2020 proved to be a year of chaos, uncertainty, and great sadness because of Covid-19. It’s been almost one year since I moved to remote work and started the social distancing odyssey that is still ongoing. Nobody really knows when we will return to normal or what the new normal will look like. I suppose we’re living in the new normal now.
By the end of 2019, I had a vision and goals set for 2020. I accomplished my PMP certification by July 2019 and was ready to explore a different path in the New Year. I was excited that it was going to be a new decade and believed in the amazing possibilities that awaited. I wrote down my goals and started my daily gratitude journal for the year. I start a journal each year and write a note of gratitude every day. My 2020 mantra was “Be Bold. Be Brave. Be Grateful.”
Looking back, I had no idea how much everything would shift and how my goals would fall to a low priority. We settled into distance education and remote work along with a lot of family time together. A lot. Our family time ended up being the thing I was most grateful for in 2020. As the year wound down and 2021 approached, I couldn’t help but think that I should be planning goals for the New Year. I had this nagging feeling that I couldn’t possibly start 2021 without goals. Gasp!
How can I set goals during a pandemic? How can I clear my mind about the chaos? Why didn’t I accomplish a major milestone like so many others did this year?
So many questions and so little brain capacity to process them all. I realized that not having the answers to any of them was OK. Sometimes the best way to be is to just be. That was one of the many gifts from 2020 I also realized. The Great American Pause as it was named taught me that it is perfectly fine to relax and be in the moment. It’s also perfectly fine to take time to restore and regroup. My best moments of clarity have come when I’m not trying to push myself for the next thing or to achieve my latest goal. And sometimes the mind and body just need a break to recharge.
Setting goals during a pandemic shouldn’t be so daunting that we put everything on hold until a better time. I wouldn’t shelve the goals and aspirations for a better day because there will always be an excuse not to do something. No day will be perfect. Some days are much harder than others and this year had some of the toughest days many of us have seen in a long time, if ever before. With everything feeling so out of sorts and simply off, how do you set goals among the chaos? Start with meaning and purpose.
Take stock in how you feel now
The pandemic changed my view of time and how I want to spend my time is different than in 2019. Fear and anxiety were two feelings I grappled with more than ever in 2020. Those feelings also changed how I view my vision and purpose today more than ever. Evaluate where you are today, not where you thought you’d be. Ask a few questions like:
- What makes me happy?
- What do I want less of in my life? Personal, professional, etc.
- What do I want to do more of in my life this year?
- What steps do I take to achieve it?
Write the answers down. Let them sink in a few days and go back to them to clarify. Nothing is set in stone, but this can be a guide to taking the next step.
Develop your action plan with baby steps
- Select one goal to start. Is it a big or small goal? Either way, you can break the goal down into baby steps. Breaking the goal down makes it more specific and achievable.
- What do you need to do first? Write it down. Keep going from there by listing the steps that need to be done to accomplish the goal.
- Set due dates to complete each step. Don’t let this scare you. It’s just a guide to keep you on track.
- Get started with the first item or step.
Celebrate each step you take! Keep going. You got this.
Include self-care with a targeted approach
- Focus on one thing at a time to reduce the overwhelm.
- Eliminate the unnecessary things on your “to-do” list.
- Let things go.
- Take a deep breath.
- Set aside time for you. Take a walk. Take a bath. Go on a bike ride or do whatever you enjoy. Take the time for self-care to recharge.
Get started by connecting your goals with meaning and purpose. That is especially important while we’re still in the middle of the pandemic. Now more than ever our time is valuable and the way we spend that time impacts our well-being. When our goals come from a place of meaning and purpose that becomes the cornerstone for achieving them. That’s the fuel that will keep you focused, committed, and engaged.
Now it’s your turn. What are your goals for 2021?