PhD Life

End of year goal reflections.

As we approach the end of the year, it’s important we have some goal reflections. Looking back at our goals from the beginning of the year will help us to reaffirm our successes and identify our blockers – providing us with newfound knowledge for next year’s goals.

At the start of the year, or throughout the year, we often set goals for the coming months that help us to try and achieve a particular outcome. As the year goes by it’s easy for us to let our goals slip, things change, or other goals emerge which change our focus. This is relatively normal, but as we move forward into the next year it’s important we take a step back to think about our previous objectives through goal reflections.

The whole point of making goal reflections is to firstly see what we did achieve. In other words, did we do what we set out to do? When we’re stuck in the monotony of everyday life our accomplishments can feel small or insignificant. By being able to engage with goal reflections enables us to zoom out and see the bigger picture. When we do this and list all the things we’ve achieved, it creates a better sense of accomplishment and provides us with a more realistic perspective on what we did do over the course of the year.

Some goals may have been a slow grind, requiring tremendous amounts of resilience and patience. When we do achieve them, like publishing a paper or submitting your thesis, it can unfortunately feel quite anticlimactic. Taking a step back to acknowledge we did achieve these things, or anything else, really helps to provide a more balance view of out outputs. To really make the most of this reflective exercise, feel free to grab a pen and paper and make a list of your accomplishments over the last 12 months – even if you didn’t initially plan to accomplish them at the start of the year, they still count. This is important for our next exercise when we reflect on the things we didn’t accomplish, as this could be due to new goals emerging.

After listing our accomplishments, it’s time to start thinking about what we didn’t quite achieve. Here we can look back to what we set out to do in the beginning of the year to identify the goals we didn’t accomplish. For these goals we can start exploring why this happened, what were the key blockers, and what prevented us from reaching our targets. In effect, you get to use your problem-solving skills on your own goals – this is why goal reflections are so important. It means we can identify common patterns, challenges or things that simply prevent us from thriving.

After identifying these common blockers or challenges, we’re likely to have a clearer picture on what’s holding us back. This is a useful exercise to take forward into the new year and when we set our new set of goals. Ideally, if we can minimise as many blockers as possible, it means we’re more likely to achieve our next set of goals, helping us to set ourselves up for success. For instance, if procrastination, lack of sleep, or perhaps just not being invested or passionate about that goal anymore is a common blocker for you, you can look into ways of removing those blockers (e.g., improving your productivity, focusing on better sleep), or even de-prioritise and identify a new goal if your priorities and passions have changed.

Just like the exercise above, it’s encouraged to spend some time listing these challenges down, figuring out ways to overcome them, or perhaps digging into why they’ve been so difficult for you. This can help uncover our true intentions, how to supercharge our future goals, and really help us to continue to progress and thrive.This isn’t an easy activity as it requires a lot of introspection, honesty, and head space to think. This is partly why it’s beneficial to do this over the holidays or at the end of the year – there’s a natural break from academia as institutions close, and so you simply have the head space to sit with your thoughts, assess your situation and engage properly with goal reflections.

Overall, your end of year goal reflections should provide you a chance to recap the goals you set out to achieve at the beginning of the year, whilst also figuring out how best to create new goals for the year/months ahead. In the beginning this can be hard to do, but once we get into a routine of reflecting on our goals, setting new ones, and identifying what’s holding us back, it becomes more intuitive. Consistency really is key, being able to set impactful goals and reflecting on them is paramount for success.  

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