How To Make Sure You Start & Finish Your 2021 Goals

A simple, 5-step method to help you create realistic goals that you can work on and finish by the end of the year.

Am I the only one who started this year tired?

By the second week of January, I found myself keeling over my workspace, wondering,

“Is this how every year starts?” I couldn’t remember.

But I’ve had to remind myself that I’m still in the middle of a pandemic, still recovering from 2020’s trauma, and still trying to be a functional human being who shows up daily.

However, I don’t want to let my fatigue stop me from making the most of this year. I may not have started the year with the same zeal as 2020, but I’m ready to make the most of 2021.

It might be a good thing that I don’t have the same energy I had last year because friend? I was doing the most.

Setting Goals in 2021: What Happens When You Do Too Much?

I remember when I tried setting goals last year. I had a whole spreadsheet with categories & each category contained five goals. I can’t show you the sheet because some of those goals are too personal, but I’ll give an example. There was a section dedicated to learning and these were a couple of the goals:

Complete 2 courses in Front-End Web Development

Complete 3 courses in Copywriting

Complete 3 courses in After Effects & Motion Graphics

In one year? 

For context: I was a complete newbie for both Web Development & Motion Graphics. Also, each course I wanted to take was an average of 30 – 40 hours (of teaching, never mind the practice).

And this was just one part of my 2020 Goals. There were other courses I wanted to take, too. As well as 60 books I wanted to read, 2 websites I wanted to manage, and a new job I needed to look for.

Mind you, this was before we were hit with a pandemic.

In whose 2020 was I going to achieve this? 

When I wrote those goals, I wrote them in all sincerity. I thought I could really make it all happen.

Narrator: She did not make it all happen.

I didn’t complete a single course. But, I did manage to read 20 books, find a new job, and work on my personal development. The rest of that spreadsheet, though?

Nothing was achieved and I knew why. I was doing too much!

So, when I sat down to think of what 2021 was going to look like, I knew that I didn’t want to end the year with a number of incompletes. To avoid making that mistake, I had to go beyond identifying where I went wrong. I had to figure out how to do this right. So I created a process for myself that I’d like to share with you.

5 Steps to Creating 2021 Goals You’ll Actually Start and Finish

1. Ask Yourself: “What Do I Really Want?”

Do your goals really reflect what you want to achieve? Or are you onboarding other people’s aspirations, too, because they sound good?

In this age of social media, where we’re feeding off of people’s thoughts day in & day out, and sometimes it’s hard to find the line between inspiration & duplication. Are your fitness goals based on what you want for your health, or do you feel like it’s necessary to have these goals because of the current conversations occurring online?

Are you tailoring your productivity goals according to what you want to get out of your personal & professional life, or are you copy-pasting your favorite YouTuber’s process because you feel like it’s something you need too?

There’s nothing wrong with adopting ideas from other people because you’ve identified a gap in your life, but if you want to have a set of goals you’ll focus on, this year, then you need to vet them ruthlessly. Not just to say “These are my own”, but so that you don’t find yourself out of your depth.

Once you know what you want to have or be by the end of the year, you have your goals. Now you need to find a way to fit them into your schedule – which leads us to the next step:

2. Fit (Not Force) Your 2021 Goals Into Your Current Timetable 

Before you start adding new tasks to your list, you need to make sure that they won’t clash with the responsibilities you’re already managing.

I know you’re ready to do everything you can to get to the next level, but you need to be realistic with your time, too.

Being aware of the responsibilities that take your time regularly (daily, weekly, etc.) helps you understand how free you actually are. So, instead of operating with guesswork, you can intentionally set aside time to study, write, code, job search, etc.

I manage my obligations with my scheduling app – Woven. I’ve blocked out my work hours, meeting times, and I’ve also created “No meeting” times so that I’m not fastracking myself to burnout.

Now, I know when to tell people I’m free, instead of saying, “Hey I’m free on Tuesday!”, only to realize that I am not free on Tuesdays.

You shouldn’t just be aware of your blocked out time, you should have it readily available. 

You can use Google Calendar, a scheduling app, or a good ol’ planner to mark out your unavailable time. I’d suggest a digital method so that you can set recurring times and save yourself the stress.

 3. Be Honest About What You Can & Cannot Do

One of the reasons we fail to achieve our goals is because we try to force our bodies & minds to do too much.

Yes, you want to lose weight, but that doesn’t mean you need to fast for 20 hours a day and limit yourself to 4 hours of eating, especially if you’ve never fasted for longer than six hours before.

Yes, you want to become fitter but if you haven’t run 1km before, without collapsing, there’s no need to set expectations of running 10km regularly after your first month.

The secret to achieving your goals – and maintaining the results after – is to create a manageable process. Extreme diets work for a couple of months, but are you going to (honestly) live off of limited food groups for the rest of your life?

If you know you want to return to drinking, don’t go cold turkey. Focus on limiting your intake, setting appropriate boundaries, and also understanding why you tend to binge drink if that is a problem for you.

If you haven’t written a blog post in the last couple of years, and your schedule is a mess, beloved please don’t force yourself to write a blog a day. I tried this last year and it ended in hot tears (I’ll blog about this next week).

Instead of trying to do too much, too soon, and for no good reason, you should take time to understand yourself, understand your reasons for wanting to improve your life or level up, and work according to a level of “uncomfortable” that pushes you but doesn’t tip you over into relapsing.

People don’t like starting small because it feels like you’re achieving nothing. 

But one bit of “something”, done daily, is better than going hard one day, crashing for thirty days, and trying again only to give up completely.

So make your steps manageable & work with your constraints. If you know you hate running with a passion, don’t commit to running 10km a day. Try out other forms of exercise until you find one that works.

If you know reading “proper” books bores you to your core, don’t buy an entire library off of Kindle. Look into Audiobooks if that’s your thing and see if that works. Understand your limitations, and play to your strengths.

4. Throw Perfection In The Bin 

Here’s the truth: you’re going to fail. You can create as many backup plans, adopt as many accountability partners as you need to, and set up a fine system if you want to go the whole way, but there will be at least one (or a few more) times where you’ll want to give up…and that will happen.

You’ll miss a workout and take a break for a while. You might gain a couple of kg’s back. You won’t post a blog every week – something will come up. You’ll fall.

You will fail.

And that is okay.

The only way to get things right is to discover what makes them wrong, in the first place. You can’t correct or perfect a process if you can’t see the errors.

One of the reasons why we give up on our goals is because we become frustrated with the fact that we aren’t reaching the vision in our minds. We aren’t hitting the pace we envisioned. We aren’t dropping the pounds as fast as we want to be. We aren’t loving kale chips, cauliflower wings, etc.

To achieve your goals, and keep the results long after, you need to understand that you’re going to make a lot of mistakes along the way. Heck, there are times where you’ll quit – and it won’t be for a couple of days.

The only thing that will help you come back is committing to show up – and you do that by remembering why you started in the first place. Which brings me to our final point, which should’ve been the first one but we’re shaking up things a little.

5. Don’t Forget Why You Started

You’ve got a tough road ahead of you. 

The fact that you want to level up means you’re leaving a habit or flow that you’ve been maintaining for years. The pull-back will be strong. The temptation to quit and withdraw even stronger. Fatigue will kick in when the novelty of what you’re doing fades & that’s when you’ll have to keep pushing.

Remember when I said you’ll fall off a couple of times? The only reason you’ll come back is when you remember why you started. So write it down. Keep it in front of you. Vision board it.

Goal-Setting 2021: The Bottom Line

The reason why you’re so set on achieving your goals is because you want to make a change in your life for the better. So instead of focusing on how to get there quickly, think about the best process to keep it going for longer than a few months, a year, etc.

This may mean reframing your goals and thinking of a more permanent solution. Upgrading your goal to a system. Where you constantly contribute to being & doing better, instead of trying to hit a checkpoint and feeling clueless afterwards.

This is falling into a new topic, so I’ll leave it here for today. 

be kind to yourself throughout the whole way. Here are a couple of tools that can help you win:

Bonus: Chipo’s Top 3:

Tools to Help You Achieve Your 2021 Goals:

Book: Atomic Habits by James Clear

App: Productive App

Scheduling: Google Calendar

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