How to Set Goals (part 1 of 2)

It’s December at last! Can you believe we’ve finally made it to the end of this year? It doesn’t feel real to me yet. But I’m working on that.

That’s because it’s time for setting my December goals, taking stock of my year, and figuring out four key pieces that will help guide my new year:

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  • Accomplishments
  • Incompletes
  • Things to STOP Doing
  • Goals to Crush in 2018


I’ve come to create these personal year-in-review lists for myself, over the past couple of years, to help figure out exactly where I’ve been, where I am now, where I’m going, and where I need to make some course corrections or cuts. Even with the best of intentions, some goals naturally fall by the wayside, and others pop up as you continue to work on the things you want. So it’s helpful to look back to see where you’ve been, in order to make sure you’re still heading in the right direction on the right path.

I’ve got a few tools that help me create my lists, which I wanted to share with you, in case you’ve been wondering where to begin as you head into 2018.

Here’s my simple four-step method.

Step 1: Go through your planner

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The number one thing that helps me keep track of the chaos that is my life is my planner. I have a couple different types that I use to keep track of everything, but whether you’re using a Bullet Journal or a pre-printed planner, the first thing you need to do is go back to January and start flipping through the pages.

As noted, I like to separate things out into four lists, so I’ll get a notebook or four blank sheets of paper and just start jotting down the things I see in my planner under each heading. So far I have made my list of Accomplishments and another list of Things to Keep Doing – Or Do MORE Of – in 2018. I’ve made a partial list of Things to STOP Doing, too, but still need to make a full list of my Incomplete Projects so that I can evaluate those and either add them to the Goals to Crush in 2018 list or cut them completely.

This takes a bit of time, so it’s best to do it on a weekend or set aside a day when you don’t have any other tasks planned. Sometimes it can be a little emotional, seeing how much effort you’ve put into things that didn’t succeed, or realizing how little effort you put into something that you said you wanted. Let those emotions flow! It’s okay to feel sad about those disappointments, and it’s also totally okay to jump up and down and celebrate all of your wins. Enjoy this time of review and reflection as much as you can.

Step 2: Celebrate those wins

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Unlike certain types of year-end review systems, I prefer to focus on the positive, rather than dwelling on the negative. In the past, I have bemoaned all the projects I started but never finished, the long list of Incompletes that I came up with, and beat myself up about them. But guess what? Being hard on yourself doesn’t help matters. In fact, it just makes things harder.

Instead, I try to turn all of my negatives into positives. Some of the things on my list of accomplishments could actually be viewed as bad things that have happened to me. But instead I try to find the silver lining, and see how those things helped me grow, let go of something I didn’t really need in my life, or move me in another direction with my yearly goals.

Celebrating your wins at the end of the year is much more fun than beating yourself up about any losses. So be sure to make a big list of your achievements great and small, print them out, and put them up near your desk so you can look at them whenever you’re feeling discouraged and remind yourself that YES, YOU REALLY ARE THIS AWESOME.

Step 3: Ponder the Incompletes

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In addition to celebrating your victories, it’s also important to take a clear-eyed look at your list of Incompletes. For one thing, ask yourself why this particular item is still incomplete. Is it because you simply ran out of time? Did you need some kind of help or support that you didn’t get? Are there additional steps that need completion? Did you need additional training, education, or guidance? Or did you decide that this project wasn’t actually benefiting you? Was it taking time away from something else that is much more important in your life? Was it something that initially piqued your interest, but didn’t ultimately sustain it? Maybe it was something that you thought would help you achieve another goal, but came to realize it was actually interfering with the original (more important) goal?

Ask yourself why those projects are still on your To Do List. And then ask yourself whether you want to keep them there.

There is no shame in cutting things out of your life, particularly if they don’t serve you! We all have to make choices in life, and getting rid of the stuff that actively makes you miserable or simply doesn’t contribute to your life in any positive, meaningful way is a good way to clear out the clutter and get to the heart of what you really want.

So ponder those Incompletes, and make some choices. Add them to the Things to STOP Doing list, or the Goals to Crush Next Year list, as appropriate.

Step 4: Build your list of goals

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Finally, it’s time to start building your list of goals for the new year. Yay! This is the fun part.

Keeping in mind your list of Things to STOP Doing, as well as your list of Goals to Crush Next Year, go ahead and brainstorm a HUGE list of absolutely everything you’d like to accomplish in 2018. Think big! The sky is the limit! Throw in everything you’ve ever wanted, and more!

Once you’ve brainstormed yourself a good sheet of goals, take a step back. Obviously, you can’t reach every single goal on this list. It’s totally impossible. That was actually the point of creating it. You put every hope and dream you’ve ever had on this list, and lots of those things are going to take more than a year to complete. Heck, some of them take a lifetime! (The quest for happiness, for instance.)

So why did you just do that exercise? Because you want to get everything out of your heart and your head and onto that piece of paper, to make sure you’re headed in the right direction. Check in with yourself and make sure these are all things you really, truly want. If some of them seem a little pointless, upon reflection, go ahead and cross them off.

You can also choose to sort this list into another group of four key areas that work best for you. Some people like to divide things up into Health, Wealth, Relationships and Spiritual goals. The four I typically use are:

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  • Business
  • Health
  • Reading
  • Writing


These can overlap, to some degree, and I generally don’t like to set relationship or spiritual goals for myself, but pick four that best suit your personality and lifestyle.

Now you’re looking for the top three most important things in each area. What are the three things that will make you feel most accomplished if you complete them next year? These can be a mix of big goals and easily reachable items, but definitely include at least one item in each of your four areas that feels like a stretch – something you might not be able to complete.

And voila, there’s your list of 2018 goals!

Now for the hard part…

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How do you actually accomplish these goals?

Join me for part two in this goal-setting series on Wednesday to learn more!