Episode 116: Goal Setting for the New Year

Kick off the new year with some goals! Dawn covers some strategies to help you find success with your goal setting.

Show transcript:

Welcome to the SimpleMoney Podcast, where we make personal finance less intimidating. I’m Dawn Starks, a financial planner and lover of the simple life. I’m here to talk about money and simplicity. Let’s dive in. This is Episode 116: Setting Goals for the New Year. Well, first, let me wish you Happy New Year’s. This podcast episode is going to air on New Year’s Day, so I hope you are celebrating in a manner befitting of an exciting New Year, and new decade actually. If you’re like me, you like the approach of the New Year because it means that you have a fresh start. And setting goals for the New Year

always has a little bit extra pizazz, or just a little extra excitement because you know you have a whole blank slate of a new year in front of you. So with that in mind, I thought we could talk a little bit about goal-setting for the new year. And I’m not talking about New Year’s resolutions, so I know that this is probably hair-splitting to talk about the difference between resolutions and goals. But to me, resolutions are the sort of thing where you make a sweeping gesture of,

you know, “I’m going to lose weight this year,” or “I’m going to get in shape,” or “I’m going to get a new job,” or “I’m going to save, you know, $20,000,” or whatever, some big sweeping thing. And that’s not always something that’s sustainable. And so, a lot of times, people really lose their enthusiasm for New Year’s resolutions. The statistics say that, sometimes within weeks, months for sure, but sometimes even within weeks of setting and beginning a New Year’s resolution, people lose their momentum on it. And so that’s kind of sad.

But resolution-setting and goal-setting certainly can be very, very similar, if not identical. But I’m going to talk about goal-setting. So when we’re thinking about the whole year and what you are planning to do and accomplish for the whole year. So, there’s a lot of types of goals that you could have as you are looking at your whole year ahead. You could set some goals for your health, for your money, for your person, just like personal goals, or goals for your work. And I like to set goals in all of those categories,

most years. Most times, I have some goals in mind for all of those things. And it’s easy of course to get bogged down with too many goals. So I typically will suggest to people that you don’t make 5 to 10 different goals in each one of those categories. You might pick one, or maybe two, goals in each of those categories, and that would give you 1, 2, 3, 4… That would give you, like four times a single or a double goal, so 4 to 8 goals for the year.

That’s a pretty good, you know, robust number of goals to work on for the year. Because remember, you have a whole year. But speaking of that, speaking of having a whole year, let’s talk about the downside of having a whole year for those goals. Because I think part of the reason that people fall short of their New Year’s resolutions is – it’s a similar reason for why they tend to fall down on annual goals – and that is, is that if you know you have a whole year to work on this goal,

you might start out strong because you’re motivated right out of the gate. You might start working on those goals right away in January, and then you kind of lose your momentum a little bit because maybe you get sick or you get busy at work. Or there’s something else that causes you to just sort of go off the trail a little bit of your goals. But really, you’re not worried because it’s only January, and you have the whole year left to accomplish those goals.

Well, the problem is, is that procrastination tends to set-in there, and you have this unrealistic expectation of what you can accomplish over the span of a year’s time.

And then what ends up happening is then it’s April, and then it’s June, and then it’s September and you still haven’t made, you know, significant progress on those goals.

And now you start to panic a little bit because the year-end is now in sight. You can actually see it down the road,

and you realize, “Oh, gosh, I still have a lot of work to do on those annual goals that I set back in January.”

So the problem is, is that by thinking that you have a whole year, you tend to fall into the procrastination trap.

I won’t say you tend to procrastinate because not everybody does. But you can, it’s a risk.

So here’s a fix for that. This past year I read a book called The 12 Week Year,

and so the premise is that you’re breaking down, or chunking down the year into quarters. So they call it The 12 Week Year,

but each quarter is actually 13 weeks. According to the book, there’s 12 weeks of work on a particular goal,

and then the 13th week is your reassessment, or kind of catch-up and reassessment, and then assigning the goal for the next quarter.

So the idea here is that having a smaller, shorter period of time that you have to work in

allows you to maintain your focus. Because again, if you have 52 weeks to spread out a goal,

chances are decent that you’re going to struggle a little bit with that, you’re going to procrastinate or just feel, have a false sense, of how long you have.

So with The 12 Week Year, you can really do it two ways. You could take your annual goals,

so if you have one year-long goal that you’ve set for yourself, and you break it into quarters. So,

for example, if it was a money goal, if you wanted to save $10,000 over the course of the year, then each quarter

you need to save $2500 in order to stay on track for your goal. So then you would work just within the 12 weeks and break it down,

break down your $2500 goal into the 12 week period of time, and work on it just for those, for that quarter.

And of course, in that case, the goal is the same quarter-to-quarter. But you’re working on it,

and you’re focusing in a smaller chunk. And that tends to keep people on track better. You don’t fall off the wagon,

you don’t procrastinate, you don’t fall into the “Uh, I can get to it next week because I have all the weeks left of the year to do this.” With only 12 weeks to work on it,

you have a shorter number of weeks to break down the steps for your goal. Another technique you could consider with this 12 week year,

is to – depending on how many goals you picked for the year. So going back to my suggestion of having 1 to 2 per category,

that means you might have 4 to 8 goals total for your year. So you might divide those up by the quarters.

And so you might end up focusing on just 1 to 2 goals per quarter. And so in this situation,

you don’t have a whole year to get this goal done. So if your goal is to lose 30 or 50lb, some really large amount of weight,

you might not be able to do that in a quarter. You know that, maybe that’s a yearly goal,

but if you’re going to try to get it all done in a quarter, maybe you’re going to have to be more realistic and just focus on two goals, and you’re going to put all of your energy on those one to two goals, just for that quarter,

and then you’re going to accomplish them. And then going into the next quarter, you’ve got two brand-spanking new goals to work on for that quarter.

So there is some serious appeal to this methodology of setting goals because doing a goal for a whole year can get boring,

right? And if you’re trying to save, and you’re, you know, having to be really good with your money all year, or if you’re trying to dig out of debt,

and so you have to be really good with your money all year. Or if you’re trying to lose a lot of weight,

and it’s going to take you a whole year to do it, in a healthy way, it’s going to require a lot of momentum and a lot of fortitude in order to stick with those goals for the whole year.

So an alternative would be to chunk those, you know, chunk your goals into quarters and just focus on one goal or maybe two goals per quarter.

So that kind of ups your game a little bit, because if your goal this year is to lose 20 or 30lb, could you do that in a quarter?

You probably could. It’s going to take some serious focus, but if you really throw yourself into just doing one or two goals in the quarter and focus very hard –

and then, of course, you want to chunk those goals down into the weeks of the quarter and so that you can keep yourself on task –

but by putting your serious focus on just one or two of your goals and then knocking them out,

then you have the rest of the year to do the other goals on your list. So each quarter you can take on one or two new goals and then just focus them with just,

you know, this frenzy, this kind of, you know, like being like a madman in your focus.

So I would think that would be a pretty interesting thing to do. I have not done my goals that way,

but I’m seriously considering doing my goals in 2020 that way. What I have done is usually taken goals that were goals for the year,

and I just have a focus for the quarter for my 12 week year. And so I’ll just, you know,

it might be an annual goal, but I’ll just focus on one aspect of it, or on, you know,

one particular goal for that quarter. And you know, I guess I would say I have mixed results with that. Because I think it wasn’t focused enough to where I was just solely driven to get this one thing done,

but on the other hand, it did break it down better for me rather than just thinking in terms of it being an annual goal.

So think about that. So if you like the book, I didn’t write down here who the author is of The 12 Week Year,

but that’s the name of the book, is The 12 Week Year. And the premise, as I said, is just that you’re focusing on only one quarter.

So it’s 13 weeks total; 12 weeks of work, one week of reassessment and then resetting for the next quarter.

And so it’s just the idea of having a smaller period of time in which to really focus on your goals so that you can get things done,

in a focused and intentional way. So the next comment that I want to make, or sort of topic I want to cover was the idea of having big goals versus small goals.

I think that the other temptation, when we think of that whole year we have ahead of us, it’s tempting to set really large goals,

you know, big weight-loss goals, or big debt-paydown goals, or big savings goals, or whatever, you know, the case may be.

It’s easy to set those big goals, because again, the rationale is “Wow, I have a whole year.

Surely I can get that done, right? I have a whole year to accomplish that.” Well, maybe.

But the problem is, is that oftentimes with a really big goal, you kind of freeze straight out of the gate because the goal feels so big and you feel like you don’t know where to start.

You don’t know what to work on first. You don’t know where to direct your focus. And that’s why chunking down your goals into smaller time-frames

is so helpful. So even if you still want to think about your goals as being annual goals versus using the technique

I just described, The 12 Week Year, even if you want to think about annual goals, thinking about taking that annual goal and breaking it down into chunks,

whether it’s quarters, or months, or weeks, or all of those. You know, you can take a goal and break it into quarters.

Then you can break those quarters into weeks, you can break those weeks into days.

So this way, you kind of get yourself really focused on the small things you can do each day to get you towards those goals.

Now, I’m a fan of having big goals, so don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting don’t do it.

I’m just saying that a pitfall of having a big goal is that you sort of freeze up and realize “Wow, this is, I mean

this is a humongous goal. And how am I ever possibly going to get all this done in this year?”

And so it’s just harder to focus there. But I encourage you to think about having a big goal,

but then work out your game plan. So figure out how you’re going to tackle that big goal by dividing it up for the year into smaller chunks.

Chunk it down into goals that are smaller and more manageable and doable. So now here again, another maybe pitfall of that, is that if you do that very diligently, and so each day,

you know you need to do X, Y and Z in order to get yourself to this annual goal by the end of the year –

and that’s of course, at the end of 365 days from now – then each day you’re not going to feel like you’re making a huge amount of progress.

You’re going to feel like “Uh, well, ho-hum. You know, here goes another day.” Because 365 days is a long time in your mind when you’re thinking about having to not eat sweets so that you can lose your weight, or not spend frivolously because you’re trying to pay down your debt or save for something, a financial goal that you have.

It’s hard to sort of keep motivated with that. So if you’re going to do a big goal for the year and chunk it down,

give yourself some benchmarks so that you know that every month you can check-in and see how are you doing compared to your goalpost –

you kind of set these goalposts as you go – and then give yourself a little bit of celebration,

a little pat on the back or, you know, some inexpensive celebration if you’re trying to have a money goal. Or some non-food oriented goal

if you’re trying to do a weight loss or exercise goal. Try to find something that you can just,

you know, be happy about the fact that you’re making some progress, so that you can kind of check-in with yourself as you go.

Otherwise it can feel like a slog. And as the days go by, it feels like those tiny,

tiny, little incremental changes you’re making are just not really going anywhere. But they are. They are adding up over time.

So now me personally – well, I guess I forgot to say that the other, the alternative to having big goals is to have lots of little goals. And lots of little goals is great

if what you really have, or want to accomplish in the coming year is sort of a laundry list of projects.

Maybe you have small house projects to undertake and so it’s not like a big sweeping goal that would take a whole year.

Instead, it’s a series of little projects. So having those small goals, you know that you want to accomplish these five things this year, or whatever you may have. Having those small goals is easier because you can just tick those guys right off.

You know, if you have six of them, then you know that you have two months to work on each one.

You can pick one, focus on it, get it done, move onto the next one. So an advantage there is you get to completion.

You get that satisfaction of being done with that goal pretty quickly. It’s not going to take all year to get there.

So setting small goals is kind of fun in that regard. I wouldn’t say it’s easier, because sometimes you have to be super focused to get those small goals done.

But it’s, but it can be a little bit more rewarding because the payoff comes a little faster. Can, not necessarily will,

but it can come faster. So now I personally like to have a mixture of those big goals and small goals,

and some people just like to set those small goals, or some people just like to set the big goals.

You have to figure out what style works best for you. I like the mix because I like being able to have a few small goals that I can just knock off in the first quarter of the year, and then feel really good about the fact that I’ve made progress towards things that are important to me for the year.

So everyone’s different and you have to figure out what is going to be your motivator. What is going to be the thing that’s going to make you feel like you’re going to stick with it. So find out which method is best for you and then just roll with that.

So tell me, do you set goals for the New Year? And are goals and resolutions the same for you?

I’d love to hear what your thoughts are. What your preferred method of goal setting is? Whether you like to set those big annual goals, and then chunk them down?

Or do you like to set small, project-oriented goals and then knock ’em off your list, one by one?

I’d be really interested to hear what your strategies are, and how you have tackled goal-setting in the New Year.

And if you’d like to just share what your goals are for the new year, so that you have kind of an objective person that now knows what your goals are,

I’m happy to be that for you, too. You can email me at dawn@simplemoneypro.com,

or you can join the free SimpleMoney Community Facebook group, if you want to share your thoughts there. People are pretty

nice in that group to kind of hold you accountable, but also, you know, cheer you on as you’re reaching your goals.

So either of those ways is fine to keep in touch. So that’s it. We’re launching into the New Year here,

and I hope that your new year is going to be filled with all the blessings that you want it to have.

And I’m looking forward to working with you this year to help you simplify your life and also get a better grasp on your personal finances.

Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the SimpleMoney Podcast, be sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast player.

We’d love it if you would leave us feedback and a review. And don’t forget to check out my blog at simplemoneypro.com.

There you’ll find dozens of posts about financial issues that matter to you, as well as thought-provoking pieces about simplifying your life.

Bye for now.


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