Setting Goals and Making Yourself Accountable

As we approach the half-year mark of 2015, I thought it appropriate to review previous goals for the year and upcoming goals for the next 6-24 months. To achieve anything in life you have to have goals. Specifically you have to have goals that are SMART; Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. There are many things in the corporate world that reek of project management lingo but this is one of the positive things I've taken away. From David Allen's philosophy of Getting Things Done as humans wanting to progress, drive and deliver results, be that in our career or in real-life, we need to have specific goals at various levels so that we can track our progress, focus on what matters and make sure we're on track.

Our most immediate objectives are specified as the “view from the street”. This usually comprises of any small goals that we'd like to achieve in the next month. We should be very specific about these goals so that we can take immediate steps to work towards them.

Our next level of goals are known as the “Bird's-eye view”. These objectives are a little more woolly and high-level but still measurable to some extent. An example of this might be to learn an aspect of a particular skill in some measurable way.

As you can tell we're gradually zooming out further and further to view our long-term goals. This is so that we can view our progress towards much larger goals that are in essence the real reason we're doing anything at all. Having goals that are further away allow us to make sure our closer goals are more relevant and actually going to set us on the path to achieving them. This view is known as the view from “10,000 feet”. It will include perhaps our yearly goals or the goals we set ourselves over the next 1-5 years. Obviously they are very high level and might be anything such as becoming fluent in a language, or learning to play an instrument to a particular level.

Achieving Your Goals Quote

So, how would this work in practise? Let's say for example, you're a band manager for a semi-popular rock band and you want to set a goal for the band. Those goals could be:

  • Win a one award by Dec 2016
  • Have 5 no#1 hits in the UK by Dec 2016

They could even be more specific than that by specifying the exact event that the wish to win an award at and set a number of goals that lead up to the event.

Accountability is Key

Over the past year I've been gradually setting rough objectives but I haven't written anything official down as of yet and I haven't had anyone to make me accountable. Having someone, aside from yourself to make you accountable is very important. It enables you to have someone who's always reminding you of when you're falling behind your goals and keeps you motivated to remain on track. I don't have anyone right now who's willing to do that for me so instead I'm going to lay my goals out in public so I can reflect on progress at a later time. (Perhaps getting someone to make me accountable or joining a mastermind group could be a goal?)

Setting Your Objectives

Bear in mind that as you set goals, other goals and objectives will open up for you. As an example, my goals for this year (from a professional and non-personal perspective) were:

  • Set up a blog and reach 1,000 daily visitors
  • Create 2 streams of passive income

As you can see - these were rough goals a and very measurable, although I could be a bit more specific on the second goal by saying how much passive income I'd like to achieve and which passive streams they are.

Due to the fact that I don't currently have anyone to make me accountable - I decided the next best thing is to make my goals publicly available - probably the most brutal way of exposing accountability! I'd certainly suggest you either do the same or find some form of mastermind group locally you can attend.

Pat Flynn has a really interesting and appropriate podcast episode that focuses on how we can keep in mind our goals, focus on them and make sure they become a reality.

Interestingly, he mentions that whilst it's great to have BIG goals and we should always dream BIG. Don't dream so big that it's totally not even achievable. For example, I could have set a goal of paying off my mortgage in the next six months to a year. Realistically though, joking aside, that's only ever going to happen if I a) win the lottery b) inherit the money or c) rob a bank. Given that I'm not inclined to think the “big guy” points his fingers at me often and that I don't think I'd carry off the ski-mask/AK-47 look I'm going to assume that goal is out of my reach right now and will in fact have completely the opposite effect to what I want. It'll be de-motivating because I'll be so far off that goal it won't even feel like I'm making progress.

So, bringing all this together let's start building out some short term goals. However, before we can do that we need to list what our long term goals are 3-5 years from now so that we can align our short-term goals so that they contribute. For me, I want freedom for myself and my family. I've blogged about this before and freedom for me at least means not having to worry about losing your job or working at all or having to be somewhere for someone at some time. It means you can be totally flexible of where you live and you can work wherever you want to at whatever schedule you like. I can go and work more for charity if I want or just continue to work with my employer doing perhaps a different role that's riskier but has a great pay-off. You basically don't have to live with a risk of failure any more because you're so secure in the knowledge that you can afford not to work - isn't that a feeling anyone would like to have?!

This doesn't necessarily mean I don't want a full-time job, it just means that I can perform at my best in it and don't have to worry about all the other stuff. You can make riskier decisions which often means you can stretch yourself and perform at your optimum.

So without further ado let's list those big 3-5 year goals:

  • Debt free by end of 2017
  • Pay off mortgage by 2020
  • Become a 5 star eBook author in Amazon with more than 10,000 book sales by end of 2017
  • Have enough passive income to cover all basic living costs by end of 2020
  • Become known as an expert for productivity and developer entrepreneurship with a combined subscribers list of 50,000 by 2020

This on the surface of it this seems like quite a tall order.
Debt free within 2.5 years with a paid off mortgage in 5 years (since the goal started beginning 2015) is insane but it's not impossible and it's certainly not beyond reach. So as I mentioned earlier we need align all of our shorter-term or project goals with those long-term goals in mind. Projects I've slated that I want to concentrate over the next 2 years are:

  • - a blog to help stressed developers navigate the crazy and insanely complex world of software development
  • podcast - a podcast to compliment the main site - may include interviews of developers to find out their top tips
  • - Java Certification site specifically aimed at helping students pass the Java 8 exam
  • - initially starts off as a blog possibly transitioning to a podcast
  • “The Ultimate Ghost Blog” - an ebook for developers and general bloggers to learn how to build an awesome Ghost blog to boost their brand

So as you can see all of these projects are or can be monetised so align with aims of getting debt free / clearing mortgage etc. Also, they tie in with my goals to be known as an expert in my field and make me self-sufficient with passive income streams. You should make sure your goals also align like mine have.

Now here's the full breakdown of tasks I have planned month on month (bear in mind this under an assumption that I have a full-time job Mon-Fri 9-5 and that I have young child).

Monthly Goals (2015)

Jan 2015
☑ Write first 4 blog posts for

Feb 2015
☑ Setup Blog on
☑ Write first few blog posts
☑ Complete blogging graduate course from
☑ Get blog delivered by commit to GitHub only (Continuously Delivered)

Mar 2015
☑ Theme
☑ Setup sales funnel for Theme

Apr 2015
☑ List Angsty Theme for sale
☑ Subscribe and listen to lots of different podcasts
☑ Build a Contact Form for Blog

May 2015
☑ Subscribe to relevant podcasts
☑ Regular running in the morning

Jun 2015
☑ Start meditating
☐ Outline ebook "The Ultimate Ghost Blog"
☐ Come up with deadlines for ebook

Jul 2015
☐ Write X chapters of eBook
☐ Outline Java course content for
☐ Sort out a jingle / intro for podcast
☐ Create AMI for Amazon Ghost Blog (cookie cutter blogs)
☐ Green-Blue (Zero Downtime) Blog deployment for
☐ GOAL: 100 session per/day to

Aug 2015
☐ Write X chapters of eBook
☐ Buy Equipment for podcasting
☐ Create 4 podcast episodes for podcast
☐ Setup blog
☐ Create theme for
☐ Create first section of content for

Sept 2015
☐ Write X chapters of eBook
☐ Create first section of content for
☐ GOAL: 200 session per/day to

Oct 2015
☐ Write X chapters of eBook

Nov 2015
☐ Write X chapters of eBook
☐ Setup a strategy for marketing eBook

Dec 2015
☐ Write X chapters of eBook
☐ Finalise eBook ready for sale

End of Year Goals

☐ 400 sessions per day on
☐ 100 listeners to the podcast
☐ 1,000 view for YouTube channel
☐ 50 subscribers to YouTube channel
☐ List “The Ultimate Ghost Blog” eBook for sale

Weekly goals

☐ Minimum 1 blog post/week
☐ Minimum 1 YouTube for
☐ Minimum 1 podcast episode every 2 weeks

Technical Books to read in 2015

☑ Soft Skills by John Sonmez
☑ Refactoring by Martin Fowler
☑ Cucumber for Java
☐ Design Patterns: GoF
☐ Growing Object Oriented Software Guided by Tests
☐ Release It!
☐ DevOps Troubleshooting
☐ Continuous Delivery
☐ Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs
☐ Java 8 for the Impatient
☐ Scala for the Impatient
☐ Scala in Action
☐ Vagrant: Up and Running
☐ The Joy of Clojure
☐ 7 Languages in 7 weeks
☐ Node.js in Action

Personal Reading List

☑ Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire (Part I)
☐ Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire (Part II)
☑ Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk
☑ The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin
☐ Blink
☐ David vs Goliath
☐ How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
☐ Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
☐ Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Social Goals

☐ 500 Twitter followers for @developerangst
☐ 1,000 Twitter followers for @jmurphyuk
☐ 200 Twitter followers for @productivedev
☐ Attend 6 conferences/meetups in 2015 (attended 1)

Future Goals (2016)

☐ Build a podcast with 5,000 listeners
☐ Launch 1st Quarter 2016 to support the ebook
☐ Make sales of £10,000 from The Ultimate Ghost Blog ebook (so 500 sales at £20/book)
☐ Make sales worth £50,000 from (e.g. £199 ~ 250 sales)
☐ Pass the Java 8 certification exam with Oracle

It feels really liberating to actually have these goals written down somewhere for all to see. Thanks to Kevin O'Shaughnessy at Zombie Kill Code for his inspiring post where he outlines his objectives for the year.

Now you may be wondering why I have a bunch of things like reading technical and non-technical books on my list since they aren't directly contributing to my goals. My belief is that the better educated you are the better informed your decisions can be. Read a book a day is a mantra for Entrepreneur's but some of us just can't do that because we have jobs. Instead I set a goal of reading at least 2 books a month. Again this seems much more realistic when aligned with other goals. Reading can also be a great respite from the hard-work and deadlines you've set yourself and because you're getting educated at the time it's not completely pointless effort!

If you've found this post has inspired you to list your goals publicly or even if it hasn't, please feel free to comment below or follow me on Twitter if you'd like to receive future updates on progress towards those goals.

I'll be checking in on this post in the future to see how far I'm progressing with my goals. I'd like to wish you the very best of luck with your goals in the coming year. Let's do this!

Bring on 2015 and beyond...

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
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