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Ask HN: How do you organize/track your personal goals?
239 points by mezod on July 22, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 119 comments
- Monthly, quarterly, yearly? - notes, kanban, outlines? - how do you visualize your progress?

On paper. Physically writing stimulates neurology. This then gets embedded into the subconscious.


And some tidbits on goalsetting which I'd have liked 15 years ago...

Goals are - SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-oriented, Time-bound) - written in present tense. - stated in the positive. - attached to an identity, or 'self-image'. - expansive.

"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...?

I think the problem is that the definition of goals is too vague and narrow causing the problem with using SMART system. I believe you need a hierarchy of goals, like so:

- 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 use paper too, and have designed a small notebook around this idea of longer term goals with "crumb-size" daily actions: https://twentyweeks.com (shameless plug for my side project)

nice! why 10 week sprints? :P

It mostly came down to math, and that 48 pages is typically the max number of pages for a saddle-stitch book. I explained a little bit more about the design process here if you're curious to know more: https://1rick.com/designing-bluebird.html

Daily stuff, I use breeze.pm, which is a bit like Trello except has swimlanes. For current stuff I have a board separated into three swimlanes - client work, my work and personal. These are separated in columns - this week, today, doing, blocked and done. I'll add to and move between columns as necessary.

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.

Intrigued by this breaking the year into quarters idea. What's the name of the BitBar plugin you use for this?

I wrote it myself. You're more than welcome to have the code if you want it (it's pretty simple!!). The quarters are like new year's resolutions - but easier to stick to because it's only 12 weeks. The plugin is just a visual reminder of where we're at.

That'd be great! Do you have it online in a repo somewhere you could link me to?

Drop me an email. Domain in my profile :-)

I use org mode for both regular work as well as one off targets. Org mode allows me to clearly bucket tasks into what is scheduled and needed by when, tag related tasks together but define them anywhere, also allows to define subtasks and track task progress in terms of sub tasks. It allows you to see your agenda on a configurable time period, and can also equally support GTD. Personally I find it to be a really nice place to dump all your thoughts and with trivial effort get them organised in a nice to see and search format.

Seconding org mode. It's great. Super configurable but easy to get started with.

Orgmode has been great. However, after Org Timeline was recently removed, I've struggled to get the same functionality with custom agenda views.

I've never used Org Timeline, but these two links may be of interest to you:

- https://www.reddit.com/r/orgmode/comments/7hps9j/rip_orgtime...

- https://github.com/Fuco1/org-timeline

org mode is fantastic, but I've found that pen and paper keeps me from wasting time figuring out how instead of what

I’ll give a shot. Some friends told me about org mode these days.

Also org mode here, in combination with the guile based mcron for some notification and scripting stuff.

I also still strongly believe in the power of notepads and moleskin. Some things are too sensitive to be digitized.

I take a video of myself each morning talking about what I want to get done that day. At night I watch the video, take a mental note of what I need to work on the next day based on what I did and didn't accomplish that day. Repeat.

That's interesting. How long do the videos tend to be? Any particular reason why you think this works better than just writing them down?

Loop Habit Tracker for Android is the only thing that has ever worked for me for tracking goals -- and sticking to them.


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.

I'm putting together https://habitrabb.it as an alternative to Loop but addressing some of the issues people in Play store were complaining about. Still a WIP but Android version will come out soon and I'm currently in the process of majorly reworking the UX.

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.

I was interested in comparing what you are building to the loop habit tracker that was linked in the parent but all you site has is a text description and a sign up link (at least on mobile). I'd recommend adding some images so people know what they are signing up for since we all have more accounts then we are aware of anyways...

This app changed my life. It's the only one that's actually worked.

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 people don't think we are raving lunatics, here is the screenshot of the analytics from the app:


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 actually switched to this a couple months ago, mainly because I was using other habit-tracking apps that only allows a certain number of habits available for free.

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.

is there any ios alternatives? I found an app called Loop - Habbit Tracker (by Qinzen Xu) on appstore but I think that's not the one that on github.

A friend of mine, upon seeing my setup, said the recently launched product Habitify was similar (iOS & MacOS), but I haven't tried it:


hey thanks, I will definitely check it out!

I use Today on iOS: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/today-habit-tracker/id105529...

It can back up its DB to Dropbox, which I've used in a few small automation projects

I tried a lot and Productive (http://productiveapp.io/) worked the best for me but if you look around in the app store there are a few that are well designed.

For personal projects and goals I keep a couple of index cards aside - one I used for GTD - 2 columns on one side (Next Action and Inbox/New Items) , 3 on the other (Waiting For, Projects, Someday). And then another index card or two for notes and sketches. I find it good to limit them (and keep just three folded in half in a back pocket) , otherwise I end up dragging around a stack of cards and not using them. If I limit them but replace as needed, I seem to use them more and keep them to hand.

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?)

Semi-Related: How do you come up with long-term-goals? Owning a car in the Bay is worthless, real estate is too expensive. Traveling the world is nice, but it might get boring after some years.

I kinda like my work and my life, but I feel like I should have a big future goal.

Get married? Have kids? Reach a higher position? Join your dream company? Climb Everest? Do 10 pullups? Learn french? Help kids in Africa? Donate a million dollars? Tip someone a hundred that needs it? Donate 100 books to a library? Fly an aircraft over the Atlantic? Write a book? Get famous on social media?

Whatever you want

I've heard to pieces of advice:

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.

I can see what you mean and you won't have that itch scratched until you find what drives you. I'm an outdoorsman myself, but a few goals I have are building a rally car initially purchased under $1000. You would be able to teach yourself some mechanics without breaking the bank. That skill will transfer to many things. I can't stress the kind of debugging it takes to work on a car. It's debugging code in hard mode because to 'test' your code you have to buy a part. Forces you to really think about things.

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.

Owning a car in the bay allows you to get to some of the best hiking / running trails in the world! Get a car, then get outside! (or just do whatever makes your happy :)

That should be the real question. All else is just a consequence of being motivated enough to achieve that particular goal.

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.


I have a couple of book suggestions that might help you start exploring the question for yourself:

1. Man's search for meaning, by Victor Frankl

2. Ambition, by Gilbert Brim

If you want to take a mystical angle on it, start reading stuff about one's True Will.

Sounds interesting, can you point me to a little more?

I’m too lazy to do more than drop you in at the deep end: http://www.thelemapedia.org/index.php/True_Will

A collection of google drive documents. I went through the process of deciding on Core Values (viz. the Integrity Report that James Clear does), and life time goals. Now I set yearly/monthly/weekly/daily goals that wrap up into larger scale projects. One useful process has been period reviews (daily reviews at the end of day, etc), where I'll check how well I did with regard to my goals, and whether I'm living with integrity (according to my explicitly set Core Values). During these reviews, I'll make note of the next level up, e.g. during monthly reviews, I'll check my annual reviews and update them as necessary.

https://jamesclear.com/integrity https://jamesclear.com/goal-setting

I use a Trello board for my 10 year goals. Lists are:

1. Primary Goals

2. Secondary Goals

3. Immediate Goals

5. To-do this week

6. Daily

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 also use a trello board. I have one column for each year, plus a wishlist column with short/mid/long term goals and a separate column just for travels that I want to do. Once a task is completed I mark it with the green label. If I just don't care anymore about something or I "fail" the task, then I mark it in red.

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.

EDIT: formatting

I also use a Kanban board mine however keeps track of completion on books and courses. I suppose a ten year goal would be a good idea along with yearly.

I don't. Live is hard enough without you constantly pushing yourself and giving yourself a bad conscious for not reaching your goals. Relax, kick back and just do what you feel is fun.

Eh I once heard someone make a distinction that I like between 'what you enjoy' and 'what makes you happy'.

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).

There is a large middle ground between constantly pushing yourself and just doing what's fun.

Also, reaching a goal is great, but for many goals it's the process of getting there where the real personal growth comes from.

The times I look back on my life that bring me the most happiness are the times I pushed myself to my limits.

Floating is for boats.

I did that this weekend. It was also hard to kick back and relax when I wanted to work on my goals. That was very conflicting, but I'm starting to see the value of slowing down a little bit.

Sometimes what's really fulfilling in the long term isn't what's fun in short term. For example, practicing an instrument vs. playing a video game.

I'm the same, when I look at some of the comments here it sounds rather joyless.

Most people already do that.

If they did, mid-life crisis wouldn't be so common. I'd say many people have lofty yet rather undefined goals in life, which is why they crash hard when they realize they are far from achieving hem.


So true!

Nothing of value is fun, easy, or simple.

I find that organization helps me accomplish much more; taking the time every Sunday to plan out my week makes focusing significantly easier and more productive.

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

Google Keep.

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

One of my goals this year is to be better organised at tracking my goals :) so far I haven't got around to it.

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

I break a Trello board into four columns:

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.

I do something similar but not very structured. I've got a few questions:

  * 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)?

Nice. I could talk all day about this stuff.

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.


Not really a solution, but a problem that I have (which this thread has actually given me several new ideas to try fixing) isn't so much organizing or tracking my goals, it's that even when I get them organized, and plan out my days (not excessively, but a handful of easily achievable things I want to do in a day or week) I find that I don't have the drive or motivation to accomplish them half the time.

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.

I found these comments on 1) Getting Started 2) Focusing on What You Really Want to Achieve 3) Avoiding What You Really Want to Achieve by Wasting Time / Not Getting Started as the most important and most challenging for me on this message thread.

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.

I have found it more effective personally to focus more on priorities and habits than SMART goals. To track habits and progress and notes on everything, I heavily use a tool I've mentioned before, which I wrote (after trying org-mode, collapsible outlines in other tools, etc). It uses postgres, and I hope that "sharing" data exchange features are coming (though it already does export to org-mode-like text, and to html). Best code is that in github, though a downloadable .jar is available. Currently keyboard and desktop-only (text-oriented). The most efficient/effective thing I have found for notes/lists/details of all kinds, and should be easy to learn to use, as all the essentials are on the screen. There is a tutorial.

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).

http://onemodel.org (AGPL)

I'm assuming by 'personal goals' you are referring to the category of goals for life-long-learning, and not "vacation at the cabin this July".

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.

Large whiteboard with a 100 day mind map of goals. Daily journal structured to write out what I'm doing towards each goal that day, then daily 1 min video check in repeating those goals along with a general assessment of how I'm feeling/things I'm thinking about. Has been transformative to do things this way.

Over the past few years I've tried: - Checklists, OKRs, Kanban

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: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1U0ufWHqntVcz89nebyRt...

Here are the Blog Posts (Reviews & Retrospectives) https://apicardami.com/category/goals/

I use an app that I wrote, meditations, in order to break down goals into daily habits: https://github.com/ioddly/meditations

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).

I built an app for this for myself. Showed it to some friends casually and they really liked it, so I launched it:


It's positioned as a career development app but it can be used for anything, really.

I only have a single personal goal in life and it changes slightly over time as I learn more about life so it wouldn't make sense for me to write it down. I just think about it and work towards it every minute of every day so I don't need to track/organise anything. It's more like a principle than a goal.

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.

It might be cringeworthy for you, but others may need goals like that which can become incrementally more challenging for their discipline.

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 personally use trello for keeping track of the things going on in my life. I don't necessarily use it to set goals for myself but whenever I want to do or learn something I make a list for that topic on my board. Then I start adding content (in the form of cards) to the list, to flesh out what it is exactly I want to achieve or how I might get there.

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 used to keep my goals in a journal and review it yearly but it didn't help me stay on track. After a few months I mostly forgot the goals I set until the next year. Now, I'm trying to review my big goals quarterly. I have Kanban boards for each goal (e.g. home improvement, skills development, side projects) in Trello that track task state really well.

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[1]). I'm building Natrium[1] 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!

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_7_Habits_of_Highly_Effecti... [1] https://natriumapp.com

disapprobatory throat-clearing noises http://forum.beeminder.com/t/natrium/4122

With Beeminder. This is the best application that I've ever use to track and nudge me into incrementally working towards my goals.

As a high school teacher, I like to use diaries and sticky notes to track them. Once in a while, I go through them and update them.

I want to be able to leave notes on my phone by using short voice commands, then later export everything to ascii, and analyze it on a computer. I'm not aware of a solution for this, but in combination with some data-mining, it would be a great tool for analyzing habits (and keeping track of diet as well).

You should try Rec. It’s a voice recording app that has a built in human transcription feature.

I don't have personal goals.

I do have TODO lists I track on paper, usually things that need to get done within a month.

Without goals, how do you decide what you do and don’t need to get done?

I think that it's better to be guided by passion and personal principles than some cheesy list of goals that you tick off one at a time.

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.

Exaclty! Except I use many unachievable goals that I work towards endlessly...to develop my touch-typing skills.

I use a Trello board that I update weekly. There's a list of tasks, and then 7 lists for each day of the week. I assign the tasks to each day and archive them when I've completed them. If they're only half done, I just shift them to the next day and so on. For things that need to be done by a particular date, I assign them dates and link it to iCal.

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.

complice.co which I've written a love-letter to here: https://medium.com/@seanaubin/an-open-love-letter-to-complic...

I started just writing it down in the Notes app included with macOS as a list and mostly keep it in my head. I guess I try to look at it at the beginning of the year and see what I achieved but it's mostly bigger generic points ("get raise to be over $amount", "sign up for $class").

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.

  print $amount;

I use OKRs for personal goal setting and tracking. All best practices that apply to OKRs apply here. See https://amzn.to/2LP9myF and https://amzn.to/2OxEBN1 Keep goals SMART http://bit.ly/2LIQX7z

I use vimwiki https://github.com/vimwiki/vimwiki to organize everything.

I use Getting Things Done with our own Tool Zenkit. The most time I work with Kanban Boards and organize everything in several columns (e.g. Inbox, To do today, next actions, calendar). I work with it every day and are happy when I can tick off the tasks I already did. For appointments and due dates, I switch to the calendar view to have a good overview. In Kanban, you can see your progress by having a look at the "Done" column.

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.

I record my quarterly goal as my work computer login. This forces me to review it every 90 days and makes me keep it short. The main benefit is that I have to repeat it to myself several times a day.

I have a paper notebook with a daily to do list. sone todo items are necessary some aspirational. you can classify as urgent/not-urgent important/not-important. but each day I rewrite it out. if things I didn't finish yesterday aren't compelling enough I won't expend the effort to write it back down. I can always go back if I want.

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.

Another +1 for journal here. Specifically, the bullet journal: http://bulletjournal.com/get-started/

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 use a journal.

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.

I have a bunch of goals every year. They're written down on a small whiteboard that I've got hanging right next to my desk. Whenever I wonder what to do, I'll look at that whiteboard to tell me what currently has my highest priority.

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).

Plug: I wrote an app to do this in a minimalist way. It's called Casual Planner (https://itunes.apple.com/US/app/id1320558091?mt=8) It has repeating events, and goals for "soon" and "sometime".

I personally choose to have so few goals that I can count them on one hand, and remember them at all times. This means I have to say "no" to a lot of interesting ideas that come to mind, so it's a compromise for sure. But it means I'm always on top of my goals and always making progress towards them.

I used todolist for everything on organizing tracking. I start a completely new one each once and a while so I'm forced to purge or reconsider old and forgotten tasks. Saves as an simple .txt file.


I recently read 'Measure What Matters' and find OKRs to be a great way to track personal goals.

I don't use any app for tracking goals. Rather I use a marker and board for that. I tried trello but its not good with respect to personal context. I suggest people to use diary and pen. Writing down things you want to do and cut it down once you had done.

I use this really simple app on Android - https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.isoron.uha...

Using TeX syntax (or any language with collapsing blocks of text), a text file with branches.


If I didn't use Evernote for storing and carrying my life around I'd use http://notion.so

I got a simple XML document, that contains tasks and todos. I query it from either command line or via a web interface, using mainly XQuery and a little XSLT.

I like to keep it simple, I have 5-10 goals in google docs. I revisit my goals and progress about monthly and log where I am and how I see my future progress.

Peter Drucker style Life List, which oddly enough I fell into doing well before I read any related Drucker material.

I’m testing Things 3 right now. It’s based on GTD philosophy.

I’m looking for a way to visualize my progress yet.

OT: achieving the goal is just a temporary pleasure.. remember to enjoy the journey!

I've tried and failed to use and stick to many productivity systems over the years. It almost seems like an obsession at this point to find technological means for improving throughput.

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.

You might be interested in TaskWarrior https://taskwarrior.org/

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.

I used 43things.com for years. Now I mostly make lists in text files.

if you need to write it down is it really a personal goal that is core to you or your likely to actually do?

I just ask my spouse what I’m supposed to be doing on any particular day, and she tells me!

Relax! Just kidding :-)

Google calendar

I spend hours making notes and then I do not read them or action them.

Instead I do the bare minimum to get through the day.

Same here, I even sync my notes across devices and put them under version control

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