So here we are, a month into the new year, and I’m still pondering my 2021 goals (objectives, targets, New Year’s resolutions, whatever you want to call them) for the year.
I’m a firm believer in the principle of ‘what gets measured gets done’. I also believe in having a mix of short and long-term goals to stop me forever procrastinating. And they all have to be ‘SMART’ – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.
Sadly, buying myself a 2021 planner didn’t result in a set of goals spontaneously appearing. (Oh, if only.) So I’ve spent the last few weeks drafting some initial ideas under the general headings of Health, Wealth and Self. (Or should that be Sealth? Whatever.). I’m not 100% happy with them yet but I’m not going to let a quest for perfection become an excuse for inaction.
Given my patchy record of following through – my overall success is around 50% – I’m going to keep a monthly record on the blog as a means of holding myself more accountable. So, here goes.
Goal H1: 20,000 steps a day, 20 times every month.
I averaged 19,458 steps a day in 2020, exceeding 20,000 exactly 200 times. This was despite a two-month spell during the first lockdown when I failed to reach that milestone once. So, given that I effectively managed it 200 times in ten months, then 20 a month for a full year feels realistic.
I managed it on 23 days in January. So far, so good.
Goal H2: Walk from Land’s End to John O’Groats (virtually) in 17 weeks.
I’ve paid to join a Conqueror Virtual Challenge. These are online challenges that you can enter either individually or as a team. You travel a well-known route virtually, with the aim of completing it within a time period of your choosing. I’m doing Land’s End to John O’Groats: a distance of 1,744km. I’m aiming to do it in 17 weeks, at a hefty average of 14.7km a day.
You get a nice shiny medal for completing the challenge, but that’s not really the point. Doing the challenge keeps my motivation up during these miserable winter months. It gives me something more tangible to aim for than a number. And I can chart my daily progress via an app that shows me my current position on both a map and Google Street View. It’s a pretty cool way of setting a sizeable physical challenge in a way that is realistically doable.
32 days in, I’ve completed over 500km and I’m nearly 32km ahead of where I should be. I will actually pass within a couple of miles of our house later this week!
Goal H3: Get my weight back under 12½ stone (by end of March) – and keep it there.
Having lost 50 pounds in less than 18 months, ending 2020 at the same weight at which I started the year was a satisfying achievement. But that’s not the whole story.
At my lightest – shortly after Easter, a few weeks into lockdown – I was 12 stone four pounds. I finished Christmas closer to 13 stone. Not bad by any means, but while I was always likely to put a little weight back on, I can do better. So I’m aiming to reach a weight of 12-6 – I’m currently 12-11 – and then sustain it.
I also need to work on my fitness and get back into running again. But first things first. Losing a few pounds will be a good start. And hopefully by then we’ll be closer to the gym reopening and Parkrun starting up again. Then I can set myself some more goals.
Goal W1: Make my will by Easter.
This has been on my list for years and I’ve consistently failed to do anything about it. So why will this year be any different?
Well, in the past 12 months, an accumulation of events has taken place. I turned 50. The pandemic happened. I had a minor health scare during which I convinced myself that an innocuous problem might be something far worse. Heather was rushed to hospital to have her appendix removed.
I’ve had more reminders of my mortality in the past year than in the previous ten combined. It’s time to stop putting this one off.
Goal S1: Read 12 books in 2021.
I used to read voraciously, but since the kids arrived I’ve been lucky to finish four or five books a year. I set this same goal last year and, though I improved, I still fell short, finishing my tenth book on New Year’s Eve.
So, here we go again – but doing things a little differently to produce a different outcome. I always used to read most at bedtime, but these days I’m often too tired. So instead I’m building in more space at other time of the day. Sometimes that means reading together as a family, which is a good way of enforcing breaks from screen time. And sometimes it’s just giving myself permission to curl up on the sofa and read for 20 minutes instead of racing on to the next thing on my to-do list.
I’m currently two-thirds of the way through my second book of the year, so I’m off to a solid start.
Goal S2: Cook proper meals twice a week (and don’t be afraid to expand my repertoire).
For years, Heather has done most of the cooking in the house, simply because she works part-time. I’ve always enjoyed cooking but I’ve never made enough time for it. And we’ve gotten stuck in a rut where we keep repeating the same meals.
That routine was shaken up a couple of weeks ago when Heather suddenly went into hospital for her appendectomy. I enjoyed cooking proper meals for the kids. And we even turned it into a bit of an adventure as I tried making tartiflette – one of my favourite dishes – for the first time. (Thankfully no one refused to eat it or died of food poisoning – so, result.)
Since Heather’s been home, she’s been resting up and I’ve been cooking most evenings. I’ve slow-roasted beef and made home-made breadcrumbs for the first time, and no one has yet begged me to stop experimenting.
I’m loving it. And I’ll keep going until someone tells me to stop.
Goal S3: Turn our study into a proper office by Easter.
For years, our little study was part junk room/open plan filing cabinet, part office used primarily for blogging. But since the pandemic, it has become my de facto office, where I spend upwards of 40 hours a week.
For years, I ignored the ubiquitous mess and clutter. I turned a blind eye to the precariously stacked boxes full of unfiled admin. The non-working radiator and water-stained ceiling. The crooked blinds and bare lightbulb. We didn’t dare move the desk, bookcases and filing cabinets for fear of stirring up 13 years of dust. If we pretended it wasn’t there, it was fine.
But now that it’s my primary workspace, I have a vested interest in moving it from my ‘to-do’ to my ‘done’ list. So we repainted the room over Christmas. I bled the radiator so that it no longer makes an igloo feel like a sauna. We bought a new lightshade and replaced the old rug. I’m slowly sorting through years’ worth of filing and discarded gadgets and cables. I’ve treated myself to a big new whiteboard, decluttered my desk and bought myself what I need to create a fit-for-purpose office rather than a series of mend-and-make-do compromises.
It’s actually starting to feel like a proper workspace now, one that I can happily spend five days a week in. We’re installing new custom-made blinds today. I might even invest in proper monitor stands rather than using reams of A4 paper. It’s still some way from being finished yet, but it’s getting there.
Goal S4: Create more one-to-one opportunities with the kids. Find one activity with each of them that is uniquely ours – and make it a regular thing.
This one is a work in progress. I want to spend more time as a family, but also carve out time to strengthen my relationship with each of our three kids by having a shared activity that is uniquely ours.
I’ll get back to you on that one.
So that’s my current 2021 plan. I’ll hopefully tick some goals off and add more as the year progresses. But with one month down and 11 to go, I’m off to a pretty decent start.