The 2017 was a good year. It might not have felt that way - especially when we had to witness how a dangerous man became the most powerful person in the world - but after analysing it with a healthy doses of perspective, I definitely concluded it was a good one for me when it came to fulfill some of my personal goals.
But first, a bit of boring history:
At the beginning of 2017, I decided that it was time to get slightly more serious when it comes to decide what was important in my life and how I wanted to get there; what were the projects, wishes and ambitions I would like to pursue in the longer run, rather than always focusing in the latest, short-sight shinny unimportant thing in front of me that dragged my attention, time and energy. It could have been the fact of arriving to the 3rd floor of my life, or just a matter of been fed up with so much procrastination; the important part is that I decided to sit down for a day and write down my goals for the year.
I feel that having your goals written down forces you to distill and decide what you really want: it requires certain courage to cut the chase, be honest with yourself, acknowledge you won’t be an astronaut anymore, but still recognize you have enough freedom and will power to do incredible things with the time you have available, and commit yourself to get some focus and actually do them.
This exercise was not my first attempt - digging into Evernote I found old, never-achieved list of “Goals” from previous years (2012, 2014, 2015) that were written during the first week and then forever forgotten. Why do I consider I fairly succeeded this time? Because I managed to keep them present throughout the year. Maybe not actioning them every time I glanced over them, but at least feeling ashamed often enough to pull a couple of actions from time to time and make them happen.
So, getting some inspiration from David Bonilla and his Goals for 2018 (in spanish) blog post, as well as from some productivity books I read throughout the year, I sat down with an Earl Grey cuppa and went ahead to categorise my goals in 11 big buckets -
- Health (eat healthier, exercise more, sleep better)
- Habits (stop procrastination, reduce social networks noise)
- Friends (get in touch with some old friends)
- Family (see - physically - my closer family more often)
- Trips (know new places, eat other food, smell other air)
- Goals (recursion FTW)
- Skills (what I want to learn both professional and personal)
- Work (what I want to do to move my career forward)
- Hobbies (what things outside work I want to make progress on)
- Give Back (how can I can give back to the community / NGOs)
- Finance (get my finances in check, create a long-term financial plan)
Then I sketched, for every category, some more concrete goals I wanted to achieve. I did not visualise clearly how I would make them happen (in retrospective, this might have been one of the reasons why I did not complete a higher number of goals) but having them written down did give me a mechanism to go back, review and make progress.
I did not have the same luck in all areas (for instance, I failed miserably in my attempt to reduce the amount of overweight I carry with me everywhere) but I did decently well in some (e.g. in Family, where I managed to visit my parents for both birthdays) to consider it, overall, a success.
For this year, I tweaked my approach and went ahead to plan my goals again for 2018, starting with a retrospective of the previous year and some experiments I wanted to apply now (thanks, Agile, for providing me with some mental frameworks to apply in my life as well). I read a couple of books that inspired me A LOT to achieve much more in all the aspects of my life; I sincerely reflected on what a good year would look like to me, and how I wanted to go from “doing” (i.e. being busy) to “achieving” (i.e. finishing more things I labelled as important).
So, I sat down again during Christmas with a glass of Pommery (I was in Reims and it was cheaper - allow me to indulge myself) and categorised my goals in 10 big buckets -
- Experiences (visit some countries, attend certain theatre plays)
- Relationship (improvements on quality partner time)
- Family (visit and keep in touch with the extended family often)
- Friends (events, quality friendship time)
- Work (improve my skills and improve my team’s skills and impact)
- Knowledge (learn how to do something new I find exciting and interesting)
- Hobbies (remember that DSLR camera you bought? why don’t you use it for something beyond decorating the interior of your desk?)
- Self Improvement - Body (man, it’s time to work out a bit. No, walking to the toilet after every pomodoro is not gonna get you fit)
- Self Improvement - Mind (it’s time to reflect on how far we have got so far, and be proud of it)
- Goals System Improvement (recursion FTW - how do we get clearer goals and actions out of them?)
- Finances (are we on track for retirement and spend the day playing domino?)
Most of the categories stayed while others were merged and renamed. Still, they represent my values and the areas of life I want to become better at. It includes things like “visit mom on her birthday”, “choose the next country to visit with my girlfriend”, “enjoy better mornings” or “give meditation a try”. All of them are things that I really want to do but always come after that super important 30 min slot of time spent on Facebook watching funny videos of dogs.
One of the key learnings from last year was that it is not enough to have goals - I also need a “System” that I could rely on to actually achieve them. Something that would allow me to track my goals, decompose them in a set of actions that brings clarity on how to achieve them and a set of “routines” to review them (daily, weekly, etc). For this, I went back to a system I have been using for several years (which resembles a lot to GTD-for-lazier-people like me), heavily based on Evernote, with the addition of some tips I borrowed from a Nick Bate’s Deep Productivity workshop I attended at the office.
Having said all of this, I think that the tipping point that has brought a difference was a mindset change; the expression “You can do anything, but you cannot do everything” and its consequences. Being truly aware of this fact is helping me to address the stress and frustration of not getting everything I want done. By focusing on less stuff, but at the same time, more important stuff, I am much happier and optimistic with what I can or cannot do in my life.
At the moment, one month has past, I am fairly pleased with how this is playing out for me so far; my system requires more improvements, but I feel 2018 is the best year I have ever had when it comes to think and do what is really important to me. I hope next year I can say exactly the same thing :-)
If you are also interested in setting a system for you to follow and achieve your goals, I would recommend you Boost your productivity of Nick Bates as a starting point. It has inspired me A LOT and, despite not concurring yet with everything he says, it definitely has helped me to reach a new stage.
If you want to know how my personal system works and see wether it can help you as well, then stay tuned, as other posts will follow. Or at least I hope so; that would mean, appropriately to this article’s topic, that I am making progress on my yearly goals when it comes to bring this blog to life again :-)