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Yearly Goals

Since 2020, I’ve been setting personal goals at the start of every year and tracking my progress against them throughout the year.


My main motivation for setting goals is to encourage the formation of habits. Being a writer involves a lot of writing, so I set a goal to write a certain number of pieces; training my eye as a photographer involves a lot of photography, so I set a goal to shoot and edit a certain number of photographs; and so on.

By treating these as explicit goals, I can delimit what I’m focused on for the year and gently remind myself to focus my time on the goals. The goals also provide a sense of progress; as December approaches, I can take pride in all I’ve accomplished over the past year.

Over time, my goals serve as a guide to my interests. If I repeatedly set and fail a goal, perhaps I’m not as interested in one of my hobbies as I thought, or I underestimated how difficult it would be. Across the years, I can intentionally reprioritize where I’m spending my free time.

Is this a very technical approach to planning one’s life? Perhaps, but I also like to think of it as a very intentional approach. The goal is not to achieve goals; the goal is to achieve the meta-goals listed above, and if my goal-setting process stops serving them, then I’ll change the goal-setting process!

Unintentionally, I’ve implemented a system not too dissimilar to the system described in this recent Vox article arguing that we should divide our life into “semesters” and track our progress against some skill, although I divide my time into yearly “semesters” instead of a few months.


I set goals somewhat similar to how some companies set OKRs. In particular, each has some overall “spirit”, like “become a better writer by practicing short stories”, and a (preferably measurable) target, like “number of short stories written”. I split goals two ways:

As with many companies’ OKR processes, I aim to achieve about 70% of my goals — that means I’m stretching my time and abilities, but not being completely unrealistic.

I set goals the first week of January, then check in on how I’m doing at the start of every month. The last week of December, between Christmas and New Years, I give myself a grade for each goal, as well as writing up a small reflection on each one. In addition, I write up “other achievements”, since a lot of other things can happen in the year outside my goals!

Technical Details

As with many other aspects of my life, all of my goals live in Obsidian. Each goal is a note in a particular directory, with a single “Goal Table” note that links to all of them, using the Dataview plugin to build a table out of note metadata. In particular, each goal note gets a “status” field with an emoji representing the current status, which is eventually updated with a final grade.

Here’s the Dataview query I use to build a goal table:

TABLE type AS "Type", status AS "Status"
FROM "Goals/2023"
WHERE type
SORT type DESC, choice(status = "❌", 1, choice(status = "⚠️", 2, choice(status = "✅", 3, choice(status = "🔴", 4, choice(status = "🟡", 5, choice(status = "🟢", 6, 7)))))) DESC

And here’s an example of a goal note:

# Spirit
Become a better photographer by capturing and editing photos.

# Achieved
Edited 52 photos.

# Partial
Edited 26 photos

# Notes

type:: #core
status:: 🟢