Readers, I hope this post finds you well! Typically, the start of a new year brings renewed enthusiasm for planning and setting goals as we look ahead to a hopeful 12 months ahead. However, like many of us, many of my goals invariably get adjusted or even discarded by March as the gusto I felt in early January wears off. And, at least in previous years, this happened before this whole COVID-19 pandemic was a thing. Never mind that whole presidential insurrection thing. Serious though that situation is, it’s important for us to define and work out all of the things that we want to accomplish this year.
Goal-setting in uncertain times
With the start of the decade gone horribly wrong, I’m sure many of you saw your dreams and plans get modified (or in some unfortunate cases, crumble entirely) due to the pandemic, the political disaster unfolding across the country, or something else. And the upcoming year can still feel very uncertain, especially to those of us living in places that have not gotten the virus under control yet. All of this makes it very understandable that you might refrain from setting any goals for 2021. But before you dismiss goal-setting in light of all the unpredictability, hear me out, dear reader! I have found that goal-setting can actually be beneficial right now, not only to rescue your productivity, but also your sanity. The most easily achieved goals:
- Must be manageable (pie-in-the-sky ideas are great thought experiments, but saying, “I will dig a tunnel to the center of the moon in 2021” is perhaps unrealistic).
- Must be well-defined. A beginning and an end.
- Should have readily-identifiable milestones within them. What happens between here and there? How do we keep track of that?
As many of us have experienced while working from home, not having to wake up at a certain time to go into the workplace has caused our schedules to slip. Certainly, an area that I had slipped-up a lot in was my sleep schedule, and because of that, my working hour start times. I had been staying up later than usual due to the lack of a hard start time for my job (thanks Nat!), with the extra hours spent scrolling the Internet or gaming on my computer (doomscrolling is very popular these days). This then led me to sleeping in later, skipping my morning routines, and eventually starting work much later than I should. It kept on snowballing as I woke up and went to bed later and later, till I was eventually sleeping at 5am and waking up around noon.
To reset and get back to a healthier sleep schedule this year, I set myself a personal goal of starting work in the morning and thus, going to bed earlier at night. To help achieve this, I also set a related goal of refraining from using any electronic devices half an hour before bed (blue light filters aren’t an excuse!). It was hard to make the switch initially as I was used to scrolling through Instagram and Facebook while laying in bed, but I managed to make it work by gradually adjusting over the first three days of the year. And look what gorgeous views I was rewarded with when I woke up early yesterday!
Anyway, back to our main topic. A related goal that I set for this year was reducing the time I spend online. With the whole quarantine situation and having to work from home, I don’t often have a choice (especially if I am to keep producing content for this site 😉). But whenever I’m not working and have some spare time on hand, my goal this year is to take the opportunity to spend the time on my hobbies or my with my loved ones instead. I want to get outside more and focus on those around me rather than bury my nose in my phone all the time. To help with this, I bought myself a DIY kit during the post-Christmas sales to work on while I’m stuck at home. It’ll let me make use of the woodworking skills I picked up during my summer internship at the Grinnell Maker Lab, and also hopefully learn some new metalworking skills too!
Crafting things with your hands is not only a great way to exercise different parts of your brain, it’s also a welcome change from doomscrolling all day.
Even though it can be hard to define goals clearly, setting the right goals is the easy part. Putting them into action and sticking with them is tougher. After setting your goals, you have to make sure that you actually follow through with them. This is why coming up with goals that are within your control and you can actually achieve is so important.
This way, you won’t sink into feeling that there’s nothing to look forward to, and spiral into pessimism and hopelessness about your present and future (unfortunately, this was me for the better part of 2020, and it was all too easy– why bother being efficient if the world is ending?). Trust in yourself and put in the work necessary to achieve your goal. Achieving them will provide you a sense of accomplishment and a hit of dopamine (and, of course, a pretty picture to post online!). And having a goal to focus on and work towards can also be an excellent distraction from agonising about all the things in the world that you have no control over. The point is, let’s go make some goals– and make 2021 a great year.