On Resolutions

I really, really love the new year. For me it’s an annual reminder to reflect on what I’m doing with my time and why. Here’s a little snippet of my process, which I’ve been using for a few years now.

Starting in December or even late November, I usually will start to think about what my goals for the next year might be. I jot these down in a simple list, just to start getting some ideas down- often I find that I really refine these over the next few weeks.

In late December (always after Christmas), I try to sit down and spend some time really reflecting on what is on the list. I like to ask myself questions like “what am I proud of” or “what feels like the natural next step”. I also think about recurrent pain points (the source of my last year’s resolution to do paperwork at ^&*%ing work instead of taking it home!) I look at what I did last year and what will probably make sense for this coming year- and sometimes will re-add a goal that I didn’t meet (yet :- ). I make my “goals for the year” page in my bullet journal, which includes setting out the categories for my goals, too. For the last 5 or so years, the categories have been more or less the same: Personal, Financial, Professional, and Fitness.

A quick note on SMART goals- I really try hard to think about things that I have control over. I have fallen into the trap of setting goals at home or at work and realizing that I’m not the only person who impacts them. The most obvious example is a financial savings goal, since we share our income (and savings!).

Finally I write the goals down! This is always the part where they seem to crystallize into reality for me. I like to have 1-3 goals in each of the categories and will sometimes throw in a few more if they seem more straightforward. I almost always have 5-6 in the “Personal” category but usually only 1-2 in “Professional” and “Fitness”. Sometimes I put in an extra, more lofty, goal that is fun to write down and aim for but I know is not super realistic.

My last step is to set up checkpoints. I only started doing this last year and I think it’s made a big difference to keep my goals at the front of my mind. I like to check in 4-5 times per year, and I put these reminders into my iCal. Sometimes I also make trackers in my bullet journal, like a page to keep track of books I’ve read (a perennial favourite goal) or work-related project ideas. In revisiting the goals, I give myself space to edit or refine them- I think it makes sense to adapt your goals to real life, because it’s impossible to know exactly how the year is going to play out! I don’t usually share the goals with anyone, but you can if you think that would help you succeed, or if you’re setting goals as a couple or family, like some of my friends do!

Some of the biggest changes I’ve made in my life have come from this process. In late 2015 I decided a goal would be to run 5 km without stopping. Five years later, I’ve run over 10,000 km, including 2 ultramarathons, and finished the Boston Marathon. In 2009 I decided I would start investing, and that helped us get our first home in 2017. It’s so wild to think about what you can accomplish if you give yourself small, practical goals!

Do you make any kind of New Year’s resolutions? Some people go on a streak of daily workouts or Whole30, but that really feels too all-or-nothing to me. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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