Remember what it felt like to make plans—ones that didn’t fall through the cracks due to ever-changing restrictions? Even if most of us had our dreams and plans dashed in 2020, the new year is just around the corner, offering a chance to restart and make new plans or set new goals. Yes, uncertainty exists going into 2021, but that doesn’t mean you should abandon your goals. In fact, goal-setting may be more essential than ever to help maintain your productivity and sanity. With that in mind, here’s how to set goals for 2021 when everything feels uncertain.
Interrogate that “why bother” attitude?: If you doubt that any good can come out of setting goals for the new year, it’s time to reconsider. Setting goals despite the unknowns can still provide great value as it gives you the feeling of autonomy to make choices for your life and the competence to achieve them. Goals can provide a sense of focus and a sense of accomplishment. And when you achieve your goals, that can give you a hit of dopamine, the brain chemical responsible for making you feel happy.
Schedule goals: For many of us who work from home or have lost a job, the lack of any rigid daily routine can make it hard to maintain healthy habits such as a consistent exercise routine or a good sleep schedule. To return to more healthy ways, schedule in your goals at specific times, and try to stick with them. Scheduled goals can be easier for us to maintain autonomy over—despite uncertainty— so don’t be afraid to make them a part of your life.
Process goals: If scheduling your plans or goals isn’t really your thing, set process goals. A process goal is meant to standardize action in your life that will help you make progress towards the things you want in life. For instance, if you are a salesman and want to get a promotion by the end of the year, you may set a process goal of trying to follow up on a certain amount of leads each week. You may not be able to guarantee sales, but you can choose to practice consistency, which helps lead you to the outcomes you most desire.
Action goals: Unlike process goals where you are trying to follow a system, an action goal is more focused on completing something you say you will do by a certain time. For instance, you might make a plan to check off every objective on your home to-do list by the end of 2021. In that case, try to pick one or two key projects each month to focus on and complete.
Stretch goals: Bring some excitement into your life by setting a stretch goal. By stretch goal, we mean something ambitious that may or may not be possible to complete, but that will give you something meaningful to work towards. For instance, try to learn a new language. It may be more difficult without the ability to travel or go to in-person classes, but you can still give it a shot from within your home. Although stretch goals shouldn’t be your only goals going into the new year, they can certainly add some icing on the cake of your 2021 goals.