How To Make This Your Best Year Yet (+ My 2015 Goals)

Your Best Year Yet
I’m looking forward to 2015 and I hope you are too. I’m confident that this will be my best year ever and I want it to be that way for you as well.
Click here to get the “Your Best Year Yet” Checklist.

Most everyone loves the start of a new year. Whether last year was great for you or was a complete disaster, a new year means we all now get a do-over. We get a fresh start and clean slate. The clock is reset to 365, and everyone begins from the same starting line.

However, if we were to fast forward to the end of the year, we all know that not everyone will arrive at the same finish line. Sure, we’ll all get to December 31st, but what everyone will do with their year will be different. Some people will start a new business and quit their job.

Some will meet the love of their life and start a family. Some will experience significant life transitions such as a move, job change, or the death of a loved one.

Sure, we will all experience a certain amount of things we simply can’t control, but for the most part, what our lives look like on December 31st is in large part a reflection on how we plan for it to look at the beginning of the year.

If you don’t make any plans at the beginning of the year, then you shouldn’t be surprised when your December 31st looks remarkably similar to your January 1st. So if you want to make this year different than last year, what do you have to do?

You must have an intentional plan about where you’re headed and how you’re going to get there. 

Ideally, you make your plan in December for the upcoming year, so you hit the ground running in January but at whatever point during the year you read this, it’s not too late. Don’t just tell yourself this year is lost, so you may as well sit and wait until December so you can plan the next year. That’s dumb.

Imagine being in a race, but when the race starts, instead of running, you find yourself sitting down (not sure why…just go with me on this one :). Regardless of where the other runners may be in the race when you realize they’re gone, it doesn’t make sense to continue to sit. Any normal, rational person would get up and get going.

So whether it’s January 1st or July 1st, it’s time to get up and get going! Here’s how I map out my year (and how you can map out yours)…

1. Divide Your Life Into Categories

To help bring a little more focus to your goals, I’d recommend you use categories. It helps you break down your life and think of the different areas you want to grow and improve in. I’ve used a variety in the past, but here are the 5 big categories I currently use each year…

  • Family
  • Financial
  • Physical
  • Personal Development
  • Business/Professional

Other categories could include relationships/friendships, social, community, spiritual, or emotional. So take a minute and write down the categories you want to create goals for this year (BTW…I do all of this within Evernote, but you could do it in a different program or even use good ole’ faithful pen and paper).

2. Create 3-5 Goals For Each Category

Now that you’ve got your categories, what do you want to accomplish within each of these? I create 3-5 goals for each category using the SMART criteria (with one little exception I’ll explain in a minute). If you’re not familiar with the SMART acronym for goal setting, let me get you up to speed. Your goals should be…

  • S – Specific – Your goals should be as specific as possible. Having a goal to “be happier” or “make more money” or “get healthy” is adorable, but it’s about vague as vague can be. Be specific. Instead of “make more money,” how much money? A specific number. Anything with numbers you can quantify is generally easier.

So rather than “be happy,” (which is very difficult to quantify), think of the actions or activities that help make you happy. If doing some type of hobby makes you happy, use that instead. Example – I will spend 2 hours every week crocheting cat sweaters. That is both specific and awesome.

  • M – Measurable – The problem with goals like “be happier” or “get healthy” is they are not only not specific but how do you know if you accomplished them? There’s a difference between a goal being “Do some running” vs “Finish a half marathon.” One can be measured, one can’t. Again, using numbers is often times a good way to help something become measurable.
  • A – Attainable – The point of goals is they should push and challenge you. You want to find a balance between goals that are nearly impossible vs just being gimmies. If a goal doesn’t push you, then what’s the point? I’ll give you an example from my own goals…

One of my goals for this year is to finish a half marathon in under 2 hours. I’ve finished 6 half marathons and my fastest time was 2:11. So if I set a goal to finish a half marathon in under 3 hours, that’s not really a challenge, because I’ve done that before. I also don’t want to swing too far the other direction and say my goal is to win a half marathon race. Probably not going to happen.

So the balance is to find something that will push you but still be attainable. Trimming 11+ minutes off my best time is within the realm of possibility, but it’s going to take some work. But it is attainable.

  • R – Relevant – Your goals have to be relevant to the kind of life you want to create. If I were to ask you to make a list of the top 3-5 priorities in your life, do your goals align with those priorities? If your goals aren’t related to that which is important to you, you’ll have a difficult time accomplishing those goals.
  • T – Time Bound – This may be the most important piece of the puzzle. Your goals must have a clear finish line. I’ve heard it said, a goal without a deadline is just a wish. You’re not serious about it unless you’re clear on when you’ll complete it.

Even though this may be the most important ingredient, we’re not going to do it.


We’ll come back to it, so calm down all you who are devastated and distraught. At this point, we just want to figure out the categories and what goals we want to accomplish for the year.

  • BONUS: W – Written Down (‘W’ doesn’t really fit in the acronym, but this is still super important) – Don’t leave your goals in your head. You’ve got too much other junk swimming around up there to keep a bunch of goals straight. Get these out of your head and on paper or your computer. Writing your goals down is a way to solidify it and make a commitment with yourself that you’re not messing around.

Alright, so now you’ve got your list of 3-5 goals for each category of life right? Look back over that list and see if there are any changes you need to make. Here’s a good question to ask yourself: If you accomplished everything on that list, how would you feel at the end of the year? Satisfied? Disappointed? Accomplished? Underachieving?

You want to be able to look at that list and feel like if you accomplished nearly everything on there, it would make for an insanely good year. You shouldn’t feel like you left anything on the table. You brought your ‘A’ game to the year. You should also feel slightly intimidated looking at your list. It’s normal if in the back of your mind, you hear the faint singing of Jesus, Take The Wheel.

I’ve always heard it said that, We overestimate what we can accomplish in a week but underestimate what we can accomplish in a year. You should be slightly intimidated looking at your list of goals, but remember you’ve got 365 days to make them happen (give or take a few days depending on when you’re reading this).

As a point of reference, here are my goals for this year broken down by category…

  • Family
    • Take 3 individual trips with Sheila
    • Take 5 trips with entire family
    • Do 6 daddy dates with each girl
  •  Financial
    • Earn net income of $X
    • Invest $X towards retirement
    • Invest $X towards girls college fund
    • Give 10% of our income away
  • Physical
    • Complete a triathlon
    • Finish half marathon in under 2 hours
    • Run 350 miles for the year
    • Bike 1,000 miles for the year
  •  Personal Development
    • Attend at least one personal development conference/event
    • Stay involved in at least 1 mastermind
  •  Business/Professional
    • Increase email list to 10,000
    • Increase podcast downloads to average of 10k/episode
    • Launch speaking product/course
    • Write minimum of 30 blog posts for the year

NOTE: In addition to specific business goals, I also have specific target numbers of what I hope to achieve. Here are the numbers I track…

  • Events I speak at
  • Revenue broken down by…
  • Speaking
  • Product Sales (broken down by each product we offer both offline and online)
  • Coaching
  • Podcast Sponsorships
  • Total Revenue

You can see that each goal is specific, measurable, attainable (according to me), relevant and I’ve got them written down. But what about that time-bound part? I’ll get to that young grasshopper. Hang with me.

3. Focus On The Next 90 Days

I like to break my year into quarters. 365 days is a long time to stay focused on something, so I find it easier to divide the year out. As you can see from my goals, there are some that will take the entire year to complete and others that I may complete before December 31st. The point is this….you can’t accomplish all your goals at once. You can work on multiple goals at once, but you can’t work on all of them at the same time.

The best way to get started is to go through each goal and ask yourself, What do I need to do in the next 90 days to make progress on achieving this goal? Some goals you may not need to do anything (depending on time of year or that goal just isn’t your focus at the moment). Others you won’t achieve in the next 90 days, but you need to get started on right now. Let me give you a few examples from my list…

    • Take 5 trips with entire family – Trips require planning. If I’m going to do 8 total trips this year to hit this goal, I can’t wait until December to get started. I’ve got to start now. I need to go ahead and schedule at least 1-2 trips. Our family is going on a Disney trip in January, so that’s one trip down. I’m also speaking at conference in Oregon in June that they may come to but that isn’t final yet. So for my goals in these first 90 days, we need to schedule at least one other trip to take.
    • Finish half marathon in under 2 hours – Accomplishing this goal won’t just happen by showing up at a random race and hoping it goes well. Here are some steps involved in making it happen…
      • Pick a Race – I’ve got penciled in to do the Nashville half marathon on April 25. And even though that date falls outside the first 90 days that I’m currently planning, I’ve got to start training for it now.
      • Find a Training Plan – Long distance races like this require weeks of training. There are plenty of plans to choose from online, so I need to search through and figure out which makes the most sense for me. Side note…because I’m shooting for a time goal in the race, I found a training plan specifically for time. I’m not just looking for a random training plan, because I’ve got a specific target I’m headed towards and need a certain plan to take me there.
      • Schedule my Training – Just picking out a training plan isn’t enough. Now I’ve got to actually make it happen. I’ve printed out my training plan and have it sitting by my bed, so I know what I need to do each day for that week. Not only that, but I put it in my calendar when I’ll do each training run. It’s not enough to just say, “I need to run 5 miles on Tuesday.” What time on Tuesday? Anything in your schedule that needs to be changed/rearranged in order for that to take place? What route will you take? The less thinking you have to do, the better. For example, I know today (at the time of this writing), I’m doing a 3 mile run at 3:30 this afternoon. No thinking required. It’s on my calendar.
      • Get my Gear – What all do I need to accomplish the goal? Luckily, I’ve done several races, so I’ve got the basic running/training gear I would need. But if this was a brand new goal, I would need to make sure I had any tools or gear necessary to get me started.
  • Increase email list to 10,000 – I’m currently at about 3,500 on my email list, so I need to add another 6,500 by the end of the year. That won’t be a gimmie, but it’s certainly attainable. But again, that won’t just happen because I wrote it down. So to help, I made a list of about 12 different things I want to work on to help with this. But I can’t focus on all 12 at once, so I narrowed that list down to 6 specific things we’re going to do during these first 90 days. When I start planning the next quarter, I’ll review what’s working and what’s not from the first 6 we tried and figure out which of the other 6 I want to work on next.

Again, you’ll notice that with each of these, I may not accomplish the entire year’s goal with the first few steps, but I’m making progress forward, so I stay on track with where I need to end up on December 31st.

Another way to approach this is to take each goal and make a list of everything that needs to happen in order to accomplish it. It may be clear cut like the half marathon goal…pick a race, find a training plan, get running shoes (after consulting websites like shoehero) and clothes, etc. Or it may be a goal like grow email list to 10,000 which has a specific finish line but there are a lot of different ways you could arrive there. In that case, you may want to do a brain dump and write down every possible action you could try to help you reach that goal. It doesn’t mean you’re going to do them all or focus on them all at the same time (not possible), but you’ll at least figure out what some possible routes are to reach that goal.

4. Focus On This Week

So we’ve established what goals we want to accomplish and what we need to do in the next 90 days to get there. Now we can zoom in a little closer and figure out what this week looks like.

Keep in mind here, I’m not worried at this point about the full 365 days or even the next 90 days. I’m just looking at this week. What needs to happen this week to move the ball forward on this quarter’s goals? That’s all I’m interested in.

Within Evernote, I’ll review my 90 day goals and make a list of 5-10 big actions that need to take place this week in order to make progress.

Let me give you the example for this week (I am traveling/speaking on Thurs/Fri of this week, so I have to factor that into what I schedule)…

  1. Podcast & Email list (this is a standing task for every week. We have new podcast episodes that come out on Tuesdays and Thursdays and an email to our list on Tuesdays. So I need to make sure everything is ready for these.)
  2. Write 2015 goals post/focus (that’s the post you’re reading now!)
  3. Speaking course (this is a new course we want to work on that you saw listed under business goals. Each sub point is something that needs to happen this week to move the ball forward on the goal.)
    1. Finalize course outline
    2. Start outlining modules
    3. Have Kelsey create logo/Keynote template
    4. Have Jeff start on Keynote lessons
  4. Make outline of changes for site (to help with the 10k email list goal, we need to make some changes to our site, so I need to start by figuring out what those changes need to be. Notice, I’m not making all the changes yet…I just need to make an outline of what the changes could be.)
  5. Make list of Jeff’s goals for Jan (Jeff is someone on my team who helps with some of our web and marketing tasks. I need to make a list of what I need him to focus on for this month.)
  6. Make content calendar for Q1 (You saw one of the goals is to write 30 posts for the year, so I need to map out when those will happen and some possible topics we might cover. Again, I’m not planning the entire year or even starting to write all of these posts. I’m just making a rough calendar of what will happen when.)
  7. Make list of new show titles for each episode (To help with the 10k downloads per episode goal, one of the tasks I came up with was to change the titles of all the episodes and see what effect that has. But in order to do that, I need to make a list of what I want to change all the titles to.)
  8. Schedule 2 giveaways for Q1 (This is for the 10k email list goal. We did a few giveaways at the end of last year to help grow our email list, so I’d like to schedule two giveaways for this first quarter.)
  9. Make outline of email sequence for CC (This is also to help with the 10k email list goal. We want to create an email course to help promote our recently launched Clarity Course. I don’t need to write it all this week. Just get a rough outline down.)

As you can see, each big task I want to accomplish for the week is tied to my 90 day goals which are tied to my annual goals. I’m continually breaking down each goal to get closer to what I need to work on right now in order to move forward.

NOTE: To see how I plan out and structure my actual days, I wrote a post recently called How I Organize My Week To Get A Lot Done. You need to read that puppy. A few final thoughts on planning your year…

  • Begin with the end in mind

    This is a principle Stephen Covey talks about in his popular book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Figure out what you want your December 31st to look like and work backwards from there.

  • The path to accomplishing some goals may be clearer than others

    You may know exactly what you need to do to accomplish every goal. That’s okay. I’ve got a list of bunch of different things I’m going to try to increase our podcast to 10k downloads per episode. Will they all work? Not sure. Will some work better than others? Most likely. But we’re going to start to take action and see what unfolds from there.

  • You may not reach all of your goals

    Last year I accomplished about 80% of the goals I wrote down. Does that make last year a failure? Does it even make it a ‘B-‘ grade kind of year? Not at all. If you accomplish all of your goals, you probably weren’t pushing yourself hard enough. You should have a mixture of goals. Some that you know you’ll accomplish (but still require some effort) and others that may feel just outside the realm of possibility. You need both to push you!

  • Focus more on this week/today than the full year

    Once I set my annual goals, I actually only look them a few other times throughout the year. I mainly only look at them when I’m planning each quarter. Why? Because I don’t want to get distracted on the rest of the year. I want to focus on what I’m doing today that is making progress towards the full year. The same idea is true when running. I’m not thinking about running a 13.1 mile race. I’m just focused on running to that next stop sign.

  • Write everything down

    I can’t emphasize this strongly enough. Writing down not only your goals but the actions you’ll take to achieve them makes a huge difference. Not only in keeping you focused, but it helps you to see how far you’ve come. I keep all of my previous weeks’ tasks in the same Evernote file, so I can scroll back through and see what all I’ve done. It’s motivating to see the progress you make.

  • Have fun

    The point of goal setting isn’t to stress yourself out with what you will or won’t accomplish. The point is be intentional about how your year will go, so you’re proud of what the last 365 days looked like when you arrive at December 31st.

Make no mistake about it…we’re all going to arrive at December 31st this year. You’re either going to be insanely proud of the year or ridiculously disappointed in how you slacked off. No one else can control how you feel on December 31st but you. But in order to experience that feeling of pride, you must have an intentional plan about where you’re headed and how you’re going to get there.

I’ve created a checklist of all the main points from this article and also included my goals so that you can make 2015 your best year yet! Download the checklist below.

Image via: David Yu

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