2021: Goal Setting When You Don’t Know What Comes Next

This year, I find myself both more hopeful and more uncertain than I have been in a long time. I’ve always loved setting goals, and I’m not ready to give that up—even in the face of uncertainty.

For the past five years, I’ve been using the PowerSheets Goal Planner from Cultivate What Matters. I love the questions at the beginning and the monthly planning pages. Over the years, my goal-setting process has evolved, but at its heart, I want it to look like this:

  • Less of me trying to force my vision on the future.
  • More soulful listening.
  • Less wanting a fresh slate so I can do everything perfectly this time.
  • More being open to change.
  • Less copying ideas that seem to work for other people.
  • More taking ownership of my life and making choices that resonate with me.

Giving Myself Some Extra Time

One thing I’ve learned (through trial and error) is that I set terrible goals when I’m tired. It’s hard to dream big when you’re worried about how much gas you have left in the tank. After the craziness of 2020, I knew I wanted to give myself some extra time.

So here it is, the end of January, and I’m just finishing up my list. I promised myself that I would share my goals publicly, and now, I’m almost embarrassed. These are the simplest, most bare-bone goals I’ve ever set!

However, I’m going to post them anyway, because I think it’s a good reminder that it’s okay to have goals that look unimpressive, simple, or even “obvious” to someone else. The only important thing is that they matter to you.

My No-Frills, No-Fuss Goals for 2021:

1. Set clear daily priorities and reachable goals for each day.

I’m a list-maker at heart, but this year, I want to make a fundamental shift in how I decide what to tackle next.

In the past, I’ve tried the advice of identifying 3 things you want to accomplish each day. But I’ll be honest: I was always sneaking extra items onto the list OR putting entire multi-step projects that were completely unrealistic to accomplish in one sitting.

I was trying to “shoot for the moon, but reach the stars.” Well, after missing the moon repeatedly, I’m completely exhausted! 😉 I don’t want to get to the end of the week and feel demoralized, because I didn’t cross everything off the list.

Over the break, I re-read the book Organize Tomorrow Today by Jason Selk, Matthew Rudy, and Tom Bartow. (The title may sound basic, but I found it to be practical and insightful.) The authors suggest putting 3 ambitious but small, carefully-chosen next steps on your list.

My goal is to get better at identifying and flagging the next step in whatever project or task I’m working on. I’ve started doing this over the past few weeks, and it’s already making a big difference. I’m setting 3 clear priorities that are 100% possible for me to cross off each day.

2. Take regular breaks on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

Before 2020, I used to be much better about taking breaks. Even if it was just running a quick errand, I made it a point to step away from my desk and use a different part of my brain for a while.

With my husband and I both working at home, it’s easy to fall into orbit around his schedule. This year, I want to create some better habits and routines. I especially want to find a way to take a short, enjoyable break after lunch so that I can do better quality afternoon work.

3. Create content that I’m excited to share on a cadence that works for me.

I’m looking forward to this one! Last year was so busy with The Life-Giving Path Conference that I didn’t have much extra bandwidth. For 2021, I have some fun projects up my sleeve.

One thing I know is this: on the internet, it’s easy to find examples of other people who seem to be doing more, sharing more, or creating more. However, I want to find a steady rhythm that works for me. This looks like: keeping my eyes on my own paper and remembering to be my own pace car rather than trying to match someone else’s speed.

4. Writing Goal: Focus on process + preparation.

I always try to have one goal that’s just for writing. This year, I’ve decided to focus entirely on effort instead of word or page count.

For me, this looks like:

  • Marking up the next day’s work, so I know exactly where to begin when I sit down.
  • Taking a moment to visualize the scene I’m writing about before I start.
  • Nurturing my creativity by planning some adventures and personal retreat days that re-inspire me.

5. Create sensory-rich memories and moments with my husband.

Lately, we’ve been recreating meals we’ve eaten on trips and creating new dinner themes.

For example: We kicked off this year by celebrating “Jam-uary” and experimented by making—you guessed it—jam. I hope to share more about our adventures in a future post!

6. And finally—the last one: Get back to basics at home.

Like many people, we’re using our home differently now. While some of those changes have been great, others could use a few tweaks. This year, I’ve decided not to tackle any huge projects. I just want to focus on basic cleaning and maintenance.

I suppose this goal might sound anti-climactic, but when I wrote it down, I felt nothing but RELIEF. I think some of the best goals are like that.

Well, there you have it! If you haven’t set goals this year and still want to, I’ll tell you what I told myself: it’s not too late.

In addition to answering the questions in the PowerSheets, I always ask myself some version of the following:

  • What is something I loved doing last year that I can’t wait to do again?
  • Is there something that I didn’t finish that I still want to work on?
  • What do I absolutely NOT want to do ever again? (If I can’t get out of it, is there a way to make it more pleasant?)
  • Have I created any arbitrary rules for myself about the way something has to be done? Are those rules serving me or is it time to let them go?
  • Have I filled my calendar with the people and projects most important to me? If not, can I clear some space by saying “no”?

I hope this helps!

Like everyone else, I don’t know what to expect this year, but choosing goals puts me on the path of discovery. For me, goal setting is about prayerfully choosing a direction and then starting—even when I’m not sure how it will all work out.

If you have a goal you’re working on, I’d love to hear it!

3 thoughts on “2021: Goal Setting When You Don’t Know What Comes Next”

  1. I came back to this post, as goal setting wasn’t appealing to me at the time. I appreciate how you walk through the whys of your goals. I would think that makes them more meaningful and motivating. I’m going to try that. Those are great questions at the end too.

  2. Pingback: Celebrating Small Beginnings (+ Taking Better Breaks) – Kelly Lee-Creel

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