My Yearly Goal Planning Process + Why You Should Copy It

The end of the year is my favorite time of year.

Sure I love the holidays but what really fires me up is my annual goal planning process.

If you get to know me you will see how much I love goals and how important they are in my life.

I am a HUGE believer in always having a clear purpose and direction with where you are going in life.

I tried and failed numerous times with setting goals and would become discouraged and depressed when I didn’t accomplish what I said I was going to do. I have bought numerous journals to help with this but always gave up on them. I felt like a failure and like something was wrong with me. I felt stuck. But it turns out it wasn’t the goals but rather HOW I was setting up the goals that were the problem.

In this post, I want to share with you my yearly goal planning and why you should copy it.

Let’s begin

Start with a blank piece of paper

On that piece of paper divide it into 5 sections. Right the following words in each of the corners…faith, family/friends, financial, freedom, and fitness like the image below

How I write out my goals

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Take 15-20 minutes and quietly reflect on these areas of your life. What is missing? What do you want to accomplish? What is something you have always dreamed of doing?

Write down these ideas into the categories they closely align with.

The freedom goal one might be a little confusing for you but it’s basically anything you would do if you had more time. It could be things like

  • Travel to a specific location you have always wanted to see
  • Start a business you always wanted to start
  • Write a book
  • Find a new hobby
  • Etc.

You don’t have to have a ton of ideas in each category. Some years you will be focused on your family and others you will be focused on your finances. That is perfectly normal.

The purpose of breaking these into categories is to think about everything that could potentially make you happy and make you feel accomplished for the year.

If you don’t have faith, that is totally okay. You can either skip that part of my process or put down something that is educational like read a book about Edison’s light bulb.

Tip: try and let the ideas flow with little effort, what I mean is write things without thinking too hard, this should feel natural and some of the ideas might surprise you, don’t edit or think anything is “dumb”. Be honest with yourself and don’t hesitate to write crazy ideas down.

Challenge your thoughts

After you have your list of thoughts it’s time to dig into them a little deeper. Think about your motivations behind some of these ideas. Do you truly want that? Are you writing it down because it’s what society or your friends think you should have? What does your perfect day look like? Do these ideas fit your perfect day?

You get the idea.

Put a star next to 1 or 2 of the ideas in each category. From here we are going to thin the list even further.

Time to make our goals SMART

I am a huge believer in SMART goals. You have probably heard of the concept as it’s not new and certainly not something I came up with. But if you are ambitious and productive a SMART goal is the best way to ensure success.

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-Bound.

You need to write out each of the goals you put a star next to in the SMART goal framework.

Here is an example I did for one of my goals last year.

Goal: Pay off my credit card debt and enter 2018 with a $0 balance. This will allow me to tackle other debt and improve my credit score.

  • Specific – Yes I clearly state what I want to do. I didn’t say pay off all my debt but rather one piece of my debt equation.
  • Measurable – You bet, I know I will hit this goal when I log in to my bank app and see that beautiful number 0.
  • Actionable – Of course, I can calculate exactly when I will pay off my credit card and set up auto pay to make it happen.
  • Realistic – At the time I had about $3k in debt. I had autopay turned on to pay roughly $275/mo. I figured this out by dividing $3k by 12 months and building in a little buffer.
  • TimeBound – Yes I clearly stated that I wanted to enter 2018 with $0 in credit card debt.
  • BONUS: I like to put WHY I am going after this goal to remind me.

So as you can see from this example my goal was clearly defined and actionable. In previous years I probably would have written down a goal like “Pay off my credit card.”

If I failed it wouldn’t be a surprise because I don’t say why I want to do it or when I will get it done.

Accountability is key ????

To me, this is the most important part of the process.

I use to write down my goals in a journal. That journal would get put away in a bookshelf and I would have to hunt it down at the end of the year to remember what I wrote down for my goals.

You can already see the problem. No wonder why I didn’t accomplish any of the goals.

In my experience, the biggest thing that dictates if you will be successful in hitting your goals is how accountable you are to your goals.

Here is what I do.

I write out my goals on a piece of presentation paper (so it’s nice and big) and I hang it on my office wall (right above my computer).

YES! I look at my goals every single day.

But what’s even more valuable about doing it this way is anyone that comes to my house sees that hanging on my wall (it’s also one of our guest bedrooms).

Everyone that comes to my house sees my goals. I have had more conversations started about my goals since putting them up on my wall. It shows that I have conviction when I talk passionately about them and it inspires others to share their goals. This forms a bond (especially when the goals are similar).

When I accomplish a goal I celebrate with my wife, share it on social media, and let everyone know that I am holding myself accountable to accomplishing what I say I am going to do.


My goals above my desk


The final step in my process is to reflect on my goals and write down how I feel about accomplishing or failing at some of my goals. I do this so I can look back at them and remember what I was struggling with, what I was excited about, and how important some of these goals were to me.

As with anything in life, your goals will change but this is a unique opportunity to capture a specific moment in time.

I typically don’t share my reflections because they are personal but it’s important to write something down before starting your next goal planning session.

Your turn

I hope this post inspired you to try my goal planning process. If you are reading this halfway through the year don’t worry…as the Chinese Proverb goes “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

Get your paper out and start writing down your goals.

If you feel like a failure or don’t have a clear direction in your life you can feel stuck. It sucks, trust me I know. But having goals can help you make the mental shift from… I don’t know, to I think I can, to I did it.

I know you have great things in store for you. I believe all you need are the right goals in place and the accountability system in place to get them done.

Give my process a try. What do you have to lose?

Drop me a comment if you have a goal planning process similar to mine or if you tried my process. I would love to hear how it went for you.

I hope you have an amazing holiday season and a great start to your 2018.

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About The Author – Alex

I am on a journey of personal growth. I love learning about investing strategies and ways to actively improve my life. Follow along and connect with me if you are looking for a path to financial freedom and becoming the best version of yourself.

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