Keeping Your Goals In Front Of You

It’s June, but I want to talk about New Year’s Day. Specifically, I want to focus on goals, such as New Year’s resolutions.

New Years Resolutions In June?

Some people hate the idea of resolutions, but resolutions are just goals, and who hates goals? You can make them any time of the year. The end of one year and the beginning of the next is simply a good point in time to look back on your recent accomplishments and failures, look forward to possibilities, and set some goals for the next year.

What people really hate about resolutions is that they are not really goals. They tend to be more like wishes. “I’d like to lose 50 lbs in 2013” is a wish. So is “I’d like to travel more.” These aren’t goals, but most people don’t realize it because most people suck at setting and achieving goals. The problem is that goals become forgotten if you don’t keep them in front of you all the time.

I’ve been guilty of it myself. Horribly, horribly guilty of it. For years, I’ve blogged about how I wanted to dedicate more time to game development, and then I’ve blogged about kicking myself for not doing a better job. And then I would write a post about being resolute about improvement, only to find that I write about the same problems a year later. It was ridiculous. It’s also painful to go back and read those old posts, thinking to myself, “Self, how can you not see this cycle?”

You can come up with the most detailed and straightforward plan, a beautiful and inspiring list of goals, or a thorough checklist for your day, but if you stick them in a drawer and never look at them, they can quickly become forgotten. And if you don’t have any of those things, it’s even easier to forget what you supposedly decided you were going to do.

I realized that I needed to change something, but what?

How to Remember Your Goals

Like many people, I created a list of goals for 2013. These were things I wanted to accomplish before the end of the year. I used to try to make comprehensive lists of everything I want to ever do or accomplish, but I realized that shorter lists allow me to provide much more focus, as this 2010 post about achieving your goals more easily explains.

On my list are goals related to getting back into shape, creating one game a month, reading at least one marketing book a month, creating a passive income stream, and learning to play a song on my guitar.

Ok, so I have a list of goals. But I’ve had goal lists before. What did I do differently this year?

I put them someplace I knew I would always see them.

I could have printed them out and put them up on my wall across from my desk, but I was worried that I’d eventually forget about them. Instead, I put them at the top of a Google Docs document that I look at daily, my Workday Now lists. If you use GTD or Workday Now, you probably have a similar set of lists that you live and work from.

Goals For 2013

Everyday, I look at this document to see what’s urgent and important, and so I simply added a section at the top that shows my goals for 2013. As you can see, at least one of them follows the “make those goals vivid” advice, but not all of them do. Some are quite plain. But the important thing is that I see them each and every day.

Essentially, I remind myself of the goals I have constantly. Michael Linenberger calls it “spinning your goals” in Master Your Wokday Now!. Some people suggest writing out your goals every day or reading them from a pack of index cards twice a day or creating a vision board. It doesn’t really matter how you do it, so long as you keep yourself focused on your goals daily and keep yourself accountable. Whatever works.

Creating Habits, Checklists, and Plans

Of course, having goals and keeping them in front of you is not enough. It’s the doing, the accomplishment of those goals, that matters. Otherwise, you’re just constantly reminding yourself that your current life isn’t as great as the life you’d like and hoping that something will change on its own.

But knowing you have to take action is different from taking action. You can’t sporadically exercise and eat a salad once in a while and hope to “feel energetic, sexy, and free”. You need to make it habit.

In January, I published a card game called Walls and Armies that I had been working on for a couple of months, as part of the One Game a Month challenge. I had a video game in mind to work on, but as the end of the month drew near, I realized I hadn’t been good about making time for its creation. Luckily, I had a card game that I could submit at the last minute, but it wasn’t my original goal.

It wasn’t a good start to my year. It was crunch at the day job, so I had less time than normal. I had a long list of various responsibilities, but I didn’t have a good idea of priorities yet nor how to give attention to multiple of these obligations at once.

That month I realized I needed a workable schedule if I wanted to get sufficient game development time in. In fact, I needed a workable schedule if I wanted to accomplish any of my 2013 goals.

I also realized that I needed more than a plan. I needed reminders that I had a plan to work on in the first place. I know that some days it’s possible to feel less motivated to work on something than on other days. I also know that if I allow myself to take a break by giving myself a much-needed day off, I’d lose momentum, and I needed something to help me get back once the break was over.

Since then, I had created a daily checklist on the whiteboard on the wall across from my desk, which I see everyday. I originally had six items on that daily checklist, and it is now down to three as I noticed what was working, not working, or not important.

For example, I used to practice on my new guitar at least 15 minutes a day because I had a goal of learning to play a song on it, but then I realized that I was dedicating more time to a hobby than I was to my business, so I stopped making guitar-playing a priority. Unfortunately, it means I haven’t played guitar in months, but as sad as it is, I have higher priority things to do taking my time, and I would be sadder if one of those took a backseat out of some obligation to learn a new instrument.

Besides, I accomplished my goal of learning to play a song on my guitar long before March. “I Saw Her Standing There” by The Beatles never sounded so good.

I also eventually created a weekly checklist. Each day has a focus, and I want to make sure that I accomplish the focus of that day. Two of those days are game development days. If I don’t get anything else accomplished, I should have time dedicated to game development on those days. One my writing days, it’s possible I don’t get game development done because I spent my precious time writing, and that’s fine.

Assessing How Well It Works

Ideally, I’d be focused on a single project at a time, so that all of my working time outside of the day job is dedicated to one task or project until it is finished.

Unfortunately, my multiple responsibilities means that some things can’t be “finished”, but I still want to make sure I dedicate time to them all. For instance, being President of the Association of Software Professionals isn’t a job that can be finished if I work a lot of hours all at once. If anything, it will finish me. B-)

I sometimes wish I could focus all of my energy on a single project for weeks or months, ignoring everything else. I might experiment with it to see how things go.

Still, having days dedicated to certain types of tasks has its benefits. If I work on game development to the exclusion of all else on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I don’t need to feel stressed that something is falling through the cracks. Anything that needs attention will get attention on its own day. I also can’t get bored, as I never spend too long on any one type of task.

But I’ve been using my current system for a few months now. As of this writing, I’ve been able to finish four games in the last four months, including Electromagnetic Play, The New Worlds, Toytles Colors, and Hungry Frogs. I’ve read or listened to five marketing books and 23 books total so far this year. I learned how to play a song on my guitar.

I’ve also written multiple articles and newsletters for the ASP, written a few blog posts, and up until recently have done a great job of creating daily updates for the Stop That Hero! Facebook page.

I have yet to lose weight or make traction on creating a passive income stream. In both cases, I think I need a plan that can translate into daily habits. My daily checklist has “Do stretches” on it, and while it is good for maintenance, it’s not enough to help me get in shape. I need to do more, such as getting back into running.

Still, I think that 2013 has been a good year so far in terms of finally keeping myself accountable to my goals. On some goals, I’m on track. In others, I’m not. But unlike past years, even my lack of progress is something I am fully conscious and aware of on a daily basis. They aren’t forgotten, and I am continually reminded that I’m not spending time in these important areas of my life. It’s more about treating them with the priority I originally assigned them.

How are you doing with your New Year’s Resolutions or other long-term goals? How do you keep them in front of you, and how are you ensuring that you are making progress on them?

3 comments to Keeping Your Goals In Front Of You

  • As an outside observer I’d like to warmly declare that your year so far is a giant success. Keep it up! Not only are you chipping away at your goals, not only are they realistic, but your discipline is something to be very proud of. Everyone makes New Year resolutions ,but only the truly driven are able to revisit them halfway through the year with such humble focus. I find that even NOT achieving every goal I set out for myself is still a good thing, because setting out on a particular path takes you at least partway. Like they say, aim for the moon and even if you don’t reach it you’ll have moved yourself closer to orbit. Keep up the amazing work and be PROUD of what you’ve done so far – you deserve it.
    – Christer

  • Awesome post! Thank you for writing this piece about goals. It is always helpful to break up the goal in to mini goals, and if possible, break those up to even smaller more easily obtained goals. I’m going to take a piece of advice from you and try to designate days in my week for certain business activities. I like being able to devote a chunk of time for only one activity. I always get more done on that specific activity than I would if I were multitasking.

  • Thanks, McFunkypants and Luisa!

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