Categories
Development

What to expect of your goals after 2 months in

A new year can bring excitement and hope for improvements. It’s easy to set ambitious resolutions, but we all know that success depends much more on how well you execute your ideas. How many of your goals have you completed after a couple of months? If you haven’t achieved what you had hoped at this point, you’re not alone. In this article, I share my own experience with tracking goals to help ease some of your anxiety and keep you away from giving up.

Completion is non-linear

I’ve been setting resolutions and tracking their completion for over ten years. The chart below shows my completion % for each month in the last five years. For readability reasons, I preferred not to include in this chart the data from 2012 to 2016, but I considered them for my analysis. The dotted line shows what the completion % would be if it were a linear function with 100% by Dec.

Goal completion rate per month from 2017 to 2022

The results over these years ranged from 46.74% (2012) to 67.56% (2017). After analyzing the data, I could identify a few interesting patterns:

  1. The completion rate was never linear and never evenly distributed: 2021 was the closest year to being linear. 2019 followed an S-shape. The median month-to-month variance was 5.13% (min = 0% and max = 15.88%) while an even distribution would expect 8.33%.
  2. High completion by January was not a good indicator of high annual completion: The year (2019) with the highest completion in Jan was only the fourth one with the highest annual rate (64.49%). The second-highest Jan completion (in 2018) turned out to be the second-worst year completion (53.51%). Similarly, low completion in January was not a good indicator of a low annual rate.
  3. Low completion by February was a better indicator for low annual completion: 2020 had the lowest completion rate in Feb and finished with the lowest year rate. The same happened for the second-lowest – 2018 – when it closed in Feb with 6.93% and in Dec with 53.51%. So far, my 2022 rate is only at 4.27%. It’ll be interesting to check in Dec this year if the Feb rate is a valid indicator.

100% is not realistic

By design, I’m not trying to reach 100%. I group my goals into personal and professional ones. On average, I set 25 goals per year.

Number of goals set per year by type

Within a group, I also identify if goals are 1) high-priority (land major benefits to me or my family and should be fully completed) or 2) stretch (still important, but I’m not going to dread if their completion rate is lower). This strategy challenges me while keeping the anxiety and stress at low levels. I could be aggressive, shoot for 100%, and put in the work to get them done. However, that’s not the point. I set goals to improve my life instead of hitting a number.

How you write your goals matters

Which one would be your pick?

  1. Read 24 books per year;
  2. Read two books per month.

And what about this?

  1. Work out three times a week;
  2. Work out 12 times a month.

If you’re tracking your goals monthly, you should write them in a way that leads to success. While reaching numbers is not the point, they can boost or deplete your motivation to keep going. It should also be clear what the benefit is of completing a goal.

In the first example, reading 24 books per year is better than reading two books per month. Lengthy books can take longer than a month to read. The benefits of reading (have fun, learn, or whatever you’re looking for) aren’t time-sensitive. You should claim that you accomplished 1/12 of your goal when you finish a book instead of thinking you failed to complete 1/12 of it for not reading a book in a given month.

In the second example, you’re more likely to achieve the benefits of working out (being healthier, feeling replenished, and so on) by spreading the exercises throughout the month. Even though it’s harder to have the discipline to work out three times a week, it would be a more appropriate goal than working out 12 times a month. You could hit the target, for instance, by frontloading the workouts at the beginning of the month, but that would defeat the actual purpose of it.

Conclusion

  • Goal achievement is not linear over the year, we will have bad months, but that shouldn’t be a reason to give up.
  • Set challenging goals but don’t expect to meet all of them. Set stretch goals knowing that you most likely won’t fully achieve them.
  • Break down your goals in meaningful chunks that could be accomplished over the year. Review how you wrote them and keep in mind the reason behind pursuing them.
  • Be honest with yourself but don’t be harsh.
Categories
Development

From a book per year to 20+

Reading was (very) boring when I was a teenager. I could never read more than a few pages without falling asleep. Literature exams were stressful since I used to either skim through the books or ask people around what the ‘story’ was about. It was just not my thing. Fast forward many years, and somehow I started enjoying reading. But what has changed? Maybe I just got old(er). Maybe not. Let me take you through what I believe drove change.

Understand why I disliked reading

When I was a kid, I used to read entertaining books at school. Then when I was 12 or so, I had to start reading classical ones. Written ages ago, those books were just not compelling to me. The language was archaic, and the stories were too introspective and sometimes cryptic. After years and years of having to deal with them, I couldn’t bear reading.

At that time, I didn’t realize that my problem wasn’t about reading. It was about the type of books that I was required to read.¬†Once I understood what was deterring me from books, I allowed myself to try new topics such as business development and psychology.

Set goals

Trying new topics was not enough though. I needed more activation energy to get me out of that get-this-book-out-here state. In my case, setting goals and challenging myself kicked off that change.

I’d been setting new year resolutions for several years, and it was time to set a goal for the number of books to read. The first year I set a goal of 12 books and read an impressive total of one. Not quite a success. I was being a bit unrealistic. The following year I set the goal to six and made it public using goodreads.com. Then it’s was not hidden in a private spreadsheet anymore. People could see it. I don’t think anybody looked at my challenge, but that pushed me anyway, and it made the difference.

Set a realistic goal, make it public, and find buddies or join reading clubs to make yourself accountable.

Read multiple books at the same time

Once I could read at least a few books per year, I had to be more efficient to double that quantity. I found that keeping multiple books in progress worked out great.

During the morning, I usually read a technical or development book. It can go from organizational culture to software architecture, but it’s about something that I want to retain to apply to my day-to-day job. At night, I prefer reading novels or something very light and entertaining. Those are books to have fun instead of accumulating knowledge.

I do recommend reading Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker to understand the reasoning behind this strategy.

Dedicate time to it

Unless you’re willing to dedicate time to reading, the previous tips won’t make a dent. I’m still looking for a book that makes my day longer than 24 hours. Since that didn’t happen yet, I had to choose what I was willing to give to allow for reading time.

Replacing screen time with reading time was the easy-to-pick-but-hard-to-implement choice. No phone after 9:30 PM and setting a resolution to do that at least five days a week was the way to go. That improved my sleep quality and freed up 5+ hours a week.

That helped with my novels, but what about the time to read those technical books during the day? Reserving 20 minutes/day before starting working addressed that issue. That’s almost 2 hours during weekdays.

By making these changes and adding the weekends to the equation, I could find around 10hs per week for reading. That was a game-changer.

Write about what you read

Writing about what I read happened to motivate me to read more. I was writing articles here and there on LinkedIn or on my blog to improve my communications skills. It turned out it had the pleasant side-effect of pushing me to finish books faster because I was excited to write about them. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an article. It could be a more involved review on GoodReads or Amazon.

Summary

  • Think about your past, bad experiences when reading and try to root-cause it;
  • Set goals and find ways to make you accountable;
  • Optimize your reading rate by keeping a couple of books in progress;
  • Eliminate wasted time to allow for reading;
  • Write about the books you’ve read;
  • and have fun!

Curious about what I’ve read in 2021? Check it out!