How to Kick Start Your Goal Planning for Next Year

IN THIS POST: We’re going to talk about why the fourth quarter of the year is the perfect time to begin goal planning for next year. We’ll break down why you need to set goals, why you should start planning yearly goals now, and what sort of goals an overwhelmed overthinker should make for a year.

Planning goals each year is how I was able to transition from working at an exhausting full-time job to being a successful author and website owner. I now get to work from home and bring in a higher income than I ever would have at my former job.

That’s how I know this ‘goal stuff’ actually works, even for an overwhelmed overthinker. It worked for me, and I know it can work for you!

new year food and decor on white background with white overlay and text goal planning for next year

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Here we are, on the brink of a new year, ready to hurtle forward and accomplish spectacular things!

Oh… wait… maybe you’re thinking something like this:

‘We’re still a couple of months away from next year. I don’t want to set goals for the future too early, especially when all I can think about is how to get through the rest of THIS year.’

It’s time to get past that kind of mindset!

Keep reading, because I’m about to explain WHY. Plus, I’ll also show you some tools and strategies for how to set and track those yearly goals.

Is Goal Planning for Next Year Really That Important?

Okay, that question was a setup. The answer is YES. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing this post for you.

However, I’ve heard many people say they don’t believe in setting goals. After digging deeper, two main reasons usually emerge for why people don’t set goals for the future.

‘I always fail, so why bother planning goals?’

Because, as hockey great Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

If you don’t plan long-term goals, you’re giving yourself permission to remain in the same position you are now, never improving. You’re sabotaging yourself and your confidence.

‘I don’t need anything else on my plate.’

I get it. Everyone is busy.

Plus, some people really are in a season of survival, where just getting through each day is a battle. When that’s the case, survival IS the goal, and it’s a good one.

But let’s be honest… Most of us tend to just drift along, doing more and more busy things, never challenging ourselves to see what we could accomplish with real focus and positive goals in life.

Sometimes it’s a matter of letting go of the busy to make room for true priority goals.

Think about it for a minute. Do you really need to do all the “stuff” you do every day?

Probably not.

What could you let go to make room for pursuing a true priority?

A few hours of Netflix every week? A few more hours of social media? I mean really, spending two hours a day browsing Facebook and Instagram doesn’t actually count as staying in touch with family. 😉

So maybe you know you should set goals, but… does it really have to be right NOW? Let’s talk about that…

Why You Need to Start Planning for a Successful Year NOW

Planning is half the battle, so do it now before next year smacks you in the face.

I know it seems like there’s still a lot of this year left on the calendar. You might even be thinking, “I’ll just get through the next few weeks, and then I’ll start working on a future goals list.”

Nope, that’s not going to work.

Overwhelmed overthinkers NEED MORE TIME. More time to plan goals for the future, and more time to accomplish those plans.

More time to plan means you can set better goals. You’ll give yourself time to do seriously intentional goal setting that can bring amazing and positive changes to your life over the next year. 

Believe me, if you’re an overwhelmed overthinker like I am, it’s extremely likely that if you don’t begin to figure this stuff out PDQ (pretty darn quick), you’re going to find yourself some day next May or June with nothing accomplished and wondering how the year is already almost half over.

I don’t want that to happen to you.

woman achieving her goal by climbing mountain at sunrise

Types of Goals to Set for Next Year

It’s tempting to set several small goals and avoid thinking about big goals. Small goals seem achievable, big goals are scary.

But I want you to think big — the big projects, dreams, even the scary-big ideas that wander through your mind but haven’t completely materialized yet.


Because those things are your priority goals. Setting clear priority goals with mindful focus will motivate you more than an endless list of the same small goals you think you should set (and ultimately fail at) every year.

“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” – Unknown

What Are Some Good Goals to Set?

Obviously, the goals you end up setting are a personal decision. One person’s huge goal is another person’s mini goal.

But it doesn’t matter how your goal looks to anyone else. What matters is how YOUR life will change when you accomplish that goal.

You don’t have to set rigid goals for the entire year at once, or plan to accomplish “X” number of things each month. But you do need a direction and something important to strive toward on a regular basis.

Here are a few examples of goals you could accomplish in a year (but — please — not in the SAME year):

  • Declutter your entire home.
  • Save up the money to pay off your debt or take an amazing family vacation.
  • Build a new career or a successful side hustle.
  • Run a marathon (even if you haven’t run in years).
  • Read 52 books (or more).
  • Enjoy time with family and friends on a more regular basis, perhaps monthly or weekly.
woman sitting on log in autumn forest thinking about goals to set for next year

How Do I Plan Goals for a Year?

First of all, don’t get too hung up on absolute goals. Life changes so much every year, and you don’t want to set several big goals that could all be blown to bits after any major life event.

Instead, take into account the things you already know will happen — a child’s graduation, a new baby, retirement, etc. Adjust your dream goals for those things.

Jot down several big goals that ‘would be nice’ to reach by the end of the next year.

Then get real. You won’t be able to work on ALL the goals. Mark the goals that seem more realistic.

Some people like to attempt a new goal every month… but that gets very difficult to keep up with.

Instead, I’m a huge fan of focusing on planning for only one or two specific goals. Then I work in 3-month chunks. That’s long enough to make significant progress, yet gives you time to adjust tasks and strategies if necessary.

Brian Moran’s 12-Week Year had a huge impact on my thinking and actions in this area. I love that he emphasizes the importance of small, consistent tasks and how focusing on those tasks will move you forward faster than trying to do a few big, random things in an attempt to jump toward the end goal.

The 12-Week Year is an amazing book if you’re ready to completely change the way you think about and approach goals. However, it is pretty intense, and it will push you to your limits. That said, it’s one of the very few books that are part of my ‘good enough to keep’ physical library.

I evaluate goal progress every month and adjust as necessary. Since I know I will make changes, I don’t make rigid plans for more than a month at a time. This helps keep things fluid and moving forward, only concentrating on one step at a time.

Every three months, decide whether it’s necessary to make any BIG changes. It could be time to let something go. Or you may have accomplished a big goal and decide you have space in your life to move on to a new goal.

That is the most AMAZING thing ever when it happens!

How many yearly goals should you plan?

That varies depending on your energy level.

I’m a very low-energy person, so I can only really concentrate on one big goal at a time. I may have 3-4 ‘would be nice’ big goals on my yearly list, but I only PLAN for one at a time.

However, within each 3-month planning chunk, I also usually have another one or two very small goals that I work on as I find time. Those are usually things like reading or journaling — personal goals that aren’t as big and life-changing as my main focus goal.

Tools You Can Use to Plan for Next Year

The simplest method is to sit down with a pen and paper and make a future goals list in a notebook or by doing a brain dump.

You can create a mind map — grouping similar things, doodling, whatever gets your mind working. Print a dreams and goals worksheet to get you started.

Some planners also have places for goal planning.

In the past, I have used a Tools4Wisdom planner, which is also very popular with readers. These are available in coil-bound hardcover and disc-bound versions.

My current favorite planner is a Passion Planner in the weekly format. There are places to plan and track goals every week and month, plus blank pages in the back for taking notes and brainstorming. I absolutely love how the planner lies flat and I don’t have to try writing around rings or coils. There is also a brand new daily format, which is perfect for journaling and detailed planning.

For people who prefer something tech-based, you can always make a list in a spreadsheet or an app like Evernote or Google Keep. With a spreadsheet, it’s easy to add rows and columns to break down planning steps and track progress.

The important thing is to get the thoughts and ideas out of your head and down in writing. Start giving your goals some structure.

Once that happens, you begin to look at things differently. What was once just words or a picture in your head begins to take shape and become a possibility.

But what should you do next?

gold and white party food and decor on white background

More Tips and Inspiration to Plan and Achieve Goals

How to Use a Dreams and Goals Worksheet to Begin Goal Setting — Filling the Jars

What Powers Your Happy? + 3 Ways To Find Your Passion In Life (Besides Your Family) — Mom’s Small Victories

How to Plan A Goal Development Day — Michele’s Finding Happiness

6 Powerful Life Hacks You Need to Stop Being Lazy — Filling the Jars

What Next?

Do you know what your big goal is?

If you’re ready, there’s no reason you can’t start working toward it before the calendar changes. January 1st is, after all, just an arbitrary date.

The important thing is to know WHAT you’re working toward, WHY you want it, and then have some initial plans for how you will actually DO it.

Getting started is the scariest and most difficult step. You don’t have to figure out everything before you begin — all you need to know is the first steps.

If want to begin goal planning for next year but you’re having trouble figuring out what your priority goals really are, sign up below for the free 4-day “Define Your Priority Goals” email challenge. This short challenge will help you get clarity on your goals and decide what’s most important, so you can be ready and motivated to make real improvements to Build Your Best Life.

This post was originally published on November 2, 2017 and updated on October 25, 2019.

12 thoughts on “How to Kick Start Your Goal Planning for Next Year”

  1. I hope 2018 will be my year to make use of your wisdom regarding planning and goal setting. Thanks for this, as always, Julie.

  2. I just want to tell you how wonderful your blog, perspective and resources are! As someone who struggles daily with depression and anxiety, I work weekly in therapy on time management and goal setting, but haven’t found a system/method of organizing and prioritizing that works well for me or suits my needs, and your posts align so greatly with my ways of thinking, it is so encouraging to come across your page! So… THANK YOU for taking the time to articulate your thoughts and processes, and sharing your experiences being overwhelmed by overthinking!!

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