Life Organization Part 3 – Yearly Goals

Note: This is in a series of posts, and as the others are written, I’ll update a table of contents with links to the whole series here.

Part 1: What is Life Organization? Why do it?
Part 2: Life Goals
Part 3: Yearly Goals

Having some long-term goals is important, but without a plan to achieve them, they always remain in the distance without moving closer. In the previous article in this series, we looked at the method I’ve used to lay out these larger goals. Now, we’ll break them down into more manageable chunks.

Why Yearly?

A lot of people come up with New Years resolutions for themselves, finding that changing over to a new year and coming back to work after some major holidays is a great point to set up new habits. It’s convenient, but not always effective. Many people who seem to have a lot of success with their resolutions in January have completely forgotten them by May.

Years are still a great length of time to plan. They are finite and fixed, but still long enough that you can get a lot done towards whatever longer term goals you have.

I recommend not waiting until New Years Day to decide what you want to do for the upcoming year, though it doesn’t hurt to read through your plans that day.

Creating Yearly Goals

There’s some overlap here with lifelong goals, as there probably ought to be. After all, if you are going to be accomplishing something, it needs to be accomplished at a particular point in time. To make part of a larger goal into a yearly goal isn’t to say you have all year to achieve it (though you may). It simply means that it will be accomplished at some point during the year. I’ll have some thoughts about how to help make this more likely in the next post on planning a year. For now, the focus is on the goals themselves.

The first step I take is to look at my lifelong goals. Are there any I can do this year? Are there any parts of a goal I could contribute to?

Once I have those things identified, I try to balance each of the seven categories (see the previous article) of goals for the year. After that, I break down the goals even further, trying to figure out what major steps need to be accomplished to get the whole thing completed. Sometimes this isn’t necessary. Other times it can’t be helped.

For example, one of my perennial goals is to be on time to and have a good attitude about all of my commitments with a good attitude. I made them, after all. There’s no point in breaking this down; it’s pretty straightforward and uncomplicated, even if difficult at times.

On the other hand, one of my lifelong goals is to learn new things. This is ambiguous, so I’ve broken it down even at a long-term level into categories like “learn Latin” and “learn Statistics”. I also want to consistently read (and truly understand) a lot of books. At a yearly level, this breaks down into a list of the books I actually want to read. This means the yearly goal might fluctuate a little bit as I discover new books or decide not to read a book in the end, but this is infrequent.

The Next Step

After you have all of your yearly goals listed out, you should find yourself with a list that looks a lot like your lifelong goals, but less grand in scale and less comprehensive. In the next article, we’ll look at what to do with this concrete set of goals and how to plan your year out to actually get them done.

Life Organization Part 2 – Life Goals

Note: This is in a series of posts, and as the others are written, I’ll update a table of contents with links to the whole series here.

Part 1: What is Life Organization? Why do it?
Part 2: Life Goals
Part 3: Yearly Goals

In the first part of this series, we covered the meaning of life organization – as far as I use the term – and looked at what constitutes a goal. This time, we’ll focus on the sorts of lifelong goals everyone should be thinking about.

The Seven Types of Goals

You’ve probably heard of Dave Ramsey and recognize him for the popular financial advice he gives. While his work in finance is great on its own, I mention him here because I think he’s created an eminently useful breakdown of the sorts of lifelong goals everyone should have.

Dave list seven categories which broadly cover anything you can think of, and which he labels the “Wheel of Life”:

  1. Career
  2. Financial
  3. Spiritual
  4. Physical
  5. Intellectual
  6. Family
  7. Social

There are two things to keep in mind with these categories. First, it is important to have goals in every category. These may change over time, but you should still have a long-term plan to grow in every one of the seven respects.

Second, there must be a healthy balance between each of these focuses. This balance is not merely spending the appropriate amounts of time on each category, although it is not less than that either. Balance also includes how we prioritize them, and which we are willing to postpone and which we are not.

You need goals in each of the categories. Even better, you need a short but unambiguous description of where you want to be in a few decades (depending on your age). Do you want to be married with at least three children, all of whom you spend time with and for whom you’ve built a home? That’s both short and unambiguous. You can’t fudge the number of kids you have or the presence or absence of a home.

In 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks about the need in everyone’s life for a “personal constitution”. A good format for that is to create the aforementioned summaries in the seven categories and write them down.

The purpose of doing all of this is to figure out the destination you are trying to arrive at. It isn’t a prerequisite to living a great life or doing important things, but I think for most people, it increases the chances of doing either of those things.

How to Find Life Goals

None of the life management gurus I’ve read has ever said this – probably in some cases to preserve an audience – but I don’t think everyone is naturally prepared to figure out what their own life goals should be. Until you figure out what matters most in life and what the purpose of life is in the first place, it’s all a waste of time.

If you want to figure out what your life goals ought to be, you need to ask some more fundamental questions first: Why are we here? Where do we go when we die? How do I know the difference between right and wrong? What does it mean to live well?

Providing thorough answers to these questions is not the topic of this post (but it may be for future posts). The short answers are:

  • We are here to worship God in fellowship with Him, and this can be done only through Jesus.
  • Where we go depends on whether we trust Jesus for our salvation. Whether we trust Jesus for our salvation depends in part on whether we think we need salvation (we do).
  • We can know right from wrong through both special and general revelation; from both Scripture and through nature and natural law.
  • To live well is to live in accordance with our nature as being created in the image of God. To live well is to pursue God in all things, from eating, exercise, and reading to worship and charity.

Only by having correct answers to these questions can we begin to know what sort of life goals we should create. That doesn’t mean it becomes easy to figure out what you should pursue in the seven categories. It means it is possible to make the right choices.

It will take time.

Examples of Life Goals

I’ve spent about a decade trying to refine my life goals, and I can offer up a few of them as examples, as well as describe the way I keep track of them.

I use Microsoft’s OneNote for a lot, but one of the original things I did with it was keep track of goals. It’s still the primary reason I use it. I’ve created a notebook called “Goals” where I keep track of my lifelong goals. I keep track of yearly goals, notes and articles related to the process of setting good goals, and checklists that help me plan my days, weeks, months, and years, but those are all for a later article in this series.

Part of my section for “intellectual goals” looks a bit like this:

Intellectual Success

  • Learn New Things
    • Learn how to write classical genres of music
      • Learn how to write fugues
      • Learn how to write chorales
    • Learn Latin
      • Finish reading through and doing the homework in my Latin textbook
  • Learn Piano
    • Practice multiple times a week
    • Learn individual pieces
      • Learn Kansas’ “Point of Know Return”

The section is larger than this, but it’s all the same format. I have the category (“Intellectual success”) broken down into specific goals. Each of those is broken down further as necessary.

For me, it was easier to list more things I might want to do than I’d ever have time for and then prune the things that weren’t as important to me. You’ll have to find a way that works for you.

Once you’ve got your goals listed at this high level, you’re ready for the next step: figuring out how to contribute to each one this year. But that’s for next time!