The Working With… Podcast

How To Build Achievable Goals in 2020

December 9, 2019

So, you have a lot of ideas about what you would like to accomplish in 2020. The question now is how do you turn those ideas into achievable goals? Well, that’s what we’ll be exploring in this week’s podcast. 



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Episode 112

Hello and welcome to episode 112 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

Okay, I need to be honest with you here. I have been saving this week’s question for a while because now is the best time to answer this question. A few weeks ago I gave you a link to my annual planning sheet and that sheet asks six questions about what you want to change and what you want to achieve next year.

Well, hopefully, you have developed a long list of things because now we are in December and it’s time to go through that list and decide what you will do next year.

But, before we get to that question, for anyone living in the UK and would like the opportunity to spend a day with likeminded people planning and developing their goals and plans for 2020, I will be in Scunthorpe in Lincolnshire on the 28th December along with Kevin Blackburn at the Life and Time mastery Workshop. You are all more than welcome to come and join us for some post-Christmas planning so you are not just ready to begin 2020 the way you want to, but you begin it with massive amounts of energy and motivation… Which of course is the best way to begin any year. 

Tickets are still available and if you want one, just head over to the registration page. Details for the event and ticket information are in the show notes. 

Okay, time for me now to hand you over to the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question. 

This week’s question comes from Maria. Maria asks, Hi Carl, a while ago you recommended we should write out all the things we would like to change about ourselves, the way we work and other things. I did that. What do I do next?

I’m glad you asked, Maria. This week I’ll show you how to turn those ideas into actionable goals. 

Now first up I need to stress the importance of “less is more”. A huge mistake people often make when planning their new year goals is they want to change and do too much too soon. Slow down. You have plenty of time and you do not need to do everything all in one year. I’ve found the perfect number is four meaningful goals each year. That works out at one goal per quarter. 

I know it’s very tempting to go for more. The problem is when you set yourself too many goals you dilute your effectiveness. It’s already difficult to focus on what we have to do each day, having multiple goals to work on at any one time as well is just going to add to that and you are setting yourself up for stressed out and overwhelm. 

So, going back to the list of ideas you have been working on. Now’s the time to review that list. What would you like to do and, more importantly, what can you do? 

Let’s take things you would like to change about yourself. Perhaps you no longer want to be a couch potato. You don't like coming home every evening, eating dinner and then just flopping down on the sofa and mindlessly watching TV. So what can you do to change that? This is a habit change and to change a habit like this requires a lot of effort and willpower. 

So, from 1st January you pre-plan something different. It could be a thirty-minute walk after dinner. It could be you go to a different room from where the TV is and read a book for thirty minutes. Whatever you do, you do what it takes to change that routine. The bigger the change you make, the more likely it is you will disrupt your habit of just collapsing on the sofa at the end of the day. 

A quick word of advice here—based on my experience. Don't schedule this change to take an hour. An hour is too much of a time commitment. I’ve found when you commit to doing a new activity for around twenty to thirty minutes each day it is much more likely you will do it. When you schedule an hour, you will resist. Your brain will not like committing one hour every day to doing something new. It will find all the excuses you need to not do it. Of course, if you want to do more than twenty minutes then keep going, but just commit yourself to twenty-minutes. Your brain will accept that time commitment much more easily. 

This twenty-minute rule applies to things like exercise too. If you schedule twenty-minutes exercise every evening five to six times a week you are much more likely to succeed than if you tell yourself you will go to the gym three or four times a week for an hour. Start small here. As you begin to get fitter you will feel more energetic and exercise will no longer be a painful experience you believe you have to do but rather become an enjoyable experience you want to do. When you start wanting to exercise that’s the time to up your game and join a gym or start running longer. 

Now for the longer-term goals. Things you want to change about the way you work for example. Let’s say you would like to apply for a promotion. The next step is to give yourself a period of time for discovery. You need to discover what additional skills you will need to do this new position, will you need extra qualifications? Have a talk with your boss or HR department about what you will need to do to demonstrate you can do the job you are wanting to move to. You will then need to create a plan for acquiring these skills and qualifications. For this, you will need a create a project. 

If you use a to-do list manager you can create that project there. But a simple notes app would do the trick. Most good notes apps have the ability to create tasks and checklists. Now write down all the tasks you will need to perform to achieve the goal. Breaking these down into small, clear actionable steps will keep things moving along nicely. 

Now another quick tip here is to make sure you load the beginning with quick wins. This helps to keep the momentum moving forward. The hardest part of any project is getting started. So if you load the beginning with quick wins you will keep your enthusiasm up and this keeps the energy high. 

Now, one important component of any goal is the “why” why are you doing this goal? A lot of people struggle with this because they feel embarrassed to say they want to lose weight so they can look “sexy” in the club or on the beach, for example. The reality is if you are not motivated by your why then you are not going to successfully complete the goal. Your “why” has to be just that. It needs to be your “why” and it does not matter what it is as long as it motivates you. 

It does not matter if you want to get promoted to earn more money to spend on yourself or to impress a girl or boy. You do not have to tell anyone why you are doing your goals. You do not have to have ‘noble’ “why”s. Your motivation for doing anything needs to be genuine and it needs to be yours. 

So whatever your “why” for a particular goal is, write it down in your project notes. There will be days when you do not want to do a task related to that goal and the time to review your “why” is when that happens, and trust me on this one it will happen. 

So, back to planning out your goals and plans for 2020, once you have decided on a list of four or five goals for the year and you have listed out the tasks you will need to perform to complete those goals you now should decide when you will start the goals. Starting everything all at once is a recipe for disaster. You need to be able to focus on one thing at a time. This is where using quarters to assign specific goals. 

Let’s say one of your goals is to get fit and lose some weight by the time of your summer holiday. That maybe six months away now, but the sooner you start that the sooner you can move on to other goals. And a get a fit and weight loss goal is an easy one to start with because that’s what I describe as a lifestyle goal. To succeed at losing weight you need to change the way you move and eat. Basically, move more and eat less. That’s something that, although difficult at first, is easy to maintain once you get over the initial discomfort of feeling hungry. 

Larger goals though may need some long term work. For example, a career change. For a goal like this, you may need to break it down to run over two or three years. In this case, what can you do this year to prepare the ground? 

I was talking to a language student of mine recently and she mentioned that two years ago she’d returned to Korea after studying in Canada for a year and when she came back she was determined to return to Canada within two years. Unfortunately, because she had not broken down the goal into steps, she was still two years away from returning. 

It’s very easy to not do the necessary groundwork for the longer-term goals, but sometimes you need a year to do just that. Build the foundations. The studying, the training or whatever it is you need to do. Make those important steps a part of your goal planning for the new year. 

Hopefully, that’s given you some ideas about how to plan out what you will accomplish in 2020. How you do it is, of course, entirely up to you. But my advice is don’t try and do too much. You have plenty of time and if you cannot do some things this year, remember you have next year, so don’t throw away your ideas sheet. That’s a great sheet to refer to next year. 

Good luck, Maria, and good luck to all of you too. 

Thank you for listening and it just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.