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How to Set Goals for the New Year

by Roberto
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December is here…and soon we will all be starting our “New Year Resolutions”, with many of us stopping after just a few short weeks. Then, next year will roll around, and we still haven’t accomplished the goals we set LAST year.  

The problem with resolutions is that they are often made without any major strategy or vision in mind and are so broad, they are hard to turn into action.  They usually go something like, “I want to lose weight” or “I want to spend less money.” These are great aspirations, but they don’t help you guide you into action.

I was one of these people… making the resolution to “get fit” then going to the gym everyday for a week before spending ALL THE MONEY on my gym membership and never going.  

Over the last few years, I learned a lot about project planning and started reading LOTS of personal development books.  I’ve played around with different strategies, and have put together a process that works for me.

I build a short and long term vision for my life, then set SMART goals with action plans, DO, measure, adjust, repeat! EASY  

1. Create a Vision

I’m not going to lie to you… this is the HARDEST part of the process.  Understanding yourself, your own needs, and what is going to make you the happiest is something that will take you time and experience to better understand.  But, the best part about it, is it’s not permanent! You can start with a vision and it can change over time, you aren’t stuck! 

You need to think about your vision in not only the next 12 months, but also the next few years, or even the next decade! 

Some things you will be able to accomplish in 12 months, and some things will take much more time.  Starting with the end in sight will help you PLAN for the things you need to do TODAY to get you where you want to be TOMORROW. 

So first, think about December of next year.  What does your life look like? I mean it. Stop reading right now, close your eyes and think about what you are doing, who is in your life, what have you accomplished? 

Now, write it down.  Here are a few examples of what you might have come up with.

  • Who are you in one year:
    • This could be: I am in shape
    • This could be: I am in a new job
    • This could be: I have a loving boyfriend
    • This could be: I am visiting Greece

Now do it again, but think about where you are in 5 years and again for 10 years.  Imagining where your end destination is, will help you get on the right roads to get there.  Things may change over time, and that’s ok. We’ll discuss that a bit later. 

  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years
    • This could be: I am the owner of my own, profitable business. 
    • This could be: I am a director at a company 
    • This could be: I live in a new country 
    • THis could be: I have no more debt
    • This could be: I have a masters degree
  • Where do you see yourself in 10 years
    • This could be: I have a PHD
    • This could be: I own a house
    • This could be: I have a family
    • This could be: I have a dog 

Vision Board

I have a vision board up in my hallway at home and I get a few positive comments (and sometimes a few laughs) when guests see it hanging up.  I’m surprised EVERYONE doesn’t have one hanging in their house or bedroom.

I hang mine on something like this:

My vision board is the first thing I see when I leave my house and the first thing I see when I come home.  It is a constant reminder of where and who I want to be. It helps me make sure my mind and my actions are directed towards my long term vision of where my life is going.

Vision boards are SUPER easy to create, all you need is something to hang it on (like a poster board or cardboard) and either magazines for images or an app like Canva or WordSwag

I like creating my own rather than searching magazines to make sure they really resonate with me and my goals. 

If you need a little vision board inspo, here are some of mine for 2020:

One of my goals is to attend a travel conference in 2020
One of my goals for 2020 is to hike Crogh Patrick in western Ireland

2. Set the goal and create an action plan 

Has someone ever asked you how you eat an elephant?? 

Well, the answer is, “one bite at a time.”

Now that you have a vision of what  life looks like next year, 5 years from now, in the next decade…. It’s time to break your vision into goals and steps you can take that will help get you there. 


A lot of research has been done about goal setting and the right way to create goals so they are accomplished.  Using SMART goals are one of my favorite ways to do this. 

SMART is an acronym and model for goal setting which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time- Based.  

Let’s use the vision “I am fit” as an example of how to set a goal.  What does being fit look like to you? Can you fit into your old wedding dress? Can you do 100 pushups? Can you run a 5k?

If being able to run a 5k is what it feels like to be in shape, then let’s make a SMART goal for it! 

Specific: I can run a 5k

Measurable: in under 30 minutes

Attainable: Today, I can run/walk a 5k in 45 minutes, so yes, this is attainable. 

Relevant: This is aligned with my overall goal of getting fit. 

Time-Based: I will do this by December of next year. 

Action Planning

Once you have a goal, you need to have an action plan based on where you are today. Let’s say today, you can run a 5k in 45 minutes, so 30 minutes isn’t too far off.  Maybe running a 5k in under 30 minutes based on your current fitness level means you have to increase your weight training and complete one 5 mile run per week, this may make your plan to take one weight training class at your gym and run 5 miles on Sundays.

Your action plan for a smart goal might also just be a checklist, or a list of things you need to just DO to make it happen. Here is one of my personal SMART goal examples and action plan based on “Hike Croagh Patrick” on my vision board!:

S: Hike Croagh Patrick

M: I have achieved it when I stand at the summit.

A: I live in Ireland so getting there will be cheap. I am fit enough and have done other big hikes in Ireland.

R: Visiting Croagh Patrick and Westport, Ireland is on my vision board for 2020.

T: Do this by the end of summer 2020 before it gets cold and snowy!

SMART Goal in a Bullet Journal
SMART Goal in a Bullet Journal

3) Implement and Measure 

Now that you have your goal and your action plan to get there, now it’s time to GET IT DONE!  Measuring is one of the most important steps to make sure you hit your goals. It’s the easiest part of the process (if you are going out and completing your actions)!  Measuring helps you take stock and keep track of whether you have actually done what you planned and figure out if your plan is working or not! 

My favorite way to measure how well I am keeping up with my action plan is by keeping a bullet journal.  My bullet journal helps me plan out my week, what I need to accomplish to complete my goals overall, and then see how I did at the end of the week. 

This Leuchtturm1917 hardcover notebook is my FAVE to use as a bullet journal:

I’ve been using one for about 4 years now, and just buy a different color to represent each year!

In the 5k goal example, I might also decide that I will sign up for one 5k race every other month. This way, I can see if my weight training and 5 mile Sunday runs are helping me to decrease my overall 5k time to get me closer to 30 minutes by December.   

4) Review and Adjust 

As one of my favorite country singers once said, “Life Changes”.  The vision of where you want your life to go will change, and your vision board, goals, and action plans should change with it.

I usually will review my vision at the end of every year, but sometimes things fall off the vision board mid year (hopefully you achieved it) or something new goes up.  It should be an ever evolving vision of your life. 

Even your action plans should be reviewed based on how close your original plan is getting you to your goals! Remember when we were measuring if our weight training and long Sunday runs are helping us to progress to meet a goal? Well if it isn’t, you should ADJUST your action plan.

Good Luck!

I hope you found this post helpful!  I spend a lot of time on honing in on my vision and setting goals and I’m happy to share everything I’ve learned. 

This is what has worked for me. I’d love to hear if it works for you or how you manage your goals differently!

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