Why I Set Annual Goals, How I Measure Them, and What I’m Going to Tweak Next Year

Each January I start working on a new list of goals. I’ve been following some semblance of this routine for over a decade now, but I’ll admit it has assumed more of an official structure since I jumped on the Gretchen Rubin bandwagon. The last few years she and her sister, Elizabeth Craft, have been posting annual goals on their various podcasting/blog platforms (this year it is aptly named “21 for 21“).

I tend to have a pretty broad cross-section – from fitness aspirations (get back to running 10K) to reading suggestions (this involved a lovely stint with Charles Dickens back in January) to necessities (get new running shoes) to aesthetic improvements (finally hang something over the couch) to prioritizing a hobby

Some goals get an automatic pass; for example, I always list completing our annual family photobook as a goal…and it always gets done. Others can be more nebulous; 2021’s list included the whimsical missive to “Use more stickers.”(To accomplish this I’ve been using stickers to track mood patterns in my daytimer and I have loved this hack. I put a sticker on any date where I’ve had a particularly challenging day. While a rough patch can be linked to a specific sequence of circumstances – like broken wrists and renos – more often it’s related to predictable patterns; yes, hormones, I’m looking at you. Having the stickers makes it so easy to assess mood patterns across the whole year, plus it’s pretty. April, for instance, was GREAT – just a single sticker)!


HOW I Track my goals

At the end of each calendar year I identify goals for the 365 days ahead. I write them down inside the front cover of the upcoming year’s daytimer. This year I chose 21 goals across health, home, relationships etc. When something is completed – say, when I bought those running shoes (June), got that massage (March), or printed off a 2020 photobook (January) – I cross it off and make note of the date.

how I conduct a post-mortem

At the end of the year I sit down with my list and digitize it. Here’s where things get fun (really…I love this stuff). For reference, here were some of my 2020 goals:

Go to South Carolina to visit familyNOBut visited so many places in NS it’s hard to keep count
Run a 15 km routeNOMaxed at 7 km…but walked more than usual
Finish article for future publicationNOBut did have a draft edited by an acclaimed author!
Buy a plantYES, YES, YESI bought 4 and was gifted 5
Do an overnight getaway with JohnYESBrowsed the NS Art Gallery, went out for supper, saw Knives Out in theatre
Make a compilation of home videos – at least for 2019NOStarted…but really didn’t make it anywhere. Not my thing. Abandoning this.
Complete 2019 family photobookYES14 Jan
Help A make her own photobookYES14 Jan
Get a front step, decorate it for ChristmasYES, YES, YESAlso had a beautiful front walkway installed
Read 1 classic book of fiction (new to me)YESA Tale of Two Cities; A Christmas Carol + YA books like Matilda, The Saturdays…
Go sledding at Burgher Hill/Willow ParkYES22 Jan
Get two massagesPARTIAL1 in June
Print off family updates in book formYES9 May
Set up a websitePARTIALBought domain on 20 Feb
Go to Îles de la MadeleineNOHello again, COVID. But we did go SO many places in Nova Scotia…
Read through the BibleYESFinished 90-day plan in July 2020

While I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care if I got a giant “YES” next to every single goal, it is a fun exercise to find a rebuttal for any “NO” or “PARTIAL.” Even though my goal was 15 km, you can be darn sure I’ll be recording the 7 km I worked up to instead.

And then there’s the ta-da list

Also courtesy of Gretchen Rubin, I keep a running list of things that didn’t necessarily make the “goal” list, but I’m glad to have accomplished in the year. Some snippets from 2020:

Hosted lots of families for supper (in my list I name all the people specifically which is really fun to look back at).
Did home version of Chopped Junior competition with kids.
Updated electrical + fresh paint in the living room.
Bought new dresser + bedframe + comforter for Master bedroom.
Survived another year of corporate taxes!
Handled Kombi + Blundstone + Kingsdown warranties successfully.
Had coffee with lots of new (and old) friends (in my actual ta-da list I name all the people specifically which is a fun way to look back at when some friendships started).
Planned and executed TWO modified birthday celebrations due to COVID. Both kids were happy.
Did my first client demo solo – YIKES and YAY!
Read Trolley Car Family + Little House + lots of other classics (Pollyanna, Charline and the Chocolate Factory, Charlotte’s Web) with the kids.
Went to NB x3 when the border bubble was open.
Cape Breton/Cabot Trail trip.
Sold SUV.
Did 6 months of a workout every day + 1 “perfect” month with all rings closed.

So WHAT’s CHANGING in 2022?

Not a lot, to be honest, but now that I’ve taken the time to hone in on my values, I want to filter everything through that lens. For example, every year for the last decade or so, I’ve put a specific weight as an annual goal. I’ve hit it – occasionally – but my weight always fluctuates throughout the year +/- 10 pounds. This really doesn’t deserve a place at the goal table; better to focus on fueling myself with foods that make me feel stronger, healthier, while allowing my to enjoy life. No strings, or numbers, attached. This means if I hit a specific weight it isn’t a cue to binge on cheesecake; but, if I’m going out for dinner with a friend and I didn’t hit a certain weight, I can go ahead and have that slice of cheesecake.

I want my goals to push me closer to the things I value, not work in opposition to them.

And sometimes, I just have to admit when something isn’t important enough to me/in my wheelhouse. The goal to make a compilation of family videos? That particular goal has been on my list for years. Why bother? It’s just not my thing – note to self, abandon all pretenses of wanting to do this. Maybe someday I’ll outsource it (or just wait a few years until my daughter wants to tackle this project on my behalf), but until then, I need to let it go.


2020 and 2021 were years unlike any other, but I still took comfort in setting and working toward various goals. I want to continue: setting aside time to pursue things that bring meaning to my life and enhance the lives of those around me. I want to continue maintaining a ta-da list. And I plan to keep on embracing the journey: progress can be just as satisfying as completion, and it would be a shame to postpone all celebrations until I reach an (often-subjective) finish line.

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