the middles p. kim bui 1
the middles p. kim bui 1

The Lookahead And Setting HARD Goals For 2019

It’s 2019 and we can say 2018 (which was a trainwreck for most of us) is officially behind us.

I’ve spent the last few weeks mulling my 2019 goals, both professional and personal. I try to set goals as opposed to resolutions, because goals tend to feel more concrete and achievable. Plus, around this time of year, you’re also asked for your goals for your team.

This is the (work-in-progress) process I have for yearly goalsetting.

Step One: Spend some time reviewing, so you can forecast.

Last year, I started a new practice, partially spurred by some discussions with my therapist on why I always live in the future and rarely stay present.

I downloaded the YearCompass (I might also try the Word of the Year worksheet), which I think was recommended by Alexandra Samuel. It’s a little booklet that takes a couple hours to complete. It asks you questions about the year past and what you want for thenew year. I found it really helpful to get a cup of tea, play some Feist, and think back. Thequestions are probably similar to the Ink+Volt planner or the Panda Planner, which has you do that weekly. I can only manage yearly so far.

Step Two: SMART goals are HARD goals.

Many leadership seminars and sites will have you set SMART goals. Smart being: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time-bound. There are a couple really good worksheets for SMART goals, and there’s a couple particularly good reads on how managers can set SMART goals that align with company goals.

Last time around I did find myself falling into the trap of setting far too attainable goals because I hate disappointing myself. So I’m also thinking of HARD goals (Heartfelt, Animated, Required and Difficult) to make sure I’m pushing myself.

This year, I’m trying to set a mix of very ambitious goals, with very attainable ones.

Step Three: Mull it over.

I actually wrote down my goals in December (partially prompted by a request from my boss), but since then I’ve adjusted and rewritten them. Part of it is because I want to make sure my goals fit broader goals and that they align in with the goals of my team.

Goals should roll up into a delicious cinnamon bun of achievement, and there shouldn’t be goals that don’t help achieve bigger things. That’s the part of OKRs (Google’s goal setting, Objectives and Key Results) that I tend to want to stick with.

Step Four: Break it down.

One of the worksheets I linked above has you break your big goals down into actionable steps and then has you outline what you need (resources) and what might be hard (challenges).

I’m a bit of a worst-cast scenario person so it helps me to look at the possible failure points before I start in on something. It’s kind of negative, I know, but I’m comforted by it.

Step Five: Check in.

I have mentioned before that my notebook system is a Foxy Fix Traveler’s Notebook with a version of the Strike-Thru method.

This year, I added a monthly planner and this week, I’m going to write down a check in day for myself to see how things are going as well as add a little section with my goals and the breakdown steps for each. This is actually more appropriate for my personal goals (Meet new people! Say no more often! Send the Middles on an actual schedule!), but it works for work stuff, too. One of my favorite people, Sabrina Hersi Issa calls the day to check in and get shit done a “personal inventory day.” It’s the perfect idea.

Alternately, I have had an accountability partner before (Hi Mariko!), which has worked really well for my writing goals in the past.

What are your goal-setting tips? I will gather up ideas and make a resource page for us!

About the author

P. Kim Bui

P. Kim Bui is the editor-at-large for NowThis News, focusing on original, social reporting and breaking news. Prior to NowThis, she was deputy managing editor for, a digital media startup specializing in social journalism. Her career has focused on leading breaking news initiatives and new storytelling forms for local, national and global audiences.

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