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No. 527 / I set one goal a year

I used to set at least 20 goals a year. The list would include the typical things like working out more, reading x amount of books, reaching certain milestones at work, doing something more with my website, learning a new skill, buying things, traveling places, and the list went on and on.

But now I set one goal a year. It’s the same goal I set every quarter, which is the same goal I set every week—that is, to make a plan every day and then stick to the plan.

See, there were times when I would look back at my year and review the list of things I wanted to do only to realize that things changed. We moved locations, so buying a new car was no longer important. I learned something new and adjusted my career direction. I grew up and different things became bigger priorities. Then, one year, I decided to try something different. I instead focused on my habits, my system for getting things done, and my attitude toward how I approach each day.

Don’t get me wrong, I love goals. And when I say I set one goal every year (to make a daily plan and stick to it), what I’m really saying is that I set lots and lots of goals every day. I break down each day into categories. For each category I have habits and actionable items. I’m updating these on a daily basis as well. Simply put, I don’t set large goals anymore. I have a vision for the type of person I want to become, sure, but I don’t set 90-day targets for myself or even monthly goals. I make a daily list (it’s a really long list) of everything I am working on or seeking to improve and I stick to it. I focus on continuous progress. Because I’m realizing that goals come and go too quickly and I prefer, instead, to set systems.

Here’s what I’ve learned and here’s how this approach has worked for me: I now get things done. When I say ‘we should get together sometime’ I log it onto my daily list of things to get done that day, I get it scheduled, and it happens. I complete projects. I get to all my emails. I’ve changed jobs, switched careers, traveled a bunch, read over 100 books, and cooked more at home. I now do things for the sake of making progress. If I want to build something, I no longer spend the next few weeks thinking about what tool I need to get it done, I just put the next action item onto my daily list and complete the next step toward building the thing I want to build.

And I’m always tweaking my approach. If something isn’t working—if something has been on my daily list for a few days, I either drop it, or (if it’s still important to me) I reflect on how I can prioritize that thing into my daily schedule, and I make it happen.

So this year, if you have already given up on your New Year’s resolutions, try something new. Focus on your system. Yes, I’m even suggesting to completely ignore the big goal in the back of your mind and instead worry about how you are going to do better today.

I’m with James Clear on this one. Check out his post on setting systems. You just might come across something that actually works.