And some tidbits on goalsetting which I'd have liked 15 years ago...
- SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-oriented, Time-bound)
- written in present tense.
- stated in the positive.
- attached to an identity, or 'self-image'.
"I will own 30 apartments" (future tense) ->
"I own 30 apartments." (present tense) ->
"I am the owner of 30 apartments." (identity) ->
"I am the owner of 30 or more apartments." (expansive)
"I will quit smoking by July 31." (future tense) ->
"I quit smoking by July 31." ('quit' is negative)->
"I am free from cigarettes by July 31."
More important than the outcome, is how you see yourself. If you couldn't imagine yourself as a person achieving the goal, then it won't occur.
Who do you have to become, to achieve the goal?
Never leave the scene of plan without taking action.
After setting a goal, at least 1 crumb-sized action must be taken immediately. Who could you message, call, email...?
- Mission: This could be specific like "bring humans to Mars" or it could be vague like "accelerate space exploration".
- Strategy: This should be the principles and methods used to implement the mission. Example: "Starting up a private company that works on rocket technology. Sell electric cars on the side to make money."
- Roadmap: This should be actionable, measurable and time-based such as "build a reusable rocket by 2016"
I keep pretty high level (like I don't want a million tiny tasks), but everything that's listed has to be accomplished within a few hours or a working day at most.
Anything there over a week, or not getting done is moved to a 'longer term' board, which is more of a brain dump of ideas and things I'd like to get moving on at some point. Basically I want my to do list to be current and not a bucket list.
I keep the 'stuff in play' Breeze list pinned next to a Google Calendar window. GCal has dates of everywhere I need to be and dates of everything I need done in different colours.
I think I could still be more efficient, but this works pretty well for the time being.
For 'reach' goals, I've separated the year into 4 quarters of 12 weeks with a week off between each one. It's easier not to lose motivation over 12 weeks. I have a BitBar plugin that shows me days gone and days left in the quarter. Before each quarter I'll write down what I want to achieve and then how I intend to do it. After 12 weeks I'll review and revise. Most of these can be tracked with something like HabitBull - "I want to lose 5kg this quarter, I'll visit the gym 3 times a week". Then just tick as you go. If you don't hit it, figure out why and what to change next 12 weeks.
I also still strongly believe in the power of notepads and moleskin. Some things are too sensitive to be digitized.
Simple interface where you set your "habits" and how frequently per week you expect to do them. (E.g. exercise 4x per week, eat healthy 6x per week). Then you simply check off each day whether it happened. The analytics makes it clear if you are doing the right thing. Really good.
Essentially the difference is people sometimes complained of losing a lot of data because no cloud backups and no iOS version hence i'm doing web+android+ios. Also a lot of people wanted to be able to track doing habits multiple times per day or track some specific metric (30x pushups) which I've chosen to implement. Small things like that but they add up.
Knowing quantitatively that I'm improving in a certain area is a huge motivator (as is knowing that I've stalled).
In the past, when I forget to exercise for a few days I would get down and think that exercising was to changing, time consuming, etc.
Now, I can see that those periods of inactivity are just small dips in an overall positive trend of exercising more.
So, in this case, over the course of 5 weeks I built up a habit strength of 4x weekly exercise by watching this graph move up and trying to keep my streak. Basically, the app puts hard data behind your daily commitments and helps you see -- quickly -- when you are failing. And ack'ing the success/failure of a commitment is just a single checkbox on a single screen, and it can remind you (with notifications) daily.
I didn't even know about the statistics, as I just wanted a way to check yes or no and see the past week to see if I needed to change things from week to week. Knowing I can see the trends changes everything... I think I'm going to need to add a few more things to this because this could be extremely helpful for me with several things. It was helpful enough just seeing week to week at a glance, but being able to see trends and long-term progress is great.
It can back up its DB to Dropbox, which I've used in a few small automation projects
I redo my GTD card weekly and drop stuff off every time that I 'thought' I wanted to do but just the act of writing it down and reviewing shows me it is not a priority. For a while I kept my old cards, but now I ditch them.
GTD = Getting Things Done - https://hamberg.no/gtd/
I use a combination of a mental/back of index card kanban board for purchasing goals (a cadence of what I can afford to save/spend, leading me along a list of prioritised items I want <or don't want by the time I can buy them in cash usually>) - been thinking about making an app for it for a while, but beyond my skills.
Right now I have two or three 'main' hobbies - paddle boarding, brewing beer and cycling. While I have a good salary, we have 2 kids and a single income, so things I would have just bought without thinking just a few years ago, now get thought about for a good while before pulling the trigger. If anything I'm happier this way. I stops me buying 'hobby crap' that I never use, and gives me time to find the best item I'm looking for (is it worth buying that huge saucepan cheaply, or waiting to get a better one? Or second hand?)
I kinda like my work and my life, but I feel like I should have a big future goal.
Whatever you want
1. Pick an unobtainable goal. I had a big goal that I achieved and the sense of diretionlessness was real. Some people say it's better to have a goal you can never finish like "meet as many artists as you can" or "end hunger" as it'll continue to be your guidepost in life.
2. Enjoy the process. If you're working just to get to your goal and you achieve it, you'll have a few moments of bliss when you do and then it will fade. If you enjoy the process itself rather than just the end result then you can experience bliss more often.
You could also start hiking taller and taller mountains. 14k or higher is where it starts getting fun. The mountains get as high as you want.
Learn how to ride a motorcycle. Super useful if you live in CA. A lot of people think its too dangerous, but honestly a little danger is good for the bones. We put ourselves in too many bubbles. The long-term goal could be to ride down Baja.
Have you tried to pick up cooking? Make advances recipes? You could have a goal of cooking for a huge party and everyone being amazed at the food.
You are probably fine already, but if you feel that you want more, I would suggest to get some inspiration from a new paradigm you never did before.
I've seen this lately, and while he did come up with rather random looking goals, it seems it doesn't matter what they are if you devote yourself fully to them.
1. Man's search for meaning, by Victor Frankl
2. Ambition, by Gilbert Brim
1. Primary Goals
2. Secondary Goals
3. Immediate Goals
5. To-do this week
I started it at the end of 2015 so there's a card in primary goals list for each major thing that I would like to have accomplished (or just continued to do) by the end of 2025. Each primary goal gets its own label and a checklist of what specifically accomplishing that goal means to me.
Secondary and immediate goals are how I broke down the bigger goals into smaller, more manageable parts. For example, one of my primary goals is "Health." So a secondary goal might be "rock climb twice per week" or "research ways to improve my memory". Every card in every list has a label/labels that relate them back to a primary goal.
The weekly and daily todos further break everything down into things that I can focus on in the next day or week.
Here's what I learned:
- For all of 2016 (the first year) I would update this Trello board religiously every day with my weekly and daily todos. I found that I actually didn't enjoy doing this. While things were getting done, they didn't seem to be things that were that important or impactful. I stopped doing this so I could completely cut out those last two lists. Now I re-visit the board every so often when I feel like I need a reminder or what past-me thought was important. Sometimes I update the primary goals (I've only added to this once and never removed from it) and more frequently I'll decide that a secondary or immediate goal didn't make sense so I'll get rid of it or add a new one. The whole process is much more free form and I think that works better for me.
- One of my mantras that has come out of this exercise has been "don't do something for just one reason." The things that I tend to enjoy and accomplish successfully are ones that have multiple primary goal labels on them. Sometimes they only have a loose relation or benefit but it's still more compelling to me because if it turns out one of the benefits doesn't work out the way I planned then there's still a reason to be doing this thing for another reason.
Still an ongoing experiment but I'm generally happy that I'm doing it.
I find this setup quite helpful for:
- breaking down huge goals (such as learning a new language)
- having short/mid/long term goals all available at a glance
- giving priority to stuff I'd otherwise keep procrastinating (I tend to procrastinate for weeks or months doing several things until I put everything in one checklist at the top of the current year column and power through them all in a short time)
- giving myself some perspective and appreciate all the things achieved in the past months/years. Things that were once just dreams or seemed very hard to achieve are now the normal day-to-day life and it's way too easy to undervalue them.
I use the board in a positive way, in the sense that I don't see deleting tasks or failing to achieve something as some kind of failure. I only celebrate the green "done" labels.
A somewhat boring example is it's unlikely you enjoy doing your university exams, however your state of happiness after completing your degree will be higher than if you had instead done something more enjoyable with your time (e.g. play video games).
Also, reaching a goal is great, but for many goals it's the process of getting there where the real personal growth comes from.
For standard tasks, I use Excel to track my weekly tasks. I prefer Excel compared to a web application because it's just always open on my laptop: https://imgur.com/a/bp2sJYY
- I break them down into priorities (Low - Absolute), class (blacked out column, I use the names of my two orgs), category, and a target date I set at the beginning of the week.
- Anything not completed transfers over to the next week and is reassigned an appropriate priority and date.
- Started this level of detail in Jan. 2018 and have been very happy with it.
For larger, more complicated projects I use a top-down approach I call strategic planning. I wrote a detailed article on the approach here: http://bit.ly/2zWlARj
Instead I do the bare minimum to get through the day.
I have four types of notes: personal, work, learning, and health. For each type of note, I have a short term and long term list of tasks.
All tasks in my short term lists should be cleared within 1-2 days. This includes everything from paying bills, doing a few online course lessons, committing a PR or two, running 5 miles, purchasing something online, etc. I also include a few habits in this that I try to build, like "daily affirmations". The key is to make these as bite-sized as possible.
My long term TODOs are essentially a backlog dump that I pull from when I need to refresh my short term TODOs. Many of these are fuzzy ideas that I haven't broken into actionable steps, like "learn docker", "plan europe trip", or "hack on X". Some of these are small tasks that I just haven't gotten around to doing, like "add expenses to tax return", but at least its written down somewhere. I groom this every now and then.
I have a third type of note -- daily accomplishments. I essentially just bullet everything I accomplished that day outside of routine chores like "cook dinner" or "call parents". I archive this daily. I get lazy and don't fill this out 80% of the time.
Not sure if this is the best system, but it sure beats my old system of having a giant list of TODOs written on a piece of paper
Currently, I use a goal system with 3 components:
(1) long-form essay writing to explore goals, desires, interests. I then capture this into a Google doc for the year and make it the Backlog.
(2) Google spreadsheet for logging, tracking and measuring progress.
(3) Periodic Reviews and retrospectives in the form of blogposts.
Here's the Goal System Tracker:
Here are the Blog Posts (Reviews & Retrospectives)
In all my note taking I try and keep things plain text. I have a folder for the year with a file called goals.txt with a list of everything I plan to achieve. I then have a done.txt file with everything I did achieve, divided my month. This is because life invariably throws things at you which were not on your initial plan, but are worth remembering that you did
By marking things done or "archived", it also provides a journal feature or personal log, of entries created or archived in any date range (defaulting to "yesterday and so far, today", to help with daily standup reporting).
Getting home from work exhausted, not from stress exactly, but from just being focused and working for the whole day + commuting + going to the gym, makes it hard to find the energy to do the things I WANT to do. So I end up going for the easy thing, which is browsing HN or Reddit, watching TV, playing video games. I do enjoy those things, but feel like I waste time when I do them.
I have realized in the past several months the very common idea that getting started is the hardest part. Most of the time when I force myself to just start on something, I end up investing hours into it.
The other problem is that I want to do too many things, and often don't want to start on a side project, or practicing an instrument, because I don't want to do just one thing for the night and neglect other things, which leads to just doing nothing of value that I wanted to do.
I just try to constantly remind myself that if I spend an entire night practicing keyboard, it's a thousand times better than thinking about the things I want to do, and then browsing the internet all night.
To the original topic though: I use a combination of Keep, OneNote, and a Habit tracker to help. It's just the breaking through and starting on things that is the main issue for me. Thinking of trying out a kanban board to track personal goals though.
Regarding the question... As a solopreneur, it is important that I create my own strong structure and discipline - I use a combination of methods to track my personal goals/habits.
First, it's the Coach.me App to track my daily habits/ritual - the core of all progress. I'll execute tasks that are routine for me, and its a reminder to focus on habits I am struggling with or striving to build. These change overtime depending on my goals (next piece).
Second, it's a series of planning documents that include a) mission, b) long-term goals/focus, c) short-term goals/focus and d) maxims/principles to live and work by. I keep all these in a folder in my desk below my pile of weekly business bills called: 'Focus / Structure'. I review it periodically on different levels of focus, and if I notice I am struggling with something, I'll keep a duplicate copy of the specific item that needs focus on my desk alongside my day-to-day work.
1. Habits which have some weekly frequency (meditate 10 mins 3x/w) and are all aligned to one or more...
2. Goals which are measurable (complete 3 headspace packs) and all align to...
3. Values which are unique to me (mental health) which agree with...
4. Principles or rules of nature which apply to everyone (better mental health leads to more happiness, happiness leads to better life quality)
I create a board every quarter to re-adjust my values, goals, and habits.
* Do you represent the alignments (e.g. goals aligning to values) in the board somehow, or is that you just in your head?
* Do you track progress on 2-4, or just on the actual execution of habits? If so, how?
* Are the values (3) just a subset of (4)?
I represent goal/value alignments by assigning each value a label and labeling each goal. For instance mental health might be blue, professional competency might be yellow, etc.
Tracking depends on the specific thing. Most habits I track in an iOS app called Streaks. For skills which require introspection to improve, I keep a journal right in the trello entry for that specific habit. For instance if you play a musical instrument and you get feedback from a teacher weekly, you may want to journal that.
Values & Principles were later additions (I only added principles in the last year). The distinction is that values are specific to a person while principles are broad. For instance a lot of people agree in the principle that giving back to the community leads to deep happiness in the long term. But some might choose to do it by teaching python to kids, others might make dance tutorials on youtube.
My thought is: values do change over time as we get older or re-prioritize things in life, principles should be more steady. And it's useful to ground our values to reality.
Granted it's probably impossible to write down principles objectively, but I think it's worth a shot, even if to remind us that our values are only that: things we value, not necessarily others, who are all on their own journeys.
If that's the case, then for me this is the wrong question. To suggest I should try to organize my goals is similar to asking me to graph the neurons in my brain, or catalog my dreams. My objective is to "capture/track my ideas" and aspirations. I work to develop my practical skills for, writing, coding, drawing, reading, recall/findability.
Many ideas prove low-value, or impossible to realize. I simply work to find a way to effectively express my personal ideas in the highest fidelity. If I imposed organization on this mess, I would sub-consciously limit my expressions.
That said, if an idea proves to have merrit, then I devote my time towards definable projects. I hope to complete them in a timely fashion.
I'm not part of a leasure class. I have enough pressure at work, so I don't sweat it. That's my choice.
e.g. "I want to run a marathon" becomes a daily "Exercise" habit. It's good for both progress and logging; now if I want to know what program I was running on June 28, 2015 for example I just filter for Exercise and go back to June 2015.
It was originally a Trello board so it's got an obviously kanban-ish look to it, but it's got things built in to collect things like time spent on habits overall, streaks.
I'm still working on the best flow for longer-term projects and "negative habits" (i.e. losing weight, not compulsively using the internet).
It's positioned as a career development app but it can be used for anything, really.
The idea that someone would have a rigid list of goals and work through it like some kind of checklist sounds very self-indulgent.
I could make it my personal goal to eat a fruit for breakfast everyday for 1 month; that type of goal would be achievable enough for me to put into a list; but the idea that I would get any satisfaction out of this is cringeworthy.
Breaking down a goal into a checklist can be useful, e.g. one of my goals was to work at a big company. I broke it down into action items, like who can I talk to? What habits do I need to implement for the medium term to accomplish this? With this systematic approach I made it happen. Another goal I had was to learn a third language. I broke it down into different modalities to hack it over the past year, and now I’m about to spend several months in the country practicing the language.
A list of goals does not need to be rigid, and they could be secondary goals for one’s primary goal or mission.
I sort lists by priority, so things that are the most important are on the left of the board. This really helps keep me focused on only a few topics at a time. Usually 4-5 lists are actively worked on.
I also have one list completely to the left of the board for things that need sort term attention. For example a paper I need to finish by next week or if I want to, for example buy a new pair of headphones, I make a card for that on that first list.
Then finally I have two general lists that are usually somewhere in the middle of the order about "Blog posts and Articles" I need to read and another one titled "Books" (list of books I am interested in reading). I keep both of these lists fairly short so nothing ends up forgotten in a forest of cards.
I found that keeping track of everything really helped me get more stuff done. But it also helped me to discover new things I want to do.
I use vimwiki https://github.com/vimwiki/vimwiki to organize everything.
But, Kanban boards by themselves still leave a gap for me. They're great at tasks but not necessarily how those tasks fit in with my goals. For that, I'm trying to be more proactive about what I choose to work on each day (staying in quadrant 2 for those that have read 7 Habits). I'm building Natrium to help me with that. Every day it reminds you what your long-term goals are and prompts you to enter what you plan to do for the day.
On the backside, every week it prompts you to review your progress, a bit like an iteration retrospective in scrum. This helps me stay mindful about what I achieved the past week and where I need to change focus. Because it organizes the retro per-goal, it's easy to see when I'm avoiding working on a goal or putting too much focus on one at the expense of others. For example, this summer I've spent way too much time on lawn care instead of my other goals.
It's very new and doesn't have all the features yet, but if you have any feedback I'd love to hear it!
I do have TODO lists I track on paper, usually things that need to get done within a month.
Maybe they just have a single unachievable goal that they work towards endlessly; I think that's a worthy goal and it definitely wouldn't fit into a list format.
Having been doing this for the past 3 months and it has helped put some structure into my life though sometimes I find it a bit too micro-managing. It also gives me tunnel vision since I can only do short term plans.
I've tried various other GTD and OKR methods without success. I've noticed that if I don't look at them at least once a week, I'll quickly forget about it and return to my old habits.
I don't think there's much value in micro-managing your life, especially if a lot of things are out of your hand and there's not really a good way to measure progress. Writing down some top-level goals and keeping them in mind feels helpful to me and I don't think a specific tool or task managing methodology is needed there.
At first, I organized everything with pen & paper but I always forgot to take my planner with me, so I switched to our online tool.
the main thing I think is just taking the time at the start of each day to think about what you are doing, what's important and why, to have some semblance of a plan.
It's very modular, so you can do whatever you want with it. But I write a daily to-do list and also use it to keep track of longer term tasks and goals.
I have used it for 3 years now, have filled up two moleskin-type journals, and my SO and I are convinced that this is the single best thing we've done to improve ourselves.
I strive to layout daily goals in the morning and then reflect on the day in the evening. Lately it has been difficult to consistently layout goals in the morning, so the evening portion has morphed into reflection on the day and planning what to do the next day. I will also occasionally update monthly and yearly goals if necessary. It has been a great benefit for me to be able to go back and see what I was occupied with at a given time and be able to put my current situation into perspective.
At least, that's the theory. It doesn't always work out that way, but I can just write new goals down next year (or leave/rearrange the ones I didn't reach).
I’m looking for a way to visualize my progress yet.
I was able to take certain ideas from GTD but I've never found myself able to stick to a particular system. They all introduce too much friction and I end up discarding them in favor of just using mind, memory, and physical reminders.
What starts to go missing when I ramp up productivity is the meaning behind what I'm doing. It's too easy for me to announce, 'doing things this way is stupid', putting the whole thing down, and then go back to relaxing.
The big problems in life don't really respond to any amount of productivity improvements. You can't GTD your way to having more meaningful personal relationships. And you can't GTD your way to more deliberate practice, you just do it, day after day.
I'm not quite at the point where I'm willing to write off productivity hacking as profoundly missing the point of life. But tracking and organization is what you do to things that need to be done that you can't bother to make enough of a priority to where they can be focused on with 100% of your attention and creative energy. And if you are focusing on things with 100% of your attention and creative energy, then tracking just gets in the way.
That all said, I am actually actively working on a productivity system. It's a console and text-based system where I add things just by typing `add <COLLECTION> <ITEM>` into a terminal. Triage is accomplished by using `sort <COLLECTION>` and going through item after item with one strike of a key. Using Ruby metaprogramming superpowers, I'm slowly hacking away at the friction behind creating little software tools that all interoperate with each other.
What triggered this was when I got the idea to move all my personal scripts off of Github and onto Dropbox. I don't need version tracking, I need syncing and durability. This seemingly little change made all the difference in my interest in recreational coding. Being able to just pop open a console in any machine that I've set up and start running commands without having to pull git repos feels amazing. I can literally stop typing, letting the text editor autosave, then get up, go home, and get on one of my personal machines and pick right back up where I left off.
The grand idea is to profoundly reduce the amount of friction involved in integrating software into my life. I'll be able to `add idea vacation` then `sort` it into a category, then `plan` it, the end result being a flat list of action items that I can accomplish X number of every day.
Is it overkill? Absolutely. But the dream of absolute perfection is the only vision compelling enough to get me to even think about productivity improvements anymore. There's no lower fruit left for me to pick that actually moves the needle on anything.
Or maybe not :) I originally found the terminal-based aspect appealing but in the end found the tool didn’t work for me. And maybe you just want to work on your own tool, which would be a fair reason not to stop.
Relax! Just kidding :-)