Editors note: This is my rather dubious attempt to combine a rough outline for the coming year, with publishing a reasonably helpful blog post, before I leave the office for my Christmas break. If you’re interested then feel free to use it as a template for some realistic goal setting for the coming year (or any year).
Goal setting can be so fickle. One of the big tricks that I’ve come to understand is that a good list of goals for any period time is one that is super realistic; just enough to push yourself a bit, but not so large that you’re guaranteed to fail. If you know you’ll fail, you won’t try.
Whilst I generally believe that it’s important to aim high, this vague proxy for success I definitely see as more a big picture motivation.
Things like “Earn a PhD”, or “Captain the enterprise”.
But when it comes to time sensitive goals, New Years resolutions, etc. it’s important to ensure that your goals are minimal, actionable and important.
So I’ve organised my list of goals for 2018 in order of relative importance. As they get less important, they become less quantifiable generally too. The point is that as the list progresses you become less emotionally attached to the success of the goals, but the rewards for achieving them are also greater.
More importantly, as the year goes by and you’re checking and re-checking your schedule and your goals, if at any time you’re finding that you have too much on your plate, then the first things to go are the things at the bottom of the list.
In 2018 I absolutely must at all costs:
- Produce a first author publication (or have one well under way)
- Pass my confirmation milestone (with flying colours)
- Do an ECR presentation
Or at least, a failure to hit any of these goals will constitute a significant, life altering and unplanned failure. Besides that you’ll notice a few things about them.
Firstly the list is small. There’s only these three things really, that must be done by the end of the year in order to maintain my PhD scholarship (there are other things, but they’re more obligatory and kind of go without saying).
Also, whilst this list is small, many of the goals on this list are a blanket for a number of auxiliary goals which make completing them necessary, like learning heaps, doing heaps of good research and data analysis, heaps of writing and organising, etc.
Looking at this list you’ll see that actually, most of the items are virtually necessary.
They’re not necessarily actionable (but they contain actionable sub components which can be more fully elucidated on a weekly/monthly basis), but they are very quantifiable. They either involve a specific event, or a very clear benchmark.
The items on this list it will be very obvious when you’ve completed them, or if they’re being appropriately maintained.
In 2018 I will feel accomplished if I:
- Finish cover to cover
- Bulmer Intro to Data analysis
- One or two of my supervisors big fat textbooks on Twin Studies
- Falconer and McKay Intro to Quantitative Genetics
- Stroustrup’s C++ beginners text
- Finish my intro Linux course by the end of January
- Publish a blog post almost once a week
- Have a good head start on a second publication
- Maintain my current bodyweight of ~80kgs
- Have the makings of a useful, non trivial program written in C++
As you can see the goals in this list are still fairly objectively clear and will defined… more or less…
They are also relatively important to the list of necessary goals, without being necessary themselves. Despite not being necessary, I fully expect to have tackled most if not all of these goals by Christmas 2018 also.
Throw in a couple of health and personal development related goals and you have a nice realistic list of goals to keep you motivated into the next year.
In 2018 I will feel totally badass if I:
- Produce two first author publications
- Procure a viable homo sapien zygote, in vivo
- Double our Mortgage account savings
- Volunteer in Schott’s bar a few times
- Crack the 75kgs mark (or have an impressive body fat percentage score)
- Publish a blog post every week
- Can perform 3 sets of 8 pull ups and/or chin ups and 3 sets of 10 weighted (BW+5kg) dips in a single workout
We’re getting to the cream on the cake.
I’ll be very satisfied with my year if I take care of everything in the first two categories, but if I can really knuckle down and not get too stuck in my own head, then I think that most of the items on this list are also very realistic too. If that happens I’ll be finishing 2018 on a high.
However, the important thing here as that by this stage it won’t be the end of the world if life gets in the way, and some of these items fall by the wayside.
I don’t have to publish a post every single week, but if I get the time for it, and it doesn’t negatively affect more important aspects of my work, then I’ll be super chuffed.
My wife and I plan on having more kids but at this point we’re just letting nature take its course. If it happens it happens.
You’ll also notice that some of the items on this list are extensions of goals on the previous list. Which means my list of goals isn’t as big as it looks, it just means that if I can work a little harder, dig my heels in a little deeper, then I can finish a little more strongly in some areas, but if I don’t quite hit that low weight goal, I’ll be satisfied enough to just be consistent.
2018 will be the most productive year of my life if I also:
- Have a complete, functioning, useful and non trivial program written in C++
Pretty simple really. I’m not getting my hopes up about this one. But if I happen to learn enough C++, and I happen to find the time, and I happen produce something I could conceivably sell, then I’ll know I’ve hit peak productivity.
This list might look big (or small if you’re one of those crazy high performers), but the fact is most of these goals converge on some key objectives, which themselves are quite specific. Most of these goals either directly or indirectly contribute to my PhD, or to very relevant and employable skills that will both enhance my career prospects, or open doorways in related fields. Besides this, the goals are all health and family related.
Finally, anther thing to consider with your own goals is that goal setting is only the first step. If you’ve never actually successfully completed a New Years resolution, or a set of goals for the year, then your first goal should be to make a feasible plan of action to complete your goals, eliminate barriers to their success, and find someone to help you.