Setting Goals and Context for 2021

Jan. 5, 2021

Looking ahead to 2021 projects

It is an understatement to say 2020 has been a difficult year for a lot of people. It certainly has not been easy for me, but compare to others who may have lost their jobs or health, our family has been really fortunate not to go thru those experiences. I sincerely hope for better health and wellness for you and your loved ones in 2021.

The beginning of the year is always a good time to set goals and have forward-looking thoughts so that is what I intend to write about in this post: setting goals and context for 2021.

Goal-Setting is an All-Year-Long Process

First, just to be clear, I believe goal-setting and fine-tuning is an all-year-long process and should not be constrained to calendar dates. It is a bit counter-intuitive given the title of this post; however, if you think about it, because it is precisely a year-long process, January is just as good as any other month. Keeping this mindset helps in keeping the goals flexible and agile, some goals might just take you a few weeks, others might be a multi-year process, so the timeline should be set accordingly.

Of course, January still plays a psychological goal-setting atmosphere for society in general, it is always good to take advantage of that as well. If you intend to read more, this is probably a good time to reach out to other similarly-minded people for forming a book club. If you'd like to set the ever-popular fitness goals, January tends to be the time for health clubs (when they can safely open) and other retailers to offer discounts. Taking advantage of this time of year could save you time and money for sure.

Setting Context, not specific Goals

The second item that is a bit counter-intuitive to the initial title is I learn to set contexts for the year instead of specific goals. Because there are so many uncertainties in life (think about non-COVID January 2020 vs. March 2020 when COVID hit home), many times the goals tend to shift according to external factors. Many times this would result in side-tracking and losing sight of what we intend to accomplish. Think about that goal of going to the gym 3 times a week just to be derailed by multiple last-minute business trips and projects. Before you know it, we are chowing down burgers at the hotel lobby and walk right past those skimpy hotel gyms. You might get frustrated for not keeping that goal for a few weeks and just give up. I am guilty as charged, this has happened to me more times than I care to admit.

For me, the solution is to set the context for the year instead of specific goals. So if your goal is to get more fit, the context should be 'become a person who exercises'. Then set the goals accordingly. In the example given, even if you miss the specific goals for going to the gym, even if you miss a few weeks, the goal of 'become a person who exercises' is still valid. The point is setting a context helps me reduce the anxiety of following a rigid goal to reduce the chance of giving up.

My context of 2021 is to take more control of my work. The most frustrating part of any project for me is usually giving up control over work that I have invested so much in. In the case of publishing, the editor and publisher have a major say in all aspects of the final product. For example, in all of the books, I have worked on, there has not been a single instance where I have 100% control of the book cover. This is just one of many examples, so in 2021, I'd like to have more control over my projects.

My Short-Term Goals

As an extension to taking more control of my projects, my short-term goals would be the following:

  • Learn the skills that allow me to do so. This means learning Adobe InDesign, Adobe Audition, and using LeanPub for the next book. To be clear, I don't believe I need to be as good as a professional graphic designer for InDesign, but I can at least be better than I am today.
  • Continue to exercise regularly. I have been deliberately set a low bar for physical fitness (30 minutes a day) and easily exceeds it at times, and it allows me to keep it consistent for over 10 months so far. I hope to keep up with it.
  • Taking time to make decisions. Last year I overcommitted at the beginning of the year and spent the rest of the year fulfilling those commitments. This was in part due to the insecurity brought on by the COVID pandemic. This year I will set a goal to think twice about all the commitments I make so I can keep the timelines more flexible.


I know this is a bit different than the most line-by-line, beginning-of-the-year goal-setting process that others might employ. But it is what I have learned from many of the new year resolutions that I did not keep, as well as the ones that I did. It works for me and I hope it can help you make 2021 a great year.


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