time management

Look Back: Why Planning Your Best Year Ever Starts in the Past

December 6, 2021

Reading Time: 11 minutes

Hey friends, and welcome to Episode 106 of It’s About Time – a Podcast sharing stories and strategies to inspire women seeking better Work, Life and Balance. I’m your host time management coach, Anna Dearmon Kornick and today’s episode continues our conversation around goal setting. 

Last week, in Episode 105 I shared my secret. The fact that I actually didn’t set goals for 2021. If you’ve already listened to Episode 105, then you know what happened. And if you haven’t yet – definitely listen in on that one to find out why I didn’t set goals, what went wrong, and the lessons I learned along the way. Most importantly, you’ll hear why I’ll never skip goal setting ever again. 

So now, here we go into goal setting season. If you’re listening in real-time, it’s December 2021 and we’re full speed ahead through the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. The new year, 2022, is up ahead, and many of us are starting to think about what we’d like 2022 to look like. And If you’re like me, you’re ready to leave 2021 behind and step into a fresh start. 

And while it’s super easy to get excited and start thinking about all the things you want to do in the new year, things you want to do differently, things you want to change, new habits you want to start – all the big exciting things in your future. The best place to start with goal setting is actually in the past. 

That’s right – looking back is where goal setting and making a plan for your year ahead really gets started. And maybe that seems a little backwards at first glance.

That’s why in episode 106, I’m sharing:

  • The three most important questions to ask when you set goals for yourself
  • Why you’ve got to look back at the past year before you look ahead to the future
  • How lessons learned set the stage for our biggest accomplishments
  • What to do if you’re in a funk and just not feeling goal-setting this year

I’ve also got you covered if…

…you want to set goals this year, but you’re not sure where to start, or it feels overwhelming. Or you KNOW you need to set goals, but you’re having trouble carving out the time.

If that’s you, then I’ve got something exciting up my sleeve just for you! This year, for the first time, I’m hosting a LIVE goal setting workshop so you can plan your best year ever and set SMART goals using the exact method I share in this episode, and that dozens of my 1:1 time management coaching clients have used to map out their goals for the year ahead.

Join me for Ready. Set. Goals! A LIVE 90 minute, interactive goal setting workshop on December 28th. 

In Ready. Set. Goals! We’ll use my simple 3-part system for setting goals with purpose and intention. Setting goals and making a plan for your year doesn’t have to be complicated, stuffy or boring. 

2022 is your year. It’s our year! So join me for Ready. Set. Goals! On December 28th. Yes – that weird week between Christmas and New Years when you don’t know what day it is and you’re living in sweatpants can be the ideal time to get your gameplan for 2022.  Grab your seat at annadkornick.com/goals and let’s do this together!


Typically when we think about goal setting, we have the future in mind. Our imagination gets rolling with all the things we want to do in the future. Who we want to be. What we want life to look like. 

So I’m sure it seems a little counterintuitive to hear that the best starting point for setting goals is actually the past. 

When you’re standing on the edge of a new year. It can feel expansive and full of potential. Full of opportunities and infinite possibilities. When the days and weeks stretch out before you, it feels like you have all the time in the world to do whatever it is that you want to do. 

And yet – how often do we find ourselves in October… November – realizing that we have 80-ish days left in the year, and we still have so much left that we want to do. And we wonder… Where did the time go? How did another year go by without organizing my family pictures? How am I still in this same job? How have I still not reached my fitness goals? What did I even do with my time? 

The fact is – the time is there – we just have to be intentional with it. And the secret to being intentional with your time is pretty simple – know how you want to spend it. 

So here are three reasons why you should consider setting goals and making a plan for your year:

First, knowing your big picture goals makes day-by-day and hour-by-hour time management surprisingly easy.

When you set goals at the beginning of the year, you define your milestones and finish lines for the year. Having goals makes it a whole lot easier to prioritize how you’re spending your time each day when you know exactly what you’re aiming for. 

But if you don’t have goals, projects or good habits that you’re working toward, everything will feel really open-ended and potentially overwhelming.

You don’t really know how to spend your time, or what to do first – so instead of spending time on something that’s going to get you closer to a goal – you put out whatever the fire of the day is. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. And then the next squeaky wheel gets the grease – but nothing really changes. You’re reactive instead of proactive. 

Living in reactive mode is exhausting, and I don’t want that for you.

Second, planning your year helps you make progress on long-term goals.

Big things take time, and many goals are achieved little by little, over time. Some things, like saving for a down payment, coordinating a European vacation, launching a podcast, starting a business, all of those things take more than one week, or a month, or even a quarter to achieve. Planning your year in advance helps you decide what’s realistic and when you can actually make progress on long-term goals based on other things going on in your life.

Third, setting goals for the year keeps you from overloading yourself in January and setting yourself up for failure.

A lot of times we kick off the year feeling SUPER excited about all of the potential and possibilities, so we decide that we’re going to start waking up at 5AM every day, start a new diet, start half-marathon training, start renovating the laundry room and start piano lessons all in January. And then we promptly get burnt out and frustrated when we can’t keep up the pace. 

Then, by January 17th, we give up. That’s the day most people give up on New Year’s Resolutions. Less than 20 days into the new year. 

Planning your year and looking at the big picture gives you an opportunity to space new starts throughout the year so they’re more manageable and you’re more likely to stick to them. 

So now that we’ve got a refresher on WHY planning your year is such a no-brainer, let’s talk about the three questions you should ask whenever you set goals for the year ahead. 

Truth be told there are a LOT more than just three questions to consider. 

In fact, in Ready. Set. Goals! my upcoming LIVE goal setting workshop happening on December 28th, I’ll be walking you through the full, step-by-step process I use to set my goals each year. 

This is a process that I created for myself about a decade ago, and I’ve refined it year after year as I’ve learned more and more about myself, as I’ve studied best practices and learned from the experts. In the last two years, I’ve walked dozens of busy professionals and small business owners through this exact same process in 1:1 coaching sessions.

This year, I’m super excited to open up Ready. Set. Goals! to you in a 90-minute workshop that actually makes goal setting fun instead of boring, stuffy and complicated. Plus, goal setting is just more fun with others by your side and cheering you on. 

Grab your spot over at annadkornick.com/goals and walk in to 2022 with confidence, clarity and intention. With your vision for the future. 

But for now – here are the three big picture questions to ask yourself as you’re setting goals for the new year.

First – Look Back and ask yourself:

What did I learn from the past year?

It can be very tempting to skip this part and move on to the fun future stuff, but slow down, and let yourself look back and reflect. You’ll find that you have a much better picture of where you’re coming from in order to decide where you’re going next. 

Plus – looking back can help you realize all the things that went well – even when you feel like you’re coming off of a rough year. 

Even though this year felt really rough and it seemed like there were more downs than ups, looking back helped me realize that in 2021 I actually had a lot to be proud of, I launched a brand new beautiful website, I grew It’s About Time to 10,000 downloads a month, I was featured in a Washington Post article about different time management sterategies and I landed a dream job with an amazing company. Not to mention welcoming a new baby girl to our family.

No matter how your year went, you have something to be proud of. I can’t imagine that in 365 days that you don’t have at least one win. 

When you’re able to look back on what went well, what didn’t and what lessons you learned – you’re able to make more informed decisions about the future. What do you want to do differently? What do you want to leave behind? What do you want to do more of? Where can you become more consistent?

Unlocking the future starts with looking back, so make sure to ask yourself, What did I learn from the past year?

The second big question to ask yourself takes you from the past to the present. This is where you look around and ask yourself:

“What does my life look like now?”

Again – we’re not jumping to the future just yet! At this point we’re getting a clear picture of our current roles and responsibilities. It doesn’t really make sense to jump into goals for the future if they don’t line up with what’s on your plate right now!

Looking around at how you’re spending your time now. What roles do you play? What responsibilities do you have? 

Thinking in terms of the different areas of your life right now helps you develop a more well-rounded overview of how you’re spending your time and what has your attention. The roles you play and the responsibilities you have may change from year to year – which is another reason why it’s so important to pause and evaluate what’s current in your life. 

And now – finally, it’s time for part 3. We’ve looked back. We’ve looked around, and now it’s time to look ahead.

Based on what you’ve learned from the past, and what your life looks like in the present, it’s time to ask yourself:

“What do I want to do in the year ahead?”

How do I want to continue growing, or learning? What do I want to achieve? What habits do I want to start? What can I do this year that will get me closer to where I want to be in five years?

One potential pitfall at this part? Getting super excited and setting way more goals that you can realistically accomplish in a year. That’s not good goal setting – it’s a good way to set yourself up for failure, burnout and disappointment.

To keep yourself from setting 37 different goals for the new year and potentially burning yourself out, instead – think of goals in four different groups:

Personal, Professional, Financial and Fun.

Then, come up with your 3 top goals for each of those categories. What are 3 personal goals you want to set for yourself, 3 professional, 3 financial – maybe building your emergency savings, paying off debt or putting away a few hundred a month for a Disney trip. And 3 fun – just fun bucket listy style things. 

Nothing says you have to have 3 in all four categories, and nothing says you have to do all 4 categories, it’s just a great framework to start with. 

Once you’ve got your list – challenge yourself to rank them 1 through 10 in order of importance. Then, focus on the top 5 first. Why narrow it down like this? Because you’ll get further by focusing your time on progress toward 5 or less goals, vs. making tiny or no progress at all on 10-12 goals. 

Once you’ve your goals for the year, this is a good point to pull out your planner or to post a big calendar up on the wall. 

I definitely prefer having a big year at a glance calendar so I can keep my eyes on the big picture (click here to shop my favorite calendar).

Things to consider:

When are your busiest times of the year? When are your slower times of the year? Not just for you, but for your significant other. What are the key dates on your kid’s school calendar that you need to be aware of? Do you already have time blocked off for vacation? Maybe some of your goals are time-bound or have dates attached to them – like a half marathon in November or a beach trip during a slow season in July. 

Estimate your time frames for each of your goals, and map out how when you’ll focus on each one. On a separate sheet of paper, or maybe in a Google doc, write out the steps you’ll need to take to achieve those goals. You don’t have to have all of the steps figured out perfectly right this second, just think through the major milestones. 

Another great planning tip here is to choose themes for all or some months of the year. Just like you can’t make progress on every single goal in January – spreading out certain goals or to-dos across the months can be a great way to pace yourself. 

For you, theme months could look like setting aside a specific month or months to research or take action on different parts of your life. A few years ago, I chose August as the month that I’d corral all of my family photos. It took the pressure off of doing it at the beginning of the year, and gave me a project to look forward to. Maybe you want to set aside a month to make renovation plans, or choose a month to clean out your attic. It’s whatever you want it to be, and there’s no rule that says you have to do this at all. 

Also – when it comes to setting goals, it’s important to add that I’m a big fan of setting SMART goals – goals that are specific, measurable, attainable or adventurous, relevant, and time bound. Next week in Episode 107, I’ll dive into why setting SMART goals are a million times better than making vague new year’s resolutions. 

Ok – so you’ve made a list of goals, narrowed them down, prioritized them, and decided when you’ll focus on each one so you’re not overwhelmed, overloaded and over scheduled. 

There’s one last question I want to share with you. I admitted back in Episode 105 that I didn’t follow through with setting goals for 2021. There was a lot on my plate with a move, new baby, and a lot of life happened. At some points during the year, so many curveballs were thrown my way that it made me want to swear off goal setting altogether. What’s the point of trying to set goals if things are just going to blow up in my face?

I said it then, and I’ll say it again. When you get knocked off course by something unexpected, when life happens, goals give you a track to get back to, a path to return to. When you don’t have goals, you just kind of wander and fall into a reactive, default mode – living based on other people’s priorities instead of creating the life you dream of for yourself. 

Do you want to live your life? Or do you want to live based on someone else’s expectations for you? When you set goals, you are in the drivers seat. 

So if you’re not feeling goal setting this year, you have to ask yourself this question:

What’s the cost of NOT setting goals?

Is it worth it to miss out on income, adventures, promotions, personal growth and time well spent?

What happens if you do nothing? And what happens if you try something. 

I challenge you to try something. Let 2 goals instead of 10. Set just 1. Give yourself the gift of vision and direction.  

Last thing I’ll say here – if you’re listening to this episode in February or even August and you haven’t made a plan for your year yet – it’s not too late. It’s never too late! There is no perfect time for a fresh start or to set goals. But I do encourage you to do it as soon as you can, because there is no substitute for the direction and drive that having a plan can give you.

So – to recap:

Part I – Past – Look back. What did you learn from this past year?

Part II – Present – Look around. What does life look like right now?

Part III – Future. – Look ahead. What do you want to do in the next year?

If you’re looking for a goal setting partner for 2022, I’m raising my hand. For the first time ever, I’m hosting a LIVE goal setting workshop to walk you through the exact process I use to plan my year, and the method I’ve used with dozens of clients to help them walk into the new year feeling confident, with a clear vision for the future, and ready to live with intention. 

2022 is your year. It’s our year! Consider me your goal setting BFF and join me for Ready. Set. Goals! On December 28th. Yes – that weird week between Christmas and New Years when you don’t know what day it is and you’re living in sweatpants can be the ideal time to get your gameplan for 2022.  Grab your seat at annadkornick.com/goals and let’s do this together!


Before we go, let me tell you a little bit about next week’s episode – Episode 107. Although they’re well intentioned, time and time again New Year’s Resolutions just don’t last. Be sure to tune in next week to find out two strategies for setting goals that actually go somewhere, and creating habits that stick.

Alright – that’s all for today. Thanks so much for tuning in. Talk to you soon!

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