I’m not really one for New Year’s resolutions. But I do set personal goals for the year ahead. 2020 is no exception.
Now, you may ask whether ‘resolutions’ and ‘goals’ are one and the same thing. And maybe it’s just semantics, but to me there’s a world of difference.
A resolution is a statement of intent, such as “I’ll go to the gym and get fitter” or “I’m going to make more time for me”. Often it’s couched in vague or non-specific terms. What does “going to the gym” actually mean? 2-3 times a week? Blitzing January, only to tail off and never go again? And how do you define or quantify what success looks like?
Or what exactly does “making time for me” look like? What will you do? How much time will you make for yourself? And so on.
A goal, on the other hand, is something more tangible that you can hold yourself to account for. It should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. That means you should be able to define exactly what you are aiming to achieve and how you will measure whether you have succeeded. It also means your target should be attainable – not easy but not impossible either – within a defined timeframe.
How I set my goals
In the past, I’ve tried to set goals that reflect the four key areas of my life: family, work, blogging and me. As a father of three children, I often neglected this last category. It happens to many parents. It’s not healthy. We ignore our own well-being at our peril. We can’t look after the other parts of our lives if we don’t exercise self-care too.
More recently, I’ve also changed the way I think about my goals in two key ways.
Firstly, I don’t just think about what I’m going to start doing or do more of. I also think about what I’m going to stop doing or do less of.
It seems obvious when you say it out loud, but we only have so much spare time. There’s no point saying you’re going to do ten new things this year if you don’t make time to actually do them. So unless one of your goals is to sleep a lot less, you need to free up time elsewhere. If you’re going to go to the gym, where will you find those extra hours? If you just assume you’ll find a way to squeeze it in somehow, it will never happen. Or, at best, you will manage for a few weeks but not be able to sustain it over the longer term. Plan activities in the same way you would your daily schedule. Block out the time.
Secondly, don’t feel all your plans have to start on January 1st and finish on December 31st. These are purely arbitrary dates that align with the calendar year.
In setting my 2019 fitness goals and targets, I broke my year down into smaller chunks of 2-4 months. I set a weight loss target of getting down to my wedding weight by the end of March. I planned out different training programmes to prepare me for my first Parkrun in April and a Tough Mudder in September. Breaking the year down into a number of smaller goals meant there was always a target or milestone on the horizon. This kept me focussed and discouraged me from slacking off. It also meant I changed my training programme three or four times during the year, providing variety that stopped me getting bored.
So while some of my 2019 goals did span the entire year, others covered only the first three or four months. Once I’d hit each target, I would then use the experience to set a new goal that was stretching but achievable.
Everyone is different, of course, but for me it definitely helps to treat a year as a series of sprints rather than one long slog. And, from a motivation perspective, ticking off shorter-term achievements provided a confidence boost to stay on track for my longer-term goals.
My 2020 goals
So what are my goals for 2020? Although this is the year in which I will turn 50, I don’t have a big ’50-by-50′ type list. I’m pretty happy with where I am and don’t feel a major need to change. Not so much ‘New Year, New Me’ as ‘New Year, Slightly Better Me’.
As such, I don’t have any specific work or blogging goals. In both instances, it’s a case of consolidation and incremental improvements. But from a ‘family’ and ‘me’ perspective, these are my 10 goals that I want to achieve in 2020:
- Read more books. I aimed to read one a month in 2019 and failed miserably. So I’m reinstating this goal for 2020 – and this includes setting a better example for the kids by enforcing a ‘family reading hour’ more often. (I also need to be better at actually finishing books. By my count, there are five books that I started this year that I’m still between a quarter and halfway through.)
- Linked to the above, rekindle my interest in history. I’ve always been fascinated by early US history (up to the Civil War) and post-Industrial Revolution British social history. So that’s at least two of my 12 books for 2020 sorted then.
- Do more activities as a family. All of us are so busy with work and individual activities that proper family time is a rarity. Having a (semi-)regular family reading hour would be a good start. But we also need time to do other things we all enjoy, such as board games and films. I also did one exploratory badminton session with the kids about three months ago which they all loved – but we haven’t booked another since. There will always be weeks when we are too busy doing different things, but I’d like to do one or more of the above every weekend where possible.
- Do more to help those less fortunate than us. I wrote about the importance of helping others in the run-up to Christmas. But, of course, poverty and homelessness are year-round issues. I will always struggle to devote much time but there are many small things I can do, from food bank and charity shop donations to buying the homeless guy I regularly pass in town a cup of tea. There’s always more that I can do – and get the kids involved in too. We did a reverse Advent calendar this year. We can make this a monthly thing too and something we do actively and regularly as a family, rather than something I do occasionally on my own.
- Run sub-30 minutes for Parkrun by Easter. I completed my first 5km run in March, my first Parkrun in April and have managed in the mid-32s in the gym. However, niggling injuries hampered me throughout autumn, scuppering my aim of achieving this in 2019. Which leads me on to …
- Consolidate my fitness gains and improve my physical resilience. I made huge strides in 2019 but I had three separate injury setbacks in the second half of the year. I haven’t quite settled in to my new body and need to work on a better balance between training and recovery to reduce my risk of future injury. So, other than my Parkrun target, I’m deliberately not setting any major goals for the first part of 2020. I’ll reassess after Easter.
- Do another Tough Mudder – at least a 5km course, or maybe even the longer Classic version. I’ve got one pencilled in for September already.
- Weigh no more at the end of 2020 than I do at the beginning of the year. Ideally, I’d like to lose a few more pounds but it’s not critical. I’ll be able to visibly see if I’m in better shape.
- Continue to manage my diabetes well. My annual HbA1c test in May will give me a quantitative measure of my blood glucose levels. I’ve reduced my medication levels significantly already and my goal for 2020 is to get a green-light to stop one of my two meds altogether, which would be a huge achievement.
- Sort out my will by the end of March. This has been on my to-do list forever, so it’s time to just get it done.
That’s more than enough to be getting on with. I will no doubt add in more goals as the year progresses. But for now my next step is to follow my own process and work out what I am going to stop/do less of to make time for all of this. Wish me luck!