. The aims I’ve set in the beginning of the year deals mainly with my hobbies: writing, reading, music, and cooking. By setting goals for each one and forcing myself to meet those numbers, I’ve made my hobbies feel like a job. And the guilt of not completing my “job” was making me feel uninspired.

To get back on track, I looked back to my childhood days. I had fun following my passions and did not feel pressured by my hobbies. I also focused on one and only one goal, which was to do well in school. When I completed that goal for the day, it felt like I’ve accomplished something and didn’t just waste the day away. To mimic those times, I decided to focus on only one goal instead of the eight listed above. My one goal for the year is to write at least one sentence every day.

I chose writing because it’s the reason I started NineOverFour. I also feel incredibly accomplished when I finish an essay and put it out there. Writing one sentence a day should be relatively easy. The plan is to slowly build momentum and get back on track to publishing essays and longer reads regularly. I’m going to track my writing with the help of google calendar and share the results every month. This will be used as an accountability measure that lets my readers know when I slacked off. So instead of my parents, I’m relying on my readers to help keep me on task. Let’s hope that I follow through on my goals, so I won’t have to face the wrath of my audience.

Tags: #goals #essays

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