If 2020 was a calendar (which, yes, I recognize it was), it was full of ripped, tear-stained, scratched-out pages, that were then covered in white-out, rewritten on, then scratched out again. When I ordered my 2021 calendar in October, I removed its packaging with the precision of a heart surgeon. I flipped through the crisp, clean, scribble-free pages and breathed in that fresh calendar smell — you know the one, it’s equal parts school-supply nostalgia and opportunity.
I spent March-December 2020 blaming everything on this black cat, broken mirror of a year, filled with flushed vacation plans and leaky ceilings to minor things, like burning my tongue on that first sip of Monday coffee. I made it a verb: “She walked in and made a 2020 out of the situation.” I made it an excuse: “…because 2020.” But blaming everything on the year is so 2020. There is nothing but pages of potential ahead of us as we face a new year. I don’t know about you, but I need a win right now. So, instead of lofty New Year’s resolutions that depend on things out of our control, I’m honing in on practical and tangible goals that I can accomplish with or without a cooperative year (but seriously, you better act right, 2021).
Short-Term 2021 Goals
Why do we need short-term goals? For one, they keep us on track to reach bigger, overarching goals. Additionally, if we can take one lesson away from 2020, it’s that planning doesn’t guarantee execution. We have no idea what is going to happen next, so give yourself some slack. Take it slow because we’re still healing from 2020. Some short-term goals you can set for yourself:
- Reading two books each month
- Reaching a weekly exercise goal (minutes, miles, reps, etc.)
- Adhering to a weekly or bimonthly budget (excluding emergency expenses)
- Tackling one home improvement project or closet cleanout each month
- Setting deadlines for updating your resume or applying for jobs (Notice this isn’t an “I’ll have a job by March” situation — this only applies to what is in your power to make that happen.)
- Checking in with extended family once a week
- Doing laundry every Tuesday
- Doing one family activity each weekend (This, too, is flexible. It could be an outdoor hike if conditions permit, or it could be a game night at home. The point is quality time, anywhere.)
- Hitting a daily step goal on your fitness tracker
- Sending four handwritten, snail mail notes each month
- Trying something new each month
Write your goals down so you can hold yourself accountable and check them off as you reach each goal. Remember to give yourself flexibility in your goal setting. Leaving things open for adjustment, like the “family time” or “job application” examples, gives you wiggle room to adjust to your surroundings. This will also allow you to still reach your goal if things get sticky, rather than abandoning it.
Long-Term 2021 Goals
You won’t catch me making any resiliency goals in 2021. I worked on my patience, flexibility and resilience enough in 2020 — I’m going to leave myself alone for a while and put out the little fires around me that sprang up while I was hanging onto our COVID-19 OCONUS-to-CONUS PCS for dear life.
Your long-term 2021 goals don’t have to be met until 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2021 (although, certainly feel free to crush them earlier). They can be the big-picture umbrella over a series of short-term goals, or be a stand-alone goal for you to accomplish, again, with or without the cooperation of 2021.
If you have a long-term goal unrelated to any short-term goal on your list, consider creating little checkpoints so you don’t procrastinate losing 30 pounds or reading 50 books until Dec. 26. Sincerely, as a fellow procrastinator, here are a few example checkpoints:
- Read 24 books this year.
- Make eight of the books you read applicable to your career field of interest for some voluntary professional development.
- Reach a year-end fitness goal (run a marathon, run a race — even if it’s virtual — as a family).
- Set a weight-loss goal.
- Complete a certification or degree plan (with online programs, there’s no excuse).
- Drop an unhealthy habit.
- Save a set, attainable dollar amount by the end of the year.
- Try 12 new things throughout the year.
Find Your Fit
Obviously, these are just a series of suggestions. Only you know where you can expand yourself and which improvements you’re ready to make. Set realistic goals, and —like I said— we’re still bruised from 2020’s shenanigans, so go easy on yourself. If you have to start small while you get your momentum back, do it!