My goals setting for 2017

by Julia

This is only my very personal opinion and everyone is more than welcome to disagree. The way I see it is that one year is a time-span impossible to really foresee in its major events and changes. I don’t know if it’s just me and my life but between family, significant other, work and any other business the unexpected is always behind the corner. I’m usually barely able to plan for my current month, let go of an entire year. Plus, do we really think that at the end of 2017 we still will be interested in all the same things we are now?

I mean, of course we all have some long term goals we’re working towards. But the means that prove to be good in order to get there may vary over time, even in few months. I’ve experienced this perfectly by studying Chinese: at the beginning of 2016 I made myself a long-term plan for finishing my (at that time) current grammar book – just to abandon it altogether at the end of January because I wasn’t really making good progresses with it. And during the whole of 2016 I’ve changed my study plan billions of times. Things may be different this year as all these fails and trials as surely thought me a thing or two, but my point is, it’s really nonsense for me to plan accurately for something I already know will be subject to countless changes.

[Other people may have a very different situation and be able to actually plan their entire year, so everyone should follow his/her own path.]

So my recipe for this year (and the years coming for what matters) is quite simple:
1. small number of big chunky yearly goals (very small number)
2. a set of 5/6 main steps (or milestones) for each of them, with no deadlines
3. short term plans to be reviewed every trimester

Example:
> big goal for the year – keep studying Chinese and become fluent in reading and skilled in listening
> main steps – finish studying Remembering simplified hanzi, take HSK3 tests, finish Chinese Class Absolute Beginner series
> short term plan – between January and March focus first on finishing Remembering the hanzi, then at the end of the term evaluate, re-adjust and set the next steps.

My main steps are a sort of guide for the things I would like to implement in order to work towards my big yearly goal, but they’re not to be worked on all at the same time and they have no specific deadline but rather a general idea for how I would like them to be complete. In grownups lives we don’t have all that time that can be spent doing the things we love, so plans cannot be too strict.

It would be pointless for me to make a super hyper specific plan like ‘week 1: study Lesson 23 of Remembering simplified hanzi, listen to lesson 10 and 11 of Chinese Class podcast, complete 1 grammar point of B1 level on Chinese Wiki’ and so on for 52 weeks. I tried it and it didn’t work. I would love to be able to do this, really; but I’m not. So I have to act differently.

I’d rather get to December 2017 and be able to say ‘I finished that damn hanzi book’ even if this was the only thing I was able to accomplish rather than realise I made a little of everything without making serious progresses. Focusing just on one thing for any project at any given time relieves a lot of stress and makes progresses a lot more tangible. All the other big steps I couldn’t complete by the end of 2017 will just be moved forward to 2018, no strings attached. No self-commiseration or self-flagellating attitudes.

One thing I could do differently in 2017 is to really keep my progresses monitored. I’ve always overlooked this step and it prevented me from really evaluating what I was getting done, for good or ill. In December I’ve created a board on Trello with my big chunks for 2017 and in the last couple of days I’ve been adding cards with the small steps I want to take during this first month. Let’s see how this is going to work in the long run, but after all these years I truly believe that this is the only kind of system I can work with. Let’s re-evaluate in 360 days 🙂

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