If you are anything like me, you probably set goals at the beginning of every year and by the time February rolls around, you cannot even remember what they were. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are sitting at home with nothing to do (except neglect coursework and studying for the finals that are quickly approaching… Yeah, I’m looking at you.) So this is the perfect opportunity to reflect on the goals you set for yourself at the beginning of the year (or set some if you did not) and modify ones you need to.
Last December, while I was searching for the best ways to set goals for 2020 and actually keep up with them, I came across this video — it explains a unique way of setting goals by dividing the year into quarters and focusing on a few specific goals per quarter. I modified the process to fit my needs, and so far, it has worked great for me – so I am going to share what I did, and what I have learned so far.
First, look back at the goals you set for yourself at the start of the year and modify any you may need to. If you did not make a list at the beginning of the year or want to start fresh now, go ahead and make one. These goals can be skills you want to learn, habits you want to incorporate into your life or something you want to improve on academically. Think of anything and everything you want to accomplish in the year. Your list can be as long as you want — this is just the initial brainstorming process.
The second step is to divide the year out into four quarters consisting of three months each. Setting goals at the beginning of the year can be daunting. Having a whole year ahead of you to complete something gives you plenty of time to procrastinate and eventually forget about the goal altogether. Dividing the year into quarters makes accomplishing goals less intimidating and allows you to see what progress you have made. For example, your year would be divided like this:
Quarter 1: January-March
Quarter 2: April-June
Quarter 3: July-September
Quarter 4: October-December
Now, it’s time to pick the goals that you want to accomplish for the upcoming quarter. I personally divide my goals out into three categories: personal, academic and health. This way I have three goals that cover different aspects of my life. You can choose any goals you want from your list, but try to limit to about three to five, that way you are not overwhelmed during one quarter.
For example, my only health goal for the first quarter of 2020 was to drink at least 64 ounces of water per day. Drinking more water throughout the day has become more of a habit now, so my new health goal for quarter two is to incorporate more plant-based meals and more fresh fruits and vegetables into my diet. If you are setting goals now, try to think of goals that you can still do during this period of social distancing. I chose healthy eating because now that I am not going to class and work every day, I have more time to plan meals and experiment in the kitchen.
After you’ve written three to five goals for the quarter, write down the steps you can take or habits you need to change to achieve these goals. This will help you physically see the changes you need to make. Don’t stress yourself out too much about this part — it does not have to be too detailed, just enough to keep you on track during the quarter.
For instance, last quarter, my steps to drink more water were:
1. take my water bottle with me wherever I go;
2. drink a glass of water as soon as I wake up in the morning and before bed.
This quarter, my steps for incorporating more plant-based meals into my diet are:
1. plan meals for the upcoming week each Saturday;
2. make at least two plant-based dinners per week;
3. eat at least one fruit and vegetable per day.
Finally, the most important step: make sure you write your goals down somewhere you can see them! Write them in a journal or hang them by your desk. Put them somewhere you look often, that way you can remember what they are and stay accountable for them. I put my goals in my journal, which I look at weekly. I also created themed spreads that make my goals more exciting to look at and motivate me to keep going!
At the end of the day, setting goals for yourself is an ongoing process because you are constantly evolving and growing. It is beneficial to look at your goals often and make sure you are on track, but it is also healthy to modify them when you need to. This time of uncertainty can be stressful, and you may be hesitant to think about the future. If you can, I encourage you to use your newfound free time to reflect on the year so far and prepare yourself for the rest of it. This is not the end; we will get through this and you have plenty of time to accomplish the things you want to do. The best is yet to come.