At the end of 2018, I set 22 goals for 2019. And, to be completely honest, I failed at at achieving a lot of those goals.

Some of my goals were too ambitious or overly challenging, like paying off 30% of my student loans by year’s end. But that’s no excuse. At the end of the day, I didn’t hold myself accountable to achieving my goals.

I didn’t set regular check-ins to track my progress. Instead, I resorted to back-loading the bulk of the work to the last few months, which led me to complete only 45% of my goals (10 out of 22). Look in the “Status” column below: 

Nate's 2019 goals

Here’s how the process worked: 

  1. I set goals based on what I thought could be attained.
  2. I only reflected on my progress once or twice throughout the year. 
  3. Towards the end of the year was when I dedicated the most amount of time towards accomplishing the goals. 

Where I Went Wrong

The accountability issue stems from my assumption that writing down my goals in the beginning of the year would remind me about the goals throughout the whole year. But time passed me by. Soon enough, it was already December 2019, and I had yet to make a dent in my goals—a damn shame.

Working out is a good metaphor to describe what happened. For example, when you first start working out, you expect to see results quickly. Then a few weeks pass by, and you don’t see noticeable results towards looking better. So you start losing hope and encouragement. Then a few months pass, and you’ve either adjusted your schedule to a few times per week or have quit completely. The lesson is simple: progress is made when you keep at it, without expecting short-term results so that you remain dedicated over the long-term.  

How I Can Prevent this from Happening Again

That’s why this year I’ve focused on being consistent at completing my goals. I’d rather make small progress towards my goals throughout the year, then back-load the work to the latter half. As I continue to work towards my goals throughout the year, my progress will compound over time. 

To do this, I’ve implemented recurring Sunday check-ins and end of month reflections into my Google Calendar. These check-ins will keep me on track.

My Sunday recurring check-in looks like this:

  • Re-read my 2020 Themes. Themes describe how I want to live my life for the year. One theme is “Consistency: The most important basic skill to master, without a doubt, is consistency. I’ve seen this in my own life, in my friends’ lives, and in other people’s lives. Those who are able to be consistent end up with huge success, very often much greater success than they expected or even hoped for.” The themes extend to productivity, focus, prioritization, death, and taking action. As you can see, the themes are very much time-oriented. 
  • Quick reflection on goals. Check in on each of my goals and comment about the progress made.
  • Create 3 tasks for the upcoming week. These tasks help me lay the ground work for what needs to get done in order to hit next week’s check-in.
  • Deeper analysis and reflection on how I’m doing. This is an opportunity to reflect on how things are going on in my life. I might consider changing goals here, for example.
  • Being honest with myself. I evaluate my progress by month to see if I’m realistically able to accomplish goals by year’s end.
  • Re-allocating my time. I’ve identified things to stop doing. Things like last-minute plans with friends are at the top of my list to not do.
  • Setting new dates to goals. This is an opportunity to change goal timings.

To ensure that I’m consistent with these events, I’ve added a bunch of Google Calendar notifications. For example, I get an email from Google 1 day prior to the events. And I also get notified by the Google Calendar app on my phone. Why not make it easier to be reminded? 

Why this Probably isn’t Enough

You may be thinking, “Nate, this is overkill.” And while you might be right, the reason why I’m doing this is to prevent another 2019. I don’t want to be at the end of 2020, reflecting on my goals, and seeing that I accomplished less than 50% of them. I also don’t want to be at 100% completion because that means the goals weren’t as challenging. I think a good threshold to accomplish is 80% goal completion. 

I don’t want another year to fly by without accomplishing what I’ve been wanting to do. There’s never a better time to do what you want to do. You just have to do it. And be consistent at it. That’s it. If setting recurring check-ins helps, so be it. I’ll continue doing this for the foreseeable future, and let you know about my progress.

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