Giving Myself Something to Aim At

Setting myself goals has always been one of those things I’ve started doing but never been able to maintain. At the start of the new year there are always plenty of articles around setting goals or planning out your next 12 months. I normally take this time to write a list of lofty goals, which then end up somewhere forgotten and only serve as a reminder of all the things I didn’t get around to doing. For the last year however I’ve been trying a different approach. I started out with my initial list of goals, but have also set up a reminder to review them every couple of weeks. I take this time to reassess how I’m going with my goals, see if a certain goal needs amending or removing, or if I’ve got a new goal to add to the list.


This year I’ve updated my process a little more, taking a few cues from the OKR system we use at A Cloud Guru. The issue I was trying to address was seeing how I was tracking with any one goal. Marking something as ‘done’ was useful, but what about the goals that required me to do something weekly like writing a blog post or meditating? To help with this I’ve set up a little emoji system that lets me know how I’m tracking.

I mark all new goals with a white circle ⚪️, which I’m interpreting as an empty check mark and then any completed task get a nice green check mark ✅. Very straightforward. These were the two states I started with initially, but as you can see they don’t really allow for any indication of progress or how something is trending.

To give things a little more nuance I’ve added in three other states. Once something is no longer new and I’ve reviewed it around 2-3 times, I update the icon to indicate how I’m progressing. The upwards trending emoji 📈 is for when I’m meeting my goal but haven’t reached a ‘done’ state yet. Inversely, the downwards trending emoji 📉 is for when I’m not really sticking to my goal target. An example of where this would work is “Go surfing once a month”. I don’t want to have to wait until the end of the year to mark it as done or incomplete. If I’m making it into the water once a month then it would get the upwards trending emoji, once every 2-3 months then it would get the downwards trending emoji.

If things keep trending downwards, I’ve added in another state ‼️, which I use as a prompt to reconsider. If a goal spends too long in this state then I’ll think about whether it’s too ambitious or still relevant. Sometimes goals change and building in some flexibility helps me better stay on track. If I’ve not gone surfing once this year (which is currently the case) then chances are my priorities are elsewhere and I should reconsider changing it to something more achievable – or dropping it entirely.

Goals are a great way to remind yourself of what you want to achieve and deliver sense of accomplishment. Unfortunately they can also have the opposite effect when seen as a reminder of everything you didn’t do. Life changes constantly, and what is true today may not be true tomorrow. Revisiting your goals and adjusting them to what is currently happening in your life gives you the opportunity to focus on what really matters and help you grow, which is exactly what they should be doing.