Despite uncertainty and challenges, 2020 turned out to be a surprisingly productive and fun year for me. I spent four weeks working in locations that allowed me to visit friends and family I hadn’t seen for a long time. I experienced the 2020 Natural Disaster Trifecta--wildfires in California, earthquakes in Utah, and a hurricane in Louisiana, not to mention a global pandemic. These and other unusual events led me to reevaluate my priorities and draw closer to those I love. I began to feel a sense of urgency about aligning my daily actions with my beliefs and values.
August Bradley’s video series about designing a life operating system was a turning point. It answered my “how” questions and fueled my interest in the concept of alignment. I worked hard designing a system to align my actions with my beliefs and values, but spent more time on the system than on my goals. I identified that I enjoy organizing work more than actually doing it, which led to one of my biggest learnings of the year: what I do is more important than what I plan.
I decided to set goals across six areas of my life, but I spent so long thinking about how to divide my life into different areas that I only managed to set meaningful goals in 4 of them.
- Spiritual growth
- Health and environment
- Social growth
- Professional success
- Creative output
- Life Administration
Even though my execution left a lot to be desired, I learned from my successes and failures about how to work more effectively in the future.
While I failed to set specific spiritual goals, I did work on several routines. I rarely missed a day of reading and pondering the scriptures or praying aloud. Before the pandemic broke out, I was building up a routine of regular temple worship, something I can’t wait to resume when the pandemic ends.
Health and Environment
Also an area without specific goals, I nonetheless progressed by running a couple of times a week for nearly an entire year. The bad news? I still hate it. The good news? I’ve learned to find physical activities that I enjoy and will do regularly. I’ve also developed a new mindset about physical fitness that I hope will carry me far in 2021 and beyond. Some accomplishments in this area include moving to a new house that beautifully meets my needs, creating a meal planning tool in Notion, and learning how to keep my pantry stocked with items that make it easier, cheaper, and healthier to feed myself at home.
In my notes for this area under the heading “disappointments” I wrote, “fought with dad about politics.” I did let my emotions get the better of me a number of times this year when it came to discussing current events. Through the crucible of these disputes, I learned that people matter to me more than problems and relationships matter to me more than politics. The pandemic torpedoed many of my aspirations to grow socially this year, though I did spend more quality time with my family and connect with friends more often by phone.
Finally, an area for which I set actual goals! The two goals I set for professional success this year concerned saving money, and I’m happy to report that both were met through the efforts of the stellar people I work with. After reading High Output Management by Andrew Grove and Measure What Matters by John Doerr, I also had the goal to help my team adopt the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) framework, which we did. I’m very grateful to the members of our team who patiently followed me on this journey.
I only had one goal for this area: create a personal website. Well, here it is. I also found great enjoyment in reading Ansel Adams’s autobiography and a book called Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. The former offered insights into what it means to be a photographer and the latter provided an excellent refresher in the basic technical skills required to produce a photograph.
My first goal was to unpack quickly after moving to a new house, which I’m grateful to say I did. Otherwise, I’d still be unpacking 6 months later. The second goal was to save $X into an emergency fund which had been depleted by moving expenses. I did not meet this goal in part because I reallocated funds to a promising investment opportunity that presented itself at the end of the year.
What I will change this year
While I’m emotionally satisfied that I ended the year better than I began it, I recognize that I have a lot of room to improve my goal setting and planning skills.
First, I’m going to try quarterly goals instead of annual goals. Fewer than three months seems like too little time to make meaningful progress, and a full year makes it easy for goals to get lost in a flood of other priorities. I think setting goals quarterly will help me maintain focus. Second, six areas is too many. I will set specific goals this year in these four categories:
Last, I’m going to record my progress in weekly and quarterly reviews. A written record will make it easier to hold myself accountable, and also make writing next year’s review much easier. These reviews should keep me oriented toward my goals and aligned with my values, making it easier to decide which opportunities to pursue and when to say no.
2021 Goals for Q1
Spiritual goals and routines
- Read 25% of The Book of Mormon by March 31
- Read 25% of The Doctrine and Covenants by March 31
- Pray aloud at least once each day
- Attend church services in person at least once per month (or weekly as soon as social distancing guidelines are updated)
- Minister to neighbors at least once per month
Physical goals and routines
- Lose two pounds by March 31 (target weight 198)
- 3 sets of 40 knee raises by March 31
- Roast a pan of vegetables each week
- Strength training 6 days a week
- Sleep 10PM - 6AM each day
Intellectual goals and routines
- Create weekly and quarterly review templates by February 14
- Read six books from my 2021 list by March 31
- Make literature notes for each book I read
- Write six articles for my website by March 31
- Complete Webflow University’s 2021 Portfolio course by February 28
Social goals and routines
- Call or visit family at least once per week
- Call or visit a friend at least once per week
- Wave to every neighbor I see
- Talk to a stranger at least once per month (this will be easier post-pandemic when meeting strangers becomes common again)