5 Steps to Set Better Goals for 2020

A guide on how to set goals for 2020. Shifting the focus from object and milestone orientated goals to values and vision based goals.

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a man climbing a mountain

One of the most difficult things about setting goals is sticking to them.

My advice on setting goals for 2020 is based on an approach I've used successfully to keep myself on track throughout the year, not only in January when motivation is high.

It's now May, can you remember what the goals you set in January are? If you can, do you know exactly what the next steps you need to complete to achieve your goals for 2020? If you don't remember, it's not too late.

This post walks you through the steps to setting better goals for 2020, and helps you set a list of goals that you will actually have achieved come December 2020.

The Fundamental Flaw of Goal-Setting

Common wisdom says we should be setting goals for ourselves. Not just any old goals, though — SMART goals. They are supposed to be:

  • S — pecific
  • M — easurable
  • A — ttainable
  • R — elevant
  • T — ime bound

Goals are, by their very nature, finite. They’re the medal at the end of the race. They’re the bonus at the end of the year. Or they’re buying that fancy car. But what happens when you reach them?

There’s often a feeling of emptiness.

It’s almost like reading the last page of a book. You’ve enjoyed reading it, and been captured by the story, but you’ve also watched those pages edge towards the end in anticipation of finishing — because that’s why you started the book. You didn’t ever intend stopping half way through.

Goals share the same catch-22. It’s not the goal that is exciting — its the journey of getting there. That’s why, when you reach your goal, and the roller coaster comes to and end, you’re left with: Now what.

That’s the fatal flaw of setting goals in isolation: there’s not enough emphasis on the journey. It is too outcomes-based.

That doesn’t mean they’re worthless, though.

You Do Need Goals, Though!

The power of goals has been demonstrated over and over. The number and popularity of books on the subject is proof enough of their power.

Here are the ones I’ve read (in order of recommendation.):

To disregard the process of goal-setting would be ignorant.

Goals provide direction. Without direction, we don’t know where to focus our time and energy and end up not making any impact.

But how to do it better?

Here's A Modified System

Place more emphasis on the journey.

Achieving what you set out to do is the ultimate goal, but don’t disregard the process of getting there.

Here’s the method I use when I set new goals periodically. For this example, assume you’re setting goals for 2020.

Step 1: Vision

You need to know where you're headed.

Your vision is your over riding 'guidance' system which provides you with direction. Your vision is your why.

Here's an example, this is Tesla's vision statement:

“To create the most compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world's transition to electric vehicles."

Any goals they set as a company are governed by that statement.

A personal vision statement might be something along the lines of "I want to reduce the effects of climate change through education."

Don't get too deep. It's easy to go down a rabbit hole here. Keep it simple. What do you want to be remembered for when you leave this world?

Also note, this should be a dynamic manifesto. As you grow and adapt to the world around you, so your mission statement should too.

Step 2: Visualize

With your vision in mind, imagine your life at the end of the year.

Where do you want to be? How do you want to have developed as a person? What level of success do you want to have achieved by then? How far along the path towards realizing your mission do you want to be? 

These are the questions you should be answering when visualizing your goals for 2020.

Picture a snapshot of your life and imagine what your life is like: How you act, where you are, what your day-to-day is like, how you spend your weekends. Touch on everything that’s important to you as a person.

Write it down (I find handwritten best), draw pictures, create spreadsheets, say it out loud. Do what you need to do for your brain to make the image as vivid as possible.

The more specific you can get, the better.

Step 3: Set Goals Accordingly

Now, how do you reach that picture you've painted? You set goals for the year that will help you achieve that scenario.

Set your goals so that if you achieve all of them, your visualization will become a reality.

Categorize them so you have a specific plan for each area of your life. Here are the different categories I use (These will differ based on your situation and specific, unique mission statement):

  • Career
  • Financial
  • Personal development
  • Skill development
  • Social
  • Physical development

Remember, make your goals SMART and smart. Just because you are setting a goal which needs to be finished by the end of the year, it doesn’t mean the deadline has to be the end of the year. You don’t want to get to December with a long list of unchecked boxes.

Spread your work load.

Step 4: Set Systems

Goals are great for having a long term vision. What gets you to those goals, though, is a solid system.

A system is made up of repeatable actions you can take day in and day out which help you climb the ladder towards your goal.

Here’s a simple example:

As part of my vision for 2020 I have been extremely successful at work and am feeling bullish about my prospects going forward.

The goal: Gain a promotion to Business Development Manager by close of business for 2020.

The system: I know that to gain a promotion, I have to grow revenue by 50% for the year.

If my company’s current annual revenue is $1 million, I have to get it to $1.5 million by December 2020. That seems tough.

Broken down, though, that means an average increase of approximately $42000 every month. Or approximately $1 900 more every work day.

If a new customer adds $1000 to our monthly income, we need 2 new customers every day. With a conversion rate of about 10%, I need to make 20 sales calls every day.

That means I have to schedule 2 hours into my morning office routine for sales calls.

And that's it. That's my system.

Every month I’ll set aside an additional hour to review my numbers and keep myself on track. That’s the final (and most important) part of my five-step goal setting process: Review.

Step 5: Review, Reflect and Acknowledge

Because the journey towards achieving a goal is often more satisfying than the goal itself, its important to be present along the way. The best way to do this is to set aside time to review your progress.

When you’re setting your goals for 2020, make it part of your system. Schedule in an hour periodically through your goal time frame for reviewing only. You’re not working towards your goal during this time (though you actually are).

You’re simply reflecting on where you’ve come from and where you are now.

By taking the time to look back at where you started, you’re able to see how much progress you’ve made. That keeps you motivated. I can do this.

So what does a review actually entail?

Mine go something like this:

Goal: Run 3500 km in 2020

Started: 1 January 2020

Deadline: 31 December 2020

Time progress: 6 months in, 50% completed.

Goal progress: 1820 km run, 52% completed.

What’s worked: Running 6 days a week consistently, even if its a short run.

What hasn’t worked: Skipping too many days and then trying to catch up in big efforts.

What has been difficult: Being patient. As I get fitter I want to run more too quickly. I know this will lead to an injury though. I have to make sure I stick to a maximum of 10% mileage increase per week.

What has been easy: Finding the time to run. I thought I’d battle to fit it into my schedule. Because I look forward to it every day, I make sure I fit it in.

Next review: 1 August 2019 (1 month).

A Year in Review

With this method in mind, and as we approach mid way through this year, its an excellent time to review your goals for 2020. You don't have to wait for 2021.

What is your gut feel about the year so far?

Have you lived up to your potential?

Have you achieved what you wanted to achieve?

What lessons can you take forward into the second half of 2020?

By reflecting on the progress you’ve made in the last 5 months, you’re debugging your growth software that might have become clouded with negativity after a few difficult challenges. You’re reminding yourself that despite the difficulties you’ve faced — you’re still moving forward.

Look how far you’ve come. Now imagine how far you can go.

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