Welcome to 2018, and welcome to January! This is a time of year when many people think about what’s to come in the year ahead—and, if they haven’t already, set goals or resolutions for things they’d like to accomplish.
If you run your own business or are part of the leadership for the company where you work, then you know that in the business world, planning for the following year typically happens in Q4 of the previous one. But strategic planning on the personal level is much less complicated, so if you haven’t started, or have never done it before, it’s not too late to start now.
For the past eight years, I’ve engaged in the practice of crafting a personal plan that includes a vision statement for the year, along with strategies and goals for achieving that vision. The first time I did it, it was a thirty-day process tackling one small element each day. That approach is helpful when the process is new because it can be overwhelming. But when you’ve done it once, many elements stay the same or change very little from year to year, and I can now create my personal plan for the year in a few focused hours.
We’ve created a free planning worksheet you can use to set your 2018 goals—along with your plan to achieve them! You’ll find the form to download the 2018 Goal-Setting Worksheet at the end of this post.
There are three main elements when it comes to planning out your vision for the year: a personal vision statement, strategies, and goals.
Let’s look at each one individually.
Personal Vision Statement
You’re probably familiar with vision statements. In the business world, vision statements are primarily used internally to help guide decisions and to help employees understand where the company is headed. They also usually change each year; as the business grows, so does the vision.
To think about a vision statement for yourself as an individual is not always an easy task. Some preliminary exercises you can use to help prime your thinking include writing out how you hope to be remembered after you die. It might sound morbid, but imagining what you’d like other people to say about you at your funeral helps you to zero in on what you value most in life and in yourself. Another helpful exercise is to write out what is possible for you in the next year—meaning, with no limitation. If money, time, and resources were no obstacle, what would be possible for you?
From those two exercises, you should begin to see some priorities rising to the top of your lists. Use those themes to craft a one-sentence vision statement. One important thing to remember about a personal vision statement: it should focus on who you want to be in the world, not on what you want to do. Try to answer the question, Who do I envision myself to be in 2018? The doing will come later, because what you do should flow from who you are.
Once you have a personal vision statement, you can start to think about what actions you want to take to fulfill that vision. If your vision statement includes being healthier or more active, think about what you could do to achieve that vision. Some ideas might be establishing a workout routine, or practicing yoga on a regular basis, or reevaluating your diet. You want to have one strategy for each element of your vision statement, and ideally no more than five or six total strategies. If you end up with more than that, it’s probably an indication that your vision statement could use some revision and paring down.
Keep in mind: strategies are high-level activities. It’s the difference between “establish a workout routine” and “go to the gym every day.” Keep the strategies high-level and we’ll get to the specifics next with goals.
Once you have your strategies, the next step is to set goals for each one. Again, you want to have no more than five or six goals per strategy.
Here we are using a well-known acronym for goal-setting, S.M.A.R.T., which stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-bound. The idea here is that each goal should meet the S.M.A.R.T. requirements. So for example, with our “Establish a workout routine” strategy, “Start working out more often” as a goal would not qualify as S.M.A.R.T. What type of workout are we talking about (specific/actionable)? When will you start working out (measurable/time-bound)? How often will you work out (realistic/time-bound)?
A more appropriate goal that does meet the S.M.A.R.T. requirements would be: “Go to the gym three days a week and work out for one hour, beginning on January 1, 2018.” Notice, I didn’t say “Go to the gym every day,” because that would not meet the realistic requirement of a S.M.A.R.T. goal.
By the time you are done with your goals, you should have somewhere between fifteen and thirty goals for the year, depending on how many strategies you have and how many goals for each. In my experience, thirty is on the high end and often crosses into unrealistic territory, so I’d suggest reviewing to determine if any can be combined or eliminated.
It’s nice to have a personal plan document that includes your vision statement, strategies, and goals. A simple Word or Google doc will do. Put your vision statement at the top with the date. Then number your strategies down the page, with the respective goals listed under each. Refer back to it frequently during the year to adjust and reevaluate as necessary, especially if your life circumstances change dramatically.
Sample Personal Plan
|2018 Personal Plan
My personal vision statement answers the question, who do I envision myself to be in 2018?
The last element is optional and depends on your personal preference for following plans. Some people prefer a more free-flowing approach, and for them, having the goals in writing is enough. Others, like me, prefer a more structured approach. If you’re like me, you might benefit from taking this extra step.
Take the time now to schedule planning time on your calendar once a month. Use that time to do a couple of things: review your personal plan and update or adjust if necessary, look at your goals and put any recurring activities on your calendar, and schedule any appointments that you need to make for the month.
If this sounds like a lot of work, I won’t lie: it is. But it is worth it. And, as I mentioned earlier, when you have done it once, it gets easier every time after that. You can be the person you want to be and have the life you dream of with a little bit of careful planning and intentional execution of that plan.
Here’s to a very successful 2018—and don’t forget to download our free 2018 Goal-Setting Worksheet below!