I think we can all agree that 2020 was a rollercoaster of a year. While there is no single word that would perfectly encapsulate the sentiment of this year, I would argue that “challenging” (both in positive and negative ways) is the one thing 2020 was.
One of these challenges was achieving our goals. We started off with positive intentions to make our lives better, but 2020 just threw a curveball our way that may have derailed more than one of you. The good news is that we can already see light at the end of the tunnel and 2021 will return at least a semblance of normalcy to our lives. With that in mind – why not set ambitious and achievable goals for the year ahead?
We have already written about how best to go about achieving your New Year’s resolutions for you not to be among those 88% for whom the good intentions fall through. In a nutshell – goals and habits are intertwined. To make your goal a success – make a habit out of it!
This article will build on that principle and highlight some of the areas of your life that you should consider focusing on the following year to achieve meaningful personal and professional growth!
Love it or hate it – money is at the core of our daily lives. Many of us learned the importance of a financial pillow the hard way this year. Those living from paycheck to paycheck and without a sound financial framework in their lives were particularly hard hit by recessions and lockdowns this year, even if financial aid trickled down to you.
So what should your financial goals look like? Here are some examples:
1. Create a financial safety net. You can do this by putting aside 20% of your monthly income and setting an automatic transfer to separate savings and emergency accounts. A high yield savings account will give a solid foundation for your next big purchase/investment. An emergency account will provide a much needed backup in case of an accident or unexpected shocks, without ruining your financial prospects.
2. Pay off your debt(s). It’s always a good idea to lighten the stranglehold debt has on us. Set either a short or long term debt elimination goal and tailor your financial plans accordingly. For instance, if you want to save $5000 in a year, redirect a bit more money than usual to your trusty savings account or create a separate account entirely. We never know when the next economic shock will come. Better to be debt-free as it does.
3. Start investing. Everyone seems to be investing these days and you should too. Bear in mind, however, that you should do proper research before you jump into the game. Depending on your income level and boldness you can choose anything from investing via robo-advisors, index funds, real estate, or even (be careful) cryptocurrencies. For all you newbies, check out this list of accessible, cheap, and quality investment platforms! The best thing is that many of these platforms allow you to automate investing thus facilitating the habit making process.
There is probably nothing as productivity sapping as our obsession with smart devices, social media, news sites etc. As I highlighted in a previous blog post, this unconscious bad habit has all sorts of negative side effects on your mental and physical health.
Before setting concrete goals you should understand your starting position, namely, how much time and on what sites you spend a day. The great thing is that there are plenty of apps that help you track your daily screen time. These range anywhere from already built-in apps such as Screen Time for iOS to downloadable options such as Freedom, ZenScreen, and Space all of which can be used on multiple platforms and devices to track your screen time comprehensively.
Once you have established the starting positions, set out to;
1. Reduce your after work screen time by 50%. This is an ambitious goal, but it will pay off handsomely. Imagine if you spend 4 hours a day on your phone or laptop outside of work, 3 hours of which are unproductive. If you reduce that unproductive time by 50% you get extra 90 minutes every day for other things – be that relationship building, exercise, learning a new skill, or a side gig. Over a year this adds up – 90 minutes a day = 23 days a year.
2. Put your phone away in the evening. This is pretty self explanatory. Just make a habit of putting your phone away every day at 8 pm. This doesn’t mean that the phone is off limits per se, but just don’t open distracting or unproductive apps. You can help yourself along the way by using the apps mentioned above to limit your access to certain websites or apps.
3. Escape the breaking news cycle. Staying informed is important. The problem is that a great deal of media these days is aimed at stirring up controversy or keeping you engaged and riled up 24/7. Instead aim for two things. First, read weekly newspapers from trusted and objective sources – these provide in-depth analysis and overview. Second, don’t open attention grabbing news sites. Rather have them send you newsletters with easily navigable overviews. Follow these two simple steps and I guarantee that you’ll sleep more peacefully.
If there is one thing that 2020 has taught us, it is that we should never take our health for granted. And here I’m not just talking about your physical wellbeing. It’s not always about how far you can run or how much you can lift. Rather it is comprehensive, all-encompassing wellness that lifts you far above mediocrity and dullness. So – what to strive for in 2021?
1. Get enough sleep. There are two ways to go about this. Either see when you can fall asleep most easily and get those mandatory 8 hours in or reinvent your sleep habits entirely according to your chronotype. Take this quiz and follow the instructions afterwards to start off your path to better sleep and more productive life!
2. Walk more. This is pretty easy – set a range you are comfortable walking (for example 3 km or 2 miles) and just walk everywhere in that range. If you want a measurable goal, then reach for 10 000 steps every day. Or reduce your average weekly car mileage by 30% by the end of the year. Trust me – your overall health will improve, you will save more money (fuel, maintenance), and have a less stressful day (traffic jams or aggressive drivers are about the most frustrating and stressful things there can be).
3. Plan and prepare your meals. The pandemic has had one unexpected health benefit – we are eating at home more. And more homemade meals usually mean healthier meals. Use 2021 not just to entrench this habit, but expand it to prepare healthy meals for yourself or family members for the days and weeks ahead. This will be good not just for your body, but your wallet too. If you can attach an additional goal of making these meals without meat, you’ll reduce your environmental footprint too!
Follow the aforementioned goals and you’ll grow both in direct and indirect ways. It is, however, always a good idea to seize the initiative and directly invest in yourself! So my final piece of advice is to use the remaining lockdown/quarantine months to learn something new.
2020 showed us how precarious our professional and personal lives are. The more skills or knowledge you have under your belt, the better. Try to:
1. Read one new book every month. Add some nuance to this task by having it 50/50 between fiction and non-fiction books. To really get the most out of your reading experience, pick a topic you want to explore (finance, economics, productivity, technology, DIY) and focus on it! Reading this will not just improve your general cognitive abilities, but allow this new-found and comprehensive knowledge to improve your life!
2. Learn a new skill. Take an online class from any of a number of online learning communities such as Skill Share, Brilliant, or Coursera. The more you know, the better job prospects and the better personal life you’ll have. Like with books, try to take at least one new class every month and reap the rewards for the years to come! If you are struggling with picking a general direction, read this post for some valuable insights!
Say what you want about 2020, but it gave most of us an unexpected second chance to set new goals and achieve them. In a recent column for The Economist Slavea Chankova argues that the pandemic gave many of us an opportunity to change our lives for the better. To succeed at a goal, you have to stick to a new habit for about 66 days. After that the action or behavior becomes automatic. According to Chankova, that’s roughly the number of days most Europeans spent in a lockdown.
2021 may not be so generous, but that is exactly why you should come prepared with concrete goals and plans! Have the BePrime app and blog by your side and make the most out of next year!