The new year can make us acutely aware of how things went for us the year before. It can be a time of positive or negative contemplation. 2020 has not been a great year for so many reasons, but there is always the hope that a new year will bring on better things.
Around this time of year, I like to think about what I would like to achieve in the next 12 months. I find it therapeutic, and I love the anticipation of what is to come.
When I first started doing this, I wildly OVERESTIMATED what I could do in a year, and massively UNDERESTIMATED what I could do in 5.
But with the best will in the world, no-one knew that the majority of our plans would be rammed off the road this year, so while planning is helpful, it also needs to be FLEXIBLE!
I thought I would share with you some of the ways I use to set goals for the year ahead, and hopefully give you the motivation and inspiration to set yours. Even if you don’t run a business or a blog, I’m sure you will have specific things that you will want to achieve in the year ahead, especially in the area of money.
So here are a few ideas to get you started – you don’t have to do it all at once!
Step One – Future Planning and Back-Casting
It’s much easier to plan if you start with the end goal in mind.
Back casting is a process by which you pick something you want to reach in the distant future, then work backwards to chunk it up into specific milestones to reach it.
It’s a bit like the process of trying to decide what time to wake up in the morning, or what time to leave the house for work. We know when we want to reach somewhere, so we work out the time it will take to do all the things we need to do to get there on time, and then plot that backwards to the point of leaving the house or getting out of bed.
So for example, if you want to be financially independent by the time you are 50, what do you need to do to get there?
How To Do It
Grab a notebook and pen, and get really comfortable. I find grabbing a glass of wine or a cup of tea helpful too. Nice music, candles, whatever to get you feeling chilled.
Close your eyes and think about how you want your life to be in 5, 10, 20 years. Who is in your life? What are you doing? How much money do you have? Where do you live? How does it feel?
Get really specific – even down to the colour of the carpet and the clothes you’re wearing! The more senses you can involve, the better. The more the vision makes you want to cry with tears of joy and happiness, the closer you are to knowing what your heart really wants (don’t be surprised if it isn’t want you do now!).
Then, in your notebook, write it all down.
Now comes the fun bit – how much will this lifestyle cost? How much money do you need to be making? How big does your retirement pot need to be? ( FYI, if you’re not sure, these are the questions I LOVE to help you answer in my Abundance Clinic), what do you need to do to make it happen?
This end point is the start of planning what needs to happen next.
Step Two – Prioritise The Lynch-Pin Goal(s)
You might have 20+ things on your list and have NO IDEA where to start. The place I like to start with any big project, is the hardest bit first. Ok, I don’t *like* to, but it makes sense to start with the chunkiest issues first, because it will feel amazing when it’s done.
Look at the following example. Let’s say these are your goals:
- Become debt free
- Build a 3-month emergency fund
- Buy my first house
In this example, it will be hard to save properly for the emergency fund if you still carry debt. And the banks may have something to say about lending you money if you have a lot of debt too.
So the LYNCH PIN goal is the one that will make achieving the others MUCH easier – and in this case, it’s getting out of debt.
If you have a few possible lynch-pin goals, pick the one that you would love to achieve first.
Step Three – Lay It All Out On A Timeline
Right, so you have the end goal in mind, and you have a lynch-pin or two. What now?
Lay it all out onto a timeline.
Literally, draw a line onto a piece of paper and mark the 1, 5, 10, 20 year points along it (the actual years as well!).
In each of these gaps, list out what you would like to achieve and when by (ideally). Don’t underestimate the power of time. It took me 5 years to become debt free. And investing money for 20 years makes a HUGE difference!
Also, don’t worry if you think this is too ambitious, or not ambitious enough. Goals change over time. Ambitions change over time. You change over time, so be prepared for some flexibility in this as you go.
Step Four – Set SMART Goals For The 12 Months
Once you have the BIG picture, it now comes down to chunking it up into smaller steps. When it comes to deciding how to do this, one way you could is through setting SMART goals.
There are numerous examples out there of what SMART stands for, but I like the one from envisionexperience.com that stands for:
Specific – e.g. To pay off £1000 debt
Meaningful – e.g. To free up money to invest
Action Orientated – e.g. I will commit to paying £100 per month off my debt every month
Realistic – e.g. I have made a budget that reflects this
Timely – e.g. I will be debt free by the end of 2021
How To Do It
I find taking a fresh sheet of paper in my notebook to be good for this exercise. I list out all the things I would like to achieve in the next 12 months based on the big picture vision I saw in step one.
Specific = 6 month emergency fund = £18,000
Meaningful = I want the security of knowing it is there, plus I can reduce the cost of my income protection insurance contributions
Action Orientated = I will commit to saving the additional £8,000 I need to complete the fund
Realistic = I have paid off all my debt, so the money from this can be used to save into this fund
Timely = I will have this money saved by December 2021
I repeat this process until I have made a plan for each of the goals I think I can reach in 12 months based on that big picture I painted for myself.
What To Do If You Have NO Idea Where To Start
If I’m at a loss for what I want to do, I think of my “wheel of life”.
Break your life up into different segments. These are my choices, but you can choose anything you like! It’s what is important to you that counts.
With a “wheel of life”, in order to assess where you think you are, you need to shade the pie-slice. Ideally, the whole wheel should be fully shaded, but in reality it never is. So take this example for me in 2018. I was happy in my relationship, so I shaded it in fully. I was not really focused on my health at the time, so it only got a 30% shade.
This is what it looked like:
It was pretty wonky right?! So once I saw where I felt I was neglecting things, I had an idea of where to start the focus of the year ahead. I allowed myself to think about how I wanted my life to look in these neglected areas and made goals around that.
Don’t fall into the Ruler trap – Celebrate Your Wins!
This is something that I don’t always do, but I should more often. Personally I blame my inner Ruler archetype. This one loves to reach goals, beat them and then make new ones immediately. Rulers find it very hard to “switch off” and celebrate.
So don’t forget to celebrate the small stuff! Celebrate the next £100 paid off your debt, a new healthy money habit you’ve put in place or that today you managed at least one thing on your “to-do” list when you really didn’t want to do anything at all. We need to be less harsh on ourselves, because we’re doing the best we can.
Celebrate on our Facebook group! We want to know when you pay something off a debt, save into your emergency fund or cut up your credit cards. Show us pictures, ask for support and encouragement, and help others too. We’re all in this together!
Until next time,
3 thoughts on “How I set my goals for the year ahead”
Good advice. I think building an emergency fund should the the first goal for most people followed by paying down debt and investing.
Absolutely! It’s such an important factor
Absolutely!! All of these things, but especially the emergency fund