5 Goal-Setting Tips from a 2-year Lister

Note from Jenn: The following is a guest post from Caitlin Johnson, an Accompl.sh lister since July 2010. She blogs at http://cupcait.com and tweets @cupcait. Find her lists at http://accompl.sh/caitlin

A year ago this past summer I locked my very first 101in365 list. While I didn’t make it through all 101 goals that I set out to complete in the last year, I did learn a lot about myself, about what I want from my life, and even about making goals for the coming year.  The thing that stood out to me the most at the end of the year wasn’t my list of completed goals, but the ones that I didn’t get to. Some of them taught me a few things about the sorts of goals I should strive for in the following year. Others encouraged me to work harder on certain things this year. And more than anything, my uncompleted items gave me a snapshot of who I was last year and how I have changed over the last year.

A few tips for making your own goals:

  1. Avoid long term, repetitive goals: “Work out 3 times a week”, “Save more money”. These are great things to strive for, but they are hard to check off of a list - at what point are they “complete”? What if you fall off the wagon after checking it off? Try quantifying them a little more, based on what you hope to get out of the goals: “Drop a jeans size”, “Attend 5 yoga classes”, “Put $2000 in my savings account”. By the time you check the goals off, you may even be in the habit and can continue for the rest of the year.
  2. And more than anything, my uncompleted items gave me a snapshot of who I was last year and how I have changed over the last year.
    - Caitlin Johnson
  3. Take some time to make your list. The requirement for Accompl.sh used to be 101 goals for the year before you could lock in your list, and I still try to stick to that in order to keep myself busy. It can be reallyhard to come up with 10 meaningful goals, let alone 101 goals. Give it some time. I usually add the ones I’ve had on my mind for a while and then spend a week living my normal life and adding more as they come to me. If you give it time and keep your list in the back of your mind, it’ll get easier to come up with things you want to accomplish. Also, take advantage of what Accompl.sh has to offer! Explore other people’s goals, ask your friends to suggest some for you, and browse the Challenges. 
  4. Don’t commit to too many one-off things. Things come up. Maybe that street fair sounds great right now but your friend’s birthday party will be that same day, and then you have a dead item on your list, something that you have no hope of completing. I learned that I’d rather fill my list with things I can fit into my schedule, rather than things I have to plan my life around. 
  5. Add some fun stuff. If your list is full of annoying chores, you’ll be more likely to ignore it. Fill the space between those uber-productive to-dos with some fun things you’ve been putting off because you’re “too busy”. When you find yourself with a free evening or weekend, find something awesome to check off!
  6. Don’t stress! If you get stuck when your list is up to 75 or 50 (or 10) goals and nothing more comes to you, just roll with it! You can make more than one list, so go with what feels right and lock it before filling your list becomes a daunting chore. Have fun with your list, and make it whatever you want it to be. Then enjoy checking your goals off, and feel proud of yourself for whatever you do and don’t accomplish. At the end of the year, use your unfinished goals to learn about your priorities in life or to encourage yourself to work harder on some next year.

Have a few ideas? Go start your own list, find a few new friends to follow, and get going in time for the new year!