How I Use My Notebooks: Yearly Goals (Resolutions)

Near the end of one year and the beginning of another various articles and podcasts about New Year resolutions start popping up. They either give tips on how to make resolutions, debunk resolutions in favour of something else, and almost all of them try to sell you something.

This post is about how I create yearly goals (i.e. resolutions), using things that I already have, in a way that has worked for me since 2015.

I wrote about the way I do “New Years Resolutions” in the past. I call them that because I like the non-business ring of “resolution” over the “business-jargon” sounding goal. My “resolutions” are, however, S.M.A.R.T. goals: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. I manage them using the least used notebook that I had lying around (a Baron Fig Confidant), and whichever pen I have at hand. They aren’t made for instagram, rather I use my plain ugly handwriting, and what marking are on the page are there because they’re useful. Over the past five years I’ve attained about 90% of what I set out to achieve, with even an annus horribilis like 2018 not putting me too much off track. My goals are tiered, much like Kickstarter stretch goals, with most goals having a fairly easily attainable first tier, just in case life decides to kick me in a tender place.

I’m going to go over this year’s goals, and last year’s goals (apart from a few that I’ve censored for privacy’s sake). I know that February is usually the month when people give up on their resolutions. I hope that this post will help and inspire people to give yearly goals or resolutions a chance.

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My 2020 resolutions

Above you can see my 2020 resolutions. A lot of them are things that appear in almost every year. The professional goals are all new (I didn’t manage my professional goals with my personal goals until this year, and even now only a small part of my professional goals are here). 

Every goal at this point only has the basic, first tier goals set beside it. The first three goals for example, all reading related, will eventually have stretch goals. They’re interesting to note here because back in 2016 I only had one reading goal: read 24 books. Once I got back into the habit of reading, I started to challenge myself with longer and more challenging books. These are all my base reading goals. I usually stretch them to around 50 books a year.

Why don’t I start with 50 books then? Because the point of these goals is to build myself up for success. The basic goals are the “even if I have a horrible year I should be able to reach these” goals. They are there to remind me that there’s a tomorrow, and something I can and should do about that tomorrow, even if a family member is hospitalized (or worse). The stretch goals are then built in small increments, reaching to my my final goal for the year.

Why don’t I write my stretch goals down from the start? Because the point is to keep myself focused on the next small step. That’s why things are broken down to the smallest increment that makes sense: one book, 10k, one month.

There’s a reason for each goal on this spread. I won’t go into each one specifically, but they all fall into the following general categories:

  • Read more.
  • Write more (my writing goals are censored, because if I publish them, I won’t do them. I know myself well enough by now).
  • Use the stuff I own.
  • Challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone.
  • Social goals (partly censored).
  • Health goals (running, cross-training, bloodwork, dentist visits).
  • Professional goals (partial list).

Everything has to fit in on a two page spread, or I lose track of things. That’s why I spill over to other pages in the same notebook to track some of the details of my goals:

Tracking page for fountain pens, ink, tea and pencils.

Here are my 2019 resolutions. A pink check mark means that the basic goal is finished. You can see the increments things grow by (my stretch goals):

2019 resolutions

You may have noticed that the “fill triggers” goal isn’t filled up at all. This is the “relevant” part of the S.M.A.R.T. goals. I used the trigger system from Marshal Goldsmith’s “Triggers” book for a few months in 2018, and I decided at the beginning of 2019 to not continue with it. It was a conscious decision, and so I just ignored that goal. 

Here are my 2019 “spill” pages, just to get an idea of how the whole thing works together:

10 different fountain pen inks. Can you see where the stretch goal is marked?

Here are pencils, fountain pens, notebooks and races tracking:

And my largest tracking list, books:

The Baron Fig Confidant that holds this list has a bright cover and sits right in front of me, on my desk, at all times. I set up my goals that at every day or two I crack the notebook open and update the lists. Once there, I scan everything and check if there’s something that I can do to get it done. The point is to have this list on the top of my mind as much as possible, or else I’ll just forget about it, or it becomes something that I avoid checking out.

This is a system that supports me every day, giving my goals and aspirations much needed structure. I hope that this will help you build a personal system of this kind for yourself.  

How I Use My Notebooks: Yearly Goals (Resolutions)

How I Use My Notebooks: Running Planner

The thing that you learn very quickly about running is that no matter which Couch to 5k plan you started with, if you want to have any hope of persisting with your running you are going to have to tailor make your own running plan.

I make a fresh plan every three months or so, and I always create it in my current Moleskine journal. In the spirit of showcasing notebooks in use, that are not created for Instagram, this is my latest running plan:

Things are penciled in with an H pencil, and I ink them in with gel ink pens as they happen. Green highlighted blocks show me where things went according to plan, and other blocks represent where things had to change due to injuries or circumstances.

I’ve been running for 8 years now, and I have around 6 years of running plans in all my previous notebooks, each one looking pretty much the same: messy and functional.

How I Use My Notebooks: Running Planner

This week’s long run: how to run when you really don’t want to

My mom has some very serious health problems, and that (coupled with some travel) has  made me put my running on a two week haitus. Except for an “angry run” of 4k that turned into 6k, I haven’t been lacing up lately, and that’s not good.

Yesterday I put in a 4k, and as usual after a break, it was pretty rough. Not as rough as I knew this morning’s run would be. It was scheduled to be a 10k, but I dropped it to a 7k, knowing that all things considered even that would be a challenge. I would have to fight my lizard brain all the way through this one, so I would have to use all the tricks I had to get through it:

Trick #1: Remove all obstacles to getting out the door. For me that meant setting an alarm, setting out my workout clothes, and charging my headphones the night before.

Trick #2: Promise yourself something nice once you complete the run. For me it was breakfast at my favourite cafe.

Trick #3: Distraction, distraction, distraction. This is the most important thing, and why I chose a new route, and I saved my favourite podcast (Do By Friday) for this run.

Trick #4: Give yourself a break. I allowed myself to stop for breaks, so long as they were only for a few seconds, and I went right back to running again. I needed to decide this in advance so I wouldn’t feel bad about taking the breaks that I knew that I would need. The point was not to beat myself up for something that couldn’t be helped.

It worked, and I got rewarded with some pretty nifty new views:

Get out there and run. You can crush it, no matter what the little lizard says.

This week’s long run: how to run when you really don’t want to