Setting Goals for 2021

The New Year is around the corner, and the timelines will be full of soon-to-be-forgotten resolutions. There’s something about the New Year that pushes us to resolve to be better and to achieve more. Unfortunately, we only dream about being better but don’t delve into how we will achieve our lofty goals. Without an action plan, a resolution is just a dream.

I’m an ambitious person. I am clear about what I want for my life, and I track my progress religiously. At the beginning of every year, I set goals for both my personal and professional life. I execute the plan throughout the year, measuring and refining as I progress, and in December, I evaluate myself. The end of the year is then a time to reflect, refocus and plan for next year’s dreams as I internalise the lessons learnt during the year.

I use OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) when setting my goals because as a tool, OKRs not only measure the outcomes but recognise the milestones during the journey. Additionally, OKRs presume that all objectives are aggressive, allowing me to pursue big hairy audacious goals (BHAG) and stretch myself to achieve them. OKRs are primarily used by companies when executing their strategies but trust me when you have big dreams as I do, you need a tool to keep you on track. OKRs comprise of two parts; the objective and the key results.


The objective is what you want to achieve (goal). Goals can be diverse focusing on your personal, financial, social or professional life. You may want to start a savings fund, run a marathon or learn a new language. The ideal is to have 3-5 goals at a time, which requires you to prioritise your goals and spread them out. Remember, this is an action plan and not a wish list. Stagger some goals or combine them, so you don’t end up with a long, frustrating, unrealistic list. You can set up different goals for every quarter, or you may have long term goals that you review periodically.

Your goal should inspire you – something you believe in and can rally around.

Your goal should stretch you and push you out of your comfort zone.

Lastly, your goal must require action. Dreaming about your plan will get you nowhere fast.

Next year, I would like to increase my participation in the industry. I tend to stay in the background and get the work done behind the scenes. My coach, Cece, site-editor, Paul, and a recruiter have challenged me to change this. I have resolved that 2021 will be the year I put myself out there.

Objective 1 for 2021;

To be a thought leader in the industry

Key results (KRs)

Key results define how I will achieve the objective. Key results are milestones and measure success. They help you know how far along you are on your journey to achieving your goals. Ideally, you should have no more than five milestones for every objective. Working with the example above, I could have the following key results;

O1 To be a thought leader in the industry What
KR1 Create two posts a month on LinkedIn How
KR2 Publish five blog issues in 2021 How
KR3 Run three round table sessions by the end of 2021 How

Notice that each result is specific, time-bound, measurable, and aggressive. Don’t be vague with the milestones; otherwise, you will struggle to measure your progress. Each milestone is time-bound and requires me to do something. Further, they are aggressive - OKRs should push you to stretch yourself, and as a result, your milestones should be challenging but realistic. For instance, I have never run a round-table session before, and it will take some doing to run a successful one, let alone three. Further, I will need to write nearly every day to ensure I create enough quality content for five issues while fulfilling all the other obligations in my life.

Where the objective is long-lived, meaning it rolls over to the next period, the objective remains the same, but you change your milestones as you progress (each quarter, every half year or every year).

Now that you have set your goals, what next?

Execute on the plan.

The difference between a resolution and a goal is getting down to action. What no one tells you about execution is that it involves a lot of micro-steps. You have to breakdown your key results into smaller milestones. These keep you on track in the day-to-day performance and keep you focused and motivated. For instance, there’s more to publishing an issue than just writing articles. For every successful issue, I have to;

  • Set a publishing date
  • Create a theme
  • Approach writers and then follow up with them to ensure they are on time
  • Research and write my articles
  • Agree on the issue’s layout
  • Review all the articles
  • Get pictures for the articles
  • Write an intro
  • Publish and market

I can still break down the list further into smaller tasks, but you get the gist. Each job I can check off on this list is one step to achieving my milestone.

Measure often. What is worth doing must be measured, and what is measured can be improved. It is not enough to know that I posted on LinkedIn 3 out of 4 weeks in the last month. The purpose of measuring is to learn what you’re doing great, what can be improved and what lessons you have learnt. If you’re measuring without getting any insights, you’re not doing it right. So, on top of knowing how many posts I made, I’ll be asking the following questions at every stage,

  • Did I hit the target or not? Why or why not?
  • How is the audience engaging with me? Remember, I’m not just writing posts for the sake of it. There was an objective. Am I achieving the objective? It may well be that posting on LinkedIn does nothing to help me achieve my goal.
  • What lessons have I learnt?
  • Can I improve on the performance? How can I be more efficient, consistent, get more engagement?

If you do not measure and take time to reflect on your results, you will fail.

One Last Thing: OKRs are transparent

Whether you are setting your company’s goals or personal goals, a crucial aspect of OKRs is transparency. For a company, share your OKRs publicly and make them available to everyone from the CEO to the intern. Public sharing ensures engagement and alignment in the company setting.

On a personal level, being transparent could be as simple as discussing your goals with family, friends, or a coach/mentor. Transparency assists with accountability. My Mum, for instance, will not let me breathe if I commit to doing something and don’t do it. She’s my number one accountability partner for achieving anything I set out to do.

The other benefit of transparency is that the supportive people in your life will find opportunities to help you achieve these goals. The support can come in many forms; referrals, sharing business or employment opportunities, or even participating in challenges with you. I mentioned to a friend that I want to grow my consulting business, and my inbox is full of all the consulting RFPs she comes across.

Having a goal or dream is natural, and the easiest thing to do. Success comes when you execute consistently.

Here’s to achieving our goals in 2021!