How to set life-changing yearly goals and actually accomplish them
I posted a screenshot of my goal-setting spreadsheet to my Insta story, and people had STRONG reactions. They were either like, ‘omg send me that spreadsheet’ or ‘omg you’ve completely lost your mind.’ If you excel without any structure, keep movin’, but if you’re the kind of person that thrives with a solid to-do list, this post is for you.
Does this sound familiar? I used to sit down every January with a blank page and big dreams of making this year my best year yet! By February, I’d fail in some way and forget about my goals until October. I needed a solution that was simple enough to avoid getting overwhelmed, flexible enough to change throughout the year, and involved enough to keep me accountable.
The gist of the solution: every 12 months, I set big yearly goals, and each quarter, I create specific action steps and review the previous quarter’s results. Since I started setting these goals seven years ago, I grew a multi-million dollar business, traveled to 31 countries, learned to code, adopted a meditation practice, found myself, found my husband. Just saying, it works
SMART Goal Setting Basics
Before we start setting our goals, let’s review some SMART goal-setting basics. Gotta love when you find a good acronym on the interwebs.
- Specific Detail exactly what you want to accomplish making sure the expected outcomes are tangible. Spend one hour every Sunday doing something for me is a better goal than start practicing self-care.
- Measurable You should be able to measure some aspect of your results to know if you’ve achieved the goal or not. Run a 7-minute-mile is a better goal than run faster.
- Achievable I believe in pushing myself a bit, but if there’s no way I’ll accomplish the goal, I’ll completely lose steam. Go to Orange Theory 3 days a week is a better goal than go to Orange Theory every day. On that note, I’d steer clear of every day goals unless you’re freak of nature.
- Relevant Your goals should align with your overall life objectives and constraints. While I’d love to set the goal complete daily ceramics classes, it wouldn’t fit in my schedule.
- Time-bound If I don’t set a completion date for a goal, I’ll say ‘I’ll do it next week’ every week, and it’ll never get done.
OK, it’s goal-setting time.
Step one: Set the mood and own your space
You want to have clear, empowered, positive headspace. Make your space tidy, light a candle, put on your favorite stretchy pants, and the last crucial step, blast Good as Hell by Lizzo (dancing encouraged).
Step two: Choose up to 1o goals for the year
Here is a blank spreadsheet for you to set your goals. Follow the instructions in the spreadsheet to make your own editable copy. I took screenshots of my 2019 goal-setting sheet as an example in this post, but you can find more in the 2019 Example tab of that spreadsheet.
To accommodate my messy life and my lack of fortune-telling skills, I usually keep my yearly goals pretty vague and save my SMART goal-setting for my quarterly actions.
When I have a hard time thinking of worthy goals, I think about goals for important categories in my life: relationships, work, health, happiness, passions, impact, etc. You may think ten goals is too many, but who says you have to start working on them all on January 1? Plus, you can also always focus on fewer goals.
Step three: State ‘the why’
Get in touch with why each goal is important to you. What will your life look like if you achieve the goal? What will it feel like? Write a sentence or two for each goal that captures the essence of the why. If you can’t think if a why that connects with your values and gets you excited, maybe this isn’t a goal you should focus on this year.
Step four: Make specific action steps for each goal
A few helpful notes
- Make the action items for your first quarter easy to accomplish. Seriously, please take what you had envisioned accomplishing and cut it in half. You want to create some momentum to keep going.
- I found it’s much easier to evaluate results if a goal can be measured in one of these 3 ways
- Measured once at the beginning and once at the end of the month (for example, I can run an 8-minute-mile now, and I want to be able to run a mile in 7:40 by the end of the quarter)
- Automatically tracked somewhere (for example, count the number of books you finished on your kindle at the end of the quarter)
- Measured by completion (for example, launch a new website).
- If you’re interested in more advanced goal tracking, use a habit tracking app like Strides.
- If you want to track how many times you do an action, there is no way your recall at the end of the month will accurately measure your results. In these cases, I use Strides.
- Tracking my goals daily keeps me super motivated and connected to my goals throughout the quarter, but it’s not for everyone.
- If this seems like too much work or makes your eyes glaze over, I wouldn’t recommend this approach for you. Don’t fight nature. Stick to a simpler approach because any friction in the process will prevent you from following through.
Step five: Evaluate results and set new quarterly actions
As the end of March nears, it’s time to review how you did. I take as little time as possible I measure the results and jot down how I did.
Even if you followed my advice to scale back your first quarter, you’ll still likely bite off more than you could chew. Don’t be discouraged by that. Just learn from it, and set your actions for next quarter.
As the conditions of your life change, how you define a goal might change. Perfection in a rigid structure isn’t the goal here. In some cases, you may want to ditch a goal altogether or add a new one. Do it! This is for you and no one else.
Repeat every quarter.
Tips for actually completing your goals
- Schedule events in your calendar at the end of each quarter NOW to review results and set actions.
- Add your action items to my to-do list app (Lyster, Asana, or just your phone’s notes app) at the beginning of each quarter.
- Find an accountability partner. I can’t stress the importance of this one enough. Share this post with one of your motivated friends, and ask them if they want to set and review goals with you.
- Share your goals publically. Studies have shown that publicly sharing your goals can make you more likely to achieve them. I’ve been starting to share more of this stuff publically, and honestly, I feel like a bit of dick every time I do it. The things that make me feel less dickish about it are sharing it my Insta stories (so at least it’s not hanging around forever) and to make it kind of cute. Feel free to save the image below to share your top 5 goals to your story. Tag me because I want to see your goals!
Make sure to DM me on Instagram @samantha_meis if you have any questions.