The new year is always a time for both reflection (mostly thinking about all of the things you didn’t accomplish!) and setting new goals. The problem I have with goals are that they are often too… binary. You will either succeed or fail. Perhaps your goal was to lose 15 pounds, but you only lost 10. While yes, you didn’t meet your goal, you got 66% of the way there!
As an entrepreneur with a background in marketing, and a popular term I see most business-types throw around is “KPI”, which stands for Key Performance Indicator. Companies ultimately focus on the bottom line (“ROI” – return on investment), but KPIs allow different business units to establish their own set of success metrics for their activities (customer acquisition, customer satisfaction, awareness or “buzz” of a marketing campaign, etc.). The benchmarks for “success” are often arbitrary (“We need a million Facebook fans!”), given there will be little history or accepted industry benchmarks to compare to, so KPIs are usually refined over time. Why not use the same logic and apply KPIs to your goals? Having KPIs will also allow you to track progress both during and at the end of the year. And who says you can’t recalibrate a goal if you realize in 6 months that it was over- or under-ambitious, based on data you have collected? Below I’ve outlined a number of my goals for this year, broken up by category. On a binary scale, I will most like “fail” more often than succeed, but at the end of the day bettering oneself by any capacity is still a “success”!
Below I have listed several (but not all) of my goals for this year, along with some KPIs and tools that can be used. Feel free to copy or adapt them to suit your needs.
Personal goals are things that can help improve the quality of my life.
While I’d hardly be considered a “hoarder”, over the years I’ve acquired a lot of… stuff. The issue hasn’t been a fear of letting go, but rather just me being too lazy to get rid of things. It’s easier to stuff old clothes in your dresser or boxes of old CDs in a closet. There is a lot of research backing up the benefits of decluttering, as having less stuff = needing to make fewer decisions = saving more willpower. I will go through every room/closet/dresser in my home and place items (clothes, books, cds, etc.) into 3 piles – “keep”, “sell”, “donate”, “throw out”. Hopefully, the last 3 piles will be much larger than the first!
- Number of items donated/thrown out
- Value of items sold
Dream Log/Idea List
We can only hold onto thoughts for so long, which is why we tend to quickly forget a great new business idea or forget your dreams from the night before. Many people keep a small notebook next to their bed so that as soon as they wake up, they try to recall their dreams and write down anything they can recall. Over time, memory will improve (ability to recall more dreams and in more detail), and may even help with lucid dreaming.
There is another “idea muscle”-building exercise that James Altucher suggests where each morning, you grab a notebook and complete a top 10 ideas list around a different subject (i.e., “10 ways I Would Improve My Work Commute”, “10 Ideas for Reality Show”, etc.). The goal is to get whatever comes to mind down as quickly as possible, even if they are terrible ideas (most will be). Ideas 1-5 are going to be easy – like working out. It’s ideas 6-10 that are going to be much more difficult, and will really make your idea muscle sweat (just like those last few reps at the gym). But just like building muscle, doing this over time will help turn oneself into an idea factory!
- Total dreams logged/dreams per evening
- Total lists created/number of ideas
- Notebook/journal, pen, Excel
Whether I am out to dinner with my girlfriend, drinks with friends, walking my dog, or lying on my couch listening to a vinyl album start-to-finish, my goal is to be more “in the moment” by setting aside one day per week where I remove all digital distractions (laptop and smartphone) and focus 100% of my attention on whoever I am with. I will commit one day per week (i.e., Saturday) as my “digital detox” day. Other than a small 15-30 minute window in the morning and evening (to go through/triage any important emails), I will not turn on my phone or laptop to check Twitter or Facebook notifications, play games, or go down the YouTube wormhole. Additionally, every night of the week 30 minutes before bed I will set aside my phone and laptop, leaving them in another room away from my bedroom (you shouldn’t be sleeping with your phone next to your head anyway).
- Total digital detox days
- Percentage of detox days actually “detoxing”
- Time on computer/phone
Emotional goals are things that will allow me to be more happy.
Be a Better Friend/Improve Relationships
As we get older, our lives get increasingly busy, and something as simple as getting together with a friend to catch up over lunch or going to see a baseball game can prove difficult and take months to coordinate. To make things worse, while social networks such as Facebook claim to bring people closer together, its actually done a better job of weakening our connections. Why must we meet up if I can already see what you are up to?
My goal is to do a better job of spending time, in-person, with my closest friends and in general make a more proactive effort to maintain regular interaction. In cases where there is a geographic challenge, why not start arranging a regular phone call or Skype?
- Friend encounters (face-to-face, phone/Skype, etc.)
- Contacts per week/month, contact frequency/method
- Google Calendar, ContactsJournal, Skype
Physical goals are things related to improving my fitness, health, and general well-being.
While many people mediate using traditional methods, as a biohacking geek I’m looking for ways to use tools to accelerate my brain’s ability to improve focus, calmness, and access various brain states (especially theta). I have been experimenting with binaural beats and other neurofeedback and brain entrainment tools but haven’t developed a true practice yet, hence this goal. While I’m at it, I can work on my breathing!
- Sessions run, duration
- Daily Mood/How do I feel?
Drink Less Alcohol
Many people attempt a 30-day “no drinking” challenge (usually right after New Year’s Eve). Again, it’s a very binary metric – either success or failure. I’m a social drinker, meaning I might go all week without a drink, but then I’ll be out with friends on Saturday night and throw down a few cocktails or relaxing at home after a long week and want to relax with a glass of wine after dinner. So my goal isn’t to eliminate alcohol entirely, but rather to use tracking in order to be more aware of my patterns and reduce the extremes (i.e., having no drinks for 6 days, then going out and having 6 glasses of wine).
The toughest part of this goal is actually the social aspect, as alcohol seems to play a role in any social function – dinner with friends, drinks with my teammates after a soccer match, parties, industry events, etc.
- Drinks consumed (total, each day, average by day/week)
- Weight/body fat percentage trends
- Bloodwork before/after
Intellectual goals are things that will challenge my mind, allow me to gain new knowledge, and wire new neural pathways.
Learn New Language(s)
While I possess “survival” Italian skills and took a semester of Mandarin several years ago, I really want to improve my comprehension of both, while throwing in some Spanish for good measure. I’ve used software such as RosettaStone in the past and have played around with language apps such as Duolingo, which are great for folks on the go and who have limited time to study each day. For me, the main challenge as been sticking with my studies – knowledge fades, as does motivation.
- Time spent (per language)
- Lessons completed
Read a Book (400 Pages) Every 2 Weeks
Even one of Mark Zuckerberg’s annual goals was to read a book every two weeks. Again, the goal here is to make the time to allow me to focus 100% of my attention on reading. I will plow through a stack of business magazines in any given week, but with books I have a tendency to start them, only to pick up/put down repeatedly over the course of many weeks (even months!). And often I am reading several books at the same time. If an average book is around 200 pages, a better goal is to, say, try to read 400 pages every 2 weeks.
- Total books read, average per week
- Total pages read, average per week
- Goodreads, Excel
Experiential goals are things that will provide me with lifetime-lasting memories and improve my world view.
Choose “Experiences” Over Things
Out of establishing my “decluttering” goal was the realization that I’ve preferred acquiring things over experiencing things. My reasoning was that if I spent money on, say, the opera, it would be over in a few hours and I could have used that money to buy myself, say, a new piece of biohacking gear! But the reality is, many experiences are less about spending money, and more about making the time to have an experience. Experiences can be local – visiting museums and parks or doing an historical tour; regional – driving a few hours away to visit a new town or city, camping/hiking; national – road trips, visiting landmarks; and international – visiting new countries and experiencing new cultures.
- Experience “bucket list” for year, total and percentage of experiences completed
- Expedia, Kayak, Ticketmaster, Goldstar, Excel
Creative goals are things that allow me to express myself through different mediums.
Write and Record an Album
I’ve been a musician longer than I’ve been an entrepreneur, and although I’ve been in a number of bands and recorded albums over the years (and even have a home studio), I’ve never released any of my own material. They say you have your entire life to write your first album!
- time spent writing/recording
- new song ideas per week/month
- songs completed
Start a Podcast
I once started a marketing podcast 7 or 8 years ago but gave up after 2 episodes. I got too busy with other work-related matters and it got pushed aside. Podcasting has seen a huge resurgence in the past few years and I probably spend more time listening to podcasts in a given week than other forms of entertainment like TV. I’ve been bouncing around a few ideas for podcasts I could start, but what has held me back is worry about being too “niche” or running out of things to talk about.
- Podcast episodes completed
- Laptop, GarageBand, Skype, microphone, mixer
The examples above are actually part of a more comprehensive list I have, but hopefully these are enough examples to inspire you to do something similar. How are you tracking your goals for this year? Leave a comment below!