For about the past 25 years, Thanksgiving weekend has been the four most important days of my year. Not only do I love everything about Thanksgiving (the food, the family and friends, the pervasive feeling of gratitude regardless of circumstances), but for me it's the most natural time to take stock of where I'm at relative to my goals and to get a jump on the coming year.
If you have a four-day weekend this weekend, make the most of it by sketching out what you'd like to see in your life in the coming year. For me, this weekend has always been a good time for reflection, and I always come out of this weekend energized to hit my goals.
I prefer this weekend to later in December for a number of reasons. If you wait until the week between Christmas and New Years, I find that the goals you produce will be more resolution-oriented than actual goals (and we all know how most resolutions work out). Trying to sit down and reflect on this stuff during the pre-holiday madness that is December also isn't conducive to thoughtful planning, at least from what I've found. Using the four days around Thanksgiving enables you to take the necessary time to think everything through, and also gives you the jump on your new goals so you're not facing January 1st from a standing start.
The Tools I Use
Most of the people I've known in finance are pretty goal oriented. I thought I'd share with you guys today the current framework I use to set my goals and measure my success against them. I've used many different things over the years, from pen and ink in a notebook to different goal setting apps, but these are the tools I currently use:
There are lots of ways to measure progress year over year (or throughout the year). This is the one I currently use. It's free, and is provided by Michael Hyatt (of whom some of you may already be aware). Yes, it's a pain in the ass to sign up for his newsletter to get the download link, but the tool is definitely worth it and you can immediately unsubscribe if you want:
It's hard to figure out where you're going if you don't know where you're starting from, so that's why you should start with this tool. You assign a score to the various aspects of your life that you want to measure, and it spits out an aggregate score which is nice to keep track of throughout the year (I do it quarterly). It's best to be brutally honest with yourself on this one to establish a baseline. From there it's just a matter of implementing strategies to improve your scores.
This is the tool I use to plan the upcoming year. It's provided by Chris Guillebeau (of whom some of you may already be aware). This one you can download without signing up for anything, so that's cool. Here is the link:
Generally, I'll structure my goals around the areas measured in the LifeScore Assessment, and what I think will improve the scores. This probably goes without saying, but it's important to assign completion dates to your goals (or to the measurable stages within your goals). It's cliche, but true: a goal is just a dream with a deadline. Without the deadline, it's too nebulous.
Side Hustle Goals
If you don't have a side hustle, now is the time to plan one for 2017. The economy is way too uncertain to derive all your income from a single source. I probably sound like a broken record because I've been saying this on WSO for over eight years now, but you'll never be independent until you diversify your income - no matter how well paid you are.
Make your goals SMART
SMART goals are en vogue right now, though it's more or less the same way successful goal setting has always been done. In order to be a SMART goal, the goal needs to be
- Realistic, and
In other words, don't just say, "I want to make more money." Make it specific. "I want to make $150,000 in 2017." Make it measurable. "I need to make $3,000 a week." Make it actionable. "I need to make $2,500 a week at work, and another $500 a week on my side hustle." Is this realistic? Yes or no. If not, make it realistic. Make it time-bound. "I need to measure my progress at the end of each month."
That's just an example, and a boring one at that. I find my financial goals are usually the least interesting, but then I'll admit that I don't stretch much anymore. 25 years ago they were pretty much my only goals.
Have a great Thanksgiving
That should be enough to get you started if you're so inclined. I can say with complete confidence that my annual goal setting weekend has had the biggest impact on the successes I've enjoyed over the years. If you don't already have a goal setting habit, I'd encourage you to give it a try this weekend.
Have a fantastic turkey day. If you're outside the US, then I apologize for the Amero-centric holiday timing of this post, but use this week to set your 2017 goals even if you don't celebrate the holiday.
I'd love to hear some of the goals you guys have in mind for the coming year. I think I'm due for some pretty major changes, so I'm looking forward to mapping it all out when I come out of my turkey coma.
Let me know if you give the tools a try and how they worked out for you.