Against-The-Grain-Advice for 2024

This may sound nuts, but it works wonders. Put your New Year on a rocketship and make the new start count. But do it the right way:

Part 1: Don’t just pick one — pick 15 goals.

Try to do 1 a month. Instead of piling one impossible thing on another to get done all in January, you get the whole year.

Why not 12? You’re not going to get to them all. You are allowed to fail at some of them. Having a cushion means putting in a few that are difficult to reach. But how do you decide what to put on the list?

Part 2: Start in February.

That’s right, spend January formulating your goals. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth thinking about. What are they? I suggest:

  • 5 new things. These are new for 2024 and can be anything. Getting a new job, a new relationship, a new car, reading 40 books, whatever.
  • 5 overdue things. A really good thing to put here is things you’ve been putting off for years, like painting the house, making a will, or getting wisdom teeth extracted.
  • 5 lifestyle things. These pertain to you and your present and future. Lots of thinkers go here.

Some overlap. Getting a better job may fall into all 3.

Part 3: Build Better Goals

You’re going to do these things. So don’t go crazy. You may want to lose 25 pounds but just a number isn’t going to really motivate or get knock-on effects.

So, instead of ‘lose 20 pounds’ or ‘get in shape,’ create a goal that manifests that. Like, ‘Run a 10K the whole way ‘ or ‘Look great in the beach pics on Facebook.’

This goes against the usual workplace advice that begs you to be luridly specific and numbers-based the whole way through. But we’re trying to improve your life, not help your boss hit his OKRs. I’m not against objective goals, but if the end state is subjective, it depends on you being relentlessly honest with yourself at the end.

An example I had was the banal-sounding ‘get custom Holiday cards out this year’. Doesn’t sound like much. But think about that: it means that during the holidays, I had to budget enough time and be organized enough to design a real folded card, get it printed in time to send, get everyone’s current addresses, and actually get it out the door. This goal focused me on being highly organized for the holidays, which spread to everything else.

[Note that being too organized at the holidays sucked a little of the fun out of the season for me. Your mileage may vary.]

Part 4: Use January to Evaluate Last Year and Set up Next Year

What did you hit? What did you miss? Why? Be honest with yourself because nobody else is grading this. This also allows you to take some actual time.

The Rules

They’re simple enough but let you take much more comprehensive ownership of your year. It may seem like work, but it’s work that is 100% for you and by you. The Goals are not here to make your boss look good or make your in-laws happy. It’s all about what you want to do and achieve. So the guidelines are:

  1. It’s 15 goals, so you can mega-stretch on three and may fail that many (20%). This reinforces that we know we are not perfect but will still strive for it. Have them ready by February 1st.
  2. The expected rate is 12 goals in 12 months — not a goal per month. You may hit them all on December 15. This is a marathon. Planning the objectives that achieve the goals is up to you, and that’s part of the challenge.
  3. Keep track in a notes app, a journal, or a spreadsheet. It is even better to reflect weekly on how you’ve worked on each.
  4. Ultimately, you’re graded 10 points for hitting the goal but nothing else for halfway. So, the max score is 120, but most people who have done this average 82. There’s no partial credit because yearlong goals aren’t about going halfway. However:
  5. Technicalities count! If you want a new job but get laid off and get another job six months later, you didchange jobs. Counting technicalities helps us consider the randomness of our lives — it’s amazing how many people won’t take a win when it’s handed to them.
  6. Relentless honesty. Spend the first half of January looking back at the prior year’s goals. You must be honest, even brutal, with yourself. Were some goals too easy? Were they too hard? Did you get blocked, or did you really just drop the ball? Ultimately, don’t forget to celebrate your wins, move the unfinished to the ‘to do’ for next year, and get going!

I could write a whole book about this, and I probably will (It’s one of my goals). But I still need to, so there’s no shameless plug in here except to put some thought into your 2024 and follow or connect to me!