February 2, 2017

Goal Setting in 2017 - Free Download included

You've had a month to set, try, and break your resolutions. Ready for some real goal-setting now?

I used to set these too-vague, too-ambitious goals like "lose weight", "eat healthy", "blog more", blah, blah. In 2012 I even started blogging about my resolutions as a way to be more accountable. If I tell the world, I'll look stupid if I don't follow through, right? You can see it was easy to fudge the results (well, I didn't blog more, but I have plenty of drafts) or justify excuses (I didn't lose the weight, but I had a busy schedule & my back hurt, so really, how was I supposed to?).

For various reasons, 2012 was a pivotal year for me. I got fed up with the same old status quo lifestyle and motivated to improve, grow, learn, and develop myself. I'm no closer to perfection or anything. Instead, with each change over the past four years, I've noticed I feel more happy, satisfied, content, balanced, grounded ... aren't these the things we strive for in life?

2016 was a light bulb year. I scrapped making resolutions altogether. Resolutions are firm decisions and they sound like an ultimatum. They are too heavy with expectations and carry a tone of impending failure. My new strategy was to set up goals. Goals are things I can work towards. Goals are things I can break down into little steps and chip away at over the course of year. It's okay if I don't hit 100% on them, because any progress means I've achieved something more than what I started with.

With that in mind, I opened up Excel and got cracking in January 2016. Was I 100% successful on everything? Nope! Did I get closer than the three years prior? Abso-freaking-lutely! I felt so much better, more accomplished and satisfied, at the end of 2016 than I had in the years prior. I could chart my progress over the course of the year, adjust my expectations, and tweak my plans as I went along.

The spreadsheets were a good starting point, but I wanted to change the way I approached 2017. I did a lot of research, tapped into my business analysis and project management skills/tools, and customized some worksheets to create a package that works for me.

1. Reflect. I start with a sheet for reflection. Working on projects has taught me that it's important to look back and reflect on the things that did and didn't work. It's equally important to recognize the successes and learn a lesson from the failures or problems.

2. Dream Big. Then it's time to brainstorm/braindump. There's no right or wrong. There's no feasible or impossible. There's a just a blank page of space giving you permission to dream your biggest dreams, divulge your secret desires, and be as silly or serious as you want. If the dreams don't make you happy, are they worth pursuing?

3. Set Goals & Plan. Now it's time to start getting serious. I broke my life out into eight areas of focus: Personal, Finance, Professional, Health, Family, Friends/Social, Romantic/Relationship, and Spiritual. You can set one or more goals for each of these categories. Or you could skip some categories for now. Or you could replace them with other categories that are particular to you. The idea is to start organizing your long term big dreams into short term big goals. It's okay to keep it at "loose weight" or "read more" in this part of the planning.

4. Planning. Okay, now we start to hone in on the goals to make them manageable and achievable. I may have scoffed at the idea of SMART goals at one point (Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound), but life just gets easier when you put your goals in SMART terms. If you're avoiding making a goal SMART, you're probably not committed to following through on that goal. Don't set yourself up for failure; come back to the goal when you are ready for it. The Business Analyst in me asserted itself by asking particular questions to help really sharpen my goals. The Project Manager in me was a tad gleeful over figuring out risks and resources. What can I say? I love my work!

If you follow me on social media, you know I like the reward system. It really works for me to celebrate small victories along the way to achieving my goal. So I built the proverbial carrots right into my planning worksheets.

5. Commit. I came across two lists of things to commit to in any given year: giving up, learning, seeing, etc. I liked the concept and thought it was a good brainstorming tool. Plus, I'm a sucker for lists. So I snagged the categories I liked from each version and compiled my own list.

As I tell all my project peeps - use what you like, scrap what you don't, and tweak it suit your needs. I hope the worksheets and my explanations help. Let me know if you have any questions or would like to see examples of my filled out worksheets.

Download Goal Setting Worksheets

UPDATE: I've tweaked the sheets a tiny bit (because there's always room for improvement) and added a bonus sheet.

6. Word of the Year. I discovered the concept as a trending new year thing in December 2015, liked it, and tried it out for 2016. I liked it so much, I took it to work and even had a word of the year for my professional life. These words (or phrases) worked like a mantra for me throughout the year, a touchstone that kept me in check and my efforts more focused. I really thing they helped me grow, be more intentional, and achieve more than if I'd been attempting my goals without them.

FYI 1: The information used to create my custom sheets are combination of my brain's way of organizing information, my BA and PM knowledge, and free-to-use templates by other planning-inclined folks. To the best of my knowledge, I haven't taken anything that is copyrighted or plagiarized from other sources.

FYI 2: This post was much longer in coming because I've been completely consumed by the political scene in the US. My views are very obvious on other social media platforms, but I'll try my best to keep this space neutral.