Goals for 2016 / Tackling a New Year

There's a reason gyms are packed in January and empty months later. Many of us start the year with great intentions but few of us manage to stick to them. Much of the problem with that lies in flimsy promises and a lack of clear goals and objectives on the way.

In this post I outline my thinking and thought process for my goals for 2016, a reflection on last year's progress and what I plan to do about it.

Reflections on Last Year

I'm sure most of us, even briefly, have reflected on the events and progress of the previous year. How many of us, though, have figured out exactly why our last year didn't quite go to plan and realised how we can correct that behaviour next year?

Whether you need to change your habits or you just need to plan your lives and objectives better, we all need to take action otherwise we'll just repeat our past mistakes.

Analysis Paralysis

On my 2015 objectives & goals and reflections on whether I achieved them, I can safely say that I was nowhere near finishing everything I wanted to accomplish in 2015.

I often found that I lacked the energy to complete the tasks at certain times in the day (mostly evenings), but not just that, I found that I didn't know what to work on at times. This is known as analysis paralysis and is a common problem ambitious people suffer from. We have so many things we want to accomplish that we can't decide what to work on at any point in time.

However, it hasn't all been “doom and gloom.” Through forming habits I have managed to break old habits to form new ones. From creating a social media strategy that is automated or at least now forms a habit. To exercising at least 3-4 times every week for 7-15 minutes a day and changing my morning routine. I also read more regularly than ever before.

I would argue that starting the blog was the single most important thing I did last year. Blogging helps you have focus and because you've committed to blogging about something every week you always have to have goals and something new you can talk about. By focusing on one single aspect, I've found it can drive any number of different changes in your own personal behaviour.

Continuous Improvement

“Kaizen” the art of continuous improvement, is a strategy I adopted last year to help turn around my habits. By slowly adding new things to my routine I was able to change routines completely. Changing too many things at once can be demotivating, especially since it's highly unlikely we can make all those changes we want to in one go and still stick to it. If we have small wins, we can maintain our overall positivity.

If you want to achieve something in life, you have to be prepared to give up the things that don't benefit you or move you towards your goals. This is one of the cornerstone thoughts in book I read earlier last year, Your Money or Your Life.

The book suggests in relation to your finances that we work out where we spend our time, and quantify it as life energy (time + money). That way we can make an unbiased decision around what to drop. This is similar to what we need to do when working out what to concentrate on over the year. Naturally, being ambitious humans we want to do everything, but we can't. We're better off concentrating on only a handful of goals.

Goals for 2016

This brings me to my goals for 2016.

Before we start outlining our own goals, we need to think about where we want to be in 3-5 years time. Do we want to clear our debts? Save up for a wedding? Learn a particular skill? Reach a certain level in some discipline?

Whatever you want to do with your life over the next few years make sure you spend serious time thinking about them, and write them down. Warren Buffet has a “2 List” Strategy for Maximising Focus. One list contains your top 5 priorities with another 20 that contain An-Avoid-At-All-Costs list. You must have laser-like focus to achieve the things you want.

Major Milestone Goals

  • Release ebook for sale by end of June
  • 500 ebook sales by (end of Dec)
  • 2,000 Twitter followers on @developerangst
  • 200 views per day on blog (by end of 2016)
  • Read 3 books a month (1 technical, 1 recreational, 1 smart book)
  • Record 10 episodes of podcast (end of year)
  • Write 50 blog posts (end of year)
  • Complete 7-month 7 minute workout challenge
  • Check social media at scheduled times ONLY

Month-to-Month Breakdown

Now that we have our major milestones for the year, we can think about the goals that we want to accomplish each month.

These are mine...

January 2016
☐ Read Economics: A Complete Introduction
☐ Read Flight of the Eisenstein by James Sparrow
☐ Read Java 8 for the Impatient by Cay S. Horstmann
☐ Read Docker: Up and Running by Karl Matthias
☐ Docker AMI for deploying devangst.com on AWS
☐ Write 4 blog posts
☐ Plan ebook chapters
☐ Write a chapter of ebook
☐ Write Blog Post for SimpleProgrammer.com

February 2016
☐ Read Mindfulness by Prof Mark Williams, Dr Danny Penman
☐ Read Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
☐ Read Angular JS in Action by Lukas Ruebbelke
☐ Write 4 blog posts
☐ Write Ghost app for related posts
☐ Write a chapter of ebook

March 2016
☐ Read I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi
☐ Read Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
☐ Read Scala for the Impatient by Cay S. Horstmann
☐ Write 4 blog posts
☐ Write a chapter of ebook

April 2016
☐ Read Chavs by Owen Jones
☐ Read A Thousand Sons by Graham McNeill
☐ Read Growing Object-Oriented Software Guided by Tests By Steve Freeman
☐ Write 4 blog posts
☐ Write a chapter of ebook
☐ Write Blog Post for SimpleProgrammer.com
☐ Setup single-page website to promote ebook

May 2016
☐ Read Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
☐ Read Jacked by David Kushner
☐ Read Clojure in Action by Amit Rathore
☐ Write 4 blog posts
☐ Write a chapter of ebook
☐ Pass AWS Certified Developer exam

June 2016
☐ Read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
☐ Read Malus Darkblade: The Daemon's Curse by Dan Abnett and Mike Lee
☐ Read Release It! by Michael T. Nygard
☐ Write 4 blog posts
☐ Write final chapter of ebook
☐ List ebook for sale

July 2016
☐ Read Happiness By Design by Paul Dolan
☐ Read D-Day by Stephen E. Ambrose
☐ Read DevOps Troubleshooting: Linux Server Best Practices by Kyle Rankin
☐ Write 4 blog posts
☐ Write Blog Post for SimpleProgrammer.com
☐ Start PPC campaign for selling ebook
☐ Buy equipment for podcast
☐ Sort podcast hosting service
☐ Practise recording first podcast episode dry run

August 2016
☐ Read Anti-fragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
☐ Read 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson
☐ Read Mind Hacking by John Hargrave
☐ Write 4 blog posts
☐ Setup website for hosting podcast episodes
☐ Record first 2 episodes of podcast

September 2016
☐ Read Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Picketty
☐ Read Malus Darkblade: Bloodstorm by Dan Abnett and Mike Lee
☐ Read Structured Interpretation of Computer Programs by Harold Abelson and Gerald Jay Sussman
☐ Write 4 blog posts
☐ Record 2 episodes of podcast

October 2016
☐ Read David vs Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell
☐ Read The Lost: Traitor's General by Dan Abnett
☐ Read Algorithms (A few chapters) by T. Cormen
☐ Write Blog Post for SimpleProgrammer.com
☐ Write 4 blog posts
☐ Record 2 episodes of podcast

November 2016
☐ Read The Establishment by Owen Jones
☐ Read Dwarfs by Nick Kyme and Gav Thorpe
☐ Read Algorithms (A few chapters) by T. Cormen
☐ Write 4 blog posts
☐ Record 2 episodes of podcast

December 2016
☐ Read The Price of Inequality by Joseph Stiglitz
☐ Read Game of Thrones: The Winds of Winter (Sixth book if released!) by George R. R. Martin
☐ Read Continuous Delivery by Jez Humble
☐ Write 4 blog posts
☐ Record 2 episodes of podcast

How many books can you read?

You might be wondering that's an awful lot of books to be reading in a year - 36! An average of 1 book every week and a half. However, I still had to be careful that I actually could read that many books in a year.

In order to commit to it, I worked out what my average reading speed is - I could read an average looking page in about a minute (I scaled this up to 1m 30s to give me a buffer zone). I then counted the number of pages in all the books which came to 3,842 pages for what I called “smart thinking” books and “recreational books” came to 5,281 pages (so 9,423 pages in all). This means I would have needed to read 73 pages / week of the “smart” books and 100 pages/wk for recreation.

I figured I could dedicate a minimum of 1 hour per day reading time (but I would like days off reading some evenings before bed - otherwise I'd likely suffer burnout!). My average reading speed would allow me to read 40 pages per day and therefore over the year I could read 14,600 pages in total. A big assumption here being that I could read like an absolute machine and 40 pages consistently! (ed: you see?! Slow and steady wins the race...!)

Weekly Schedule - Allotting Time to Tasks

As I mentioned earlier I had analysis paralysis for much of 2015. Consequentially, I decided to set out a rough weekly guide of what I should be doing at any point in time during the week. Obviously not every day will turn out this way but if we can stick to the schedule we should, because it provides structure and gives you an idea as to what effort you should focus where.

Another problem of mine last year would be that I would dedicate far too much time to reading and less to other tasks that needed attention (because reading came so easily!).

Also, to make sure I have focus I'll work in 25 minute pomodoro bursts. By recording pomodoro's I can make sure I don't feel guilty when deciding to take time off.

Always remember that you need to have wind-down time too, so build in some time to do whatever you do to help yourself relax (I play games/socialise so a few free nights per week I allocate for board games / movie nights per week with my partner). This will mean we can put on the gas when the pressure is on and release it a bit when we need some time to ourselves; we don't want to fall off that wagon completely!

Be Prepared for your 2016

How was your 2015? What goals have you set for yourself this 2016? What are you doing different to last year that will make this year a success?

I'd be really interested to hear from you and how you're planning on tackling 2016 head on!

Happiness, health and best of luck in 2016...

James Murphy

Java dev by day, entrepreneur by night. James has 10+ years experience working with some of the largest UK businesses ranging from the BBC, to The Hut Group finally finding a home at Rentalcars.

Manchester, UK
comments powered by Disqus