Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Set Goals with an Uberlist

It's hard to believe that 2009 is nearly over. Of course, I tend to feel that way most years around this time. Realizing the things I *meant* to do this year but never did is part of the shock of the year being over. Some things are practical (renewing my passport in my married name); others are just fun (going to the zoo, going to a restaurant I've been meaning to try).

I think I have more uncompleted items this year because I didn't make an uberlist for 2009. I didn't know how many other goals I'd have time to achieve after my unwritten to do items of

  • birthing a baby and
  • keeping him alive.

But after succeeding with both items (!) I feel confident with challenging myself with an uberlist again for 2010.

What's an uberlist? It's a list of goals for the year. The goals span multiple areas of life and range from a few hours of commitment to resolution-esque major life improvements.

The uberlist is an idea I borrowed from some friends a few years ago. I find the list better than a New Year's resolution in a number of ways. It is a documented list. Whether on paper or in a spreadsheet an uberlist is a contract with yourself as opposed to a resolution which is often only spoken and often only when asked, while drunk, at a New Year's Eve party. Putting goals into words tends to lead to more concrete items rather than resolutions which can often be very abstract (i.e. "get healthy"). Also, by having multiple goals I avoid putting all my self-improvement into one resolution basket that is likely to dissolve by mid-January. Plus, I get to enhance my life as a whole rather than pick on one perceived flaw.

So, how do you create an uberlist?
First, decide what areas in your life you want to address. Some ideas to consider are health, home/family, social/friends, career, finances, arts & entertainment, education, and the environment. I always include a category for writing, which you may switch with whatever passion you may want to pursue.

Create sections for each category either on a piece of paper or computer document/spreadsheet, and begin setting a few goals for each area of your life. The best goals are

  • Measurable -- You want to "eat less" and "exercise more" next year? I hope you kept good records in order to do that comparison. Instead, try to set a weight loss goal or a calories per day goal (if you intend to keep track) or a minimum number hours/days to exercise each week. If you can't measure your goal how will you know if you achieved it?
  • Within your control -- A lot of unemployed, underemployed, and unhappy people would probably like to "get a new job" in 2010. Great! Unfortunately, they aren't the only one with a say in that. However, setting goals for numbers of resumes and cover letters to send out or networking events to attend are achievable things that can work toward the end goal of a new job. Investing in a new interview suit would also be an appropriate thing to throw on the list.
  • Things you aren't likely to do anyway -- The best uberlist items are those things that you've been meaning to do for a long time. If, for example, you haven't been to the dentist for a few years that could be something to include on an uberlist. On the other hand, if you already scheduled your next 6 month teeth cleaning that's not going to be an achievement worth documenting.
  • Include some fun items -- Leisure is important. Whether you don't tend to find time for entertainment or are just in a rut for leisure activities your uberlist is a good place to ensure some fun in the new year. Been saying for a while that you should invite the neighbors over for dinner? Put it on the list. Been wanting to actually use that museum membership? Put it on the list. Even if there's just a movie that you've been meaning to watch; put it on the list. Of course, self and home improvement goals are good too, but be sure to balance the work with the play.
  • Aren't superlative -- Unless you are giving up an addiction such as smoking, it is usually best to avoid goals that involve "always" or "never" doing something. Give yourself some leeway. Word your goals in terms of doing something "at least" or "no more than" a certain number of times per day/week/month. This will give you some wiggle room before you feel like you've failed. 
Keep your list somewhere so that you will check it often. For items that are completed once, mark them off as you do them. For other items ("bring my lunch to work at least 3 times per week," "go to at least 4 plays") create sublists or use a calendar to mark you progress.

Being a project manager by trade I often put target dates on a number of my goals to help space them through the year, but that's up to you. You could also include shared portions of an uberlist for family goals.

Have I convinced you of the joy of an uberlist? What will you put on yours?

1 comment:

red pen mama said...

My New Year's resolution is to create an uber-list!

sorry, couldn't resist.

This is definitely food for thought. I do have goals of 1. being able to exercise to get back in shape; 2. get back in shape enough to start running in the spring. To accomplish those I should add: 3. Get to the chiropractor every week!


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