An Alternative to Annual Goals

- 2 min -
Joe Buhlig

I’ve been struggling with goal-setting lately, enough that I abandoned my annual goals altogether. But I’ve found that I want something to help guide the systems that I’m putting in place.

Traditional goal-setting

In the past, I’ve set personal and professional goals annually using the SMART method. It gave me a sense of pride. I knew I was on a path to do some big things. And that was great motivation at the onset of the year.

But after a month, (sometimes two), I forgot about my goals and drift from thing to thing. The shiny new object motivation was gone. And more often than not, there would be a change in the circumstances or assumptions that my goals were based on. If I could, I would re-factor them and start again.

By the end of the year, my goals looked nothing like the originals. And in most cases, I failed to hit them. Year after year of the same process finally frustrated me enough to stop and think about the foundation of goal-setting.

The alternative

I reflected on my inability to complete goals and looked for patterns. It turned out that every three months I was trying to re-imagine my goals for the year. I was setting goals quarterly, but didn’t consider altering their deadlines to reflect the changes. If I’m naturally setting goals quarterly, why not embrace it?

I’m just starting this journey, but here’s why I think this could work:

1. Not too long

Life happens too fast for annual goals. Circumstances and mindsets can change quickly and a year is too long. I found myself waiting for the year to end so that I could start something new. Why wait if I’ve abandoned or completed my original goal?

Moving to a shorter time period allows me to accept my three month cycle.

2. Shiny new object motivation

I can take advantage of my excitement at the onset. I’m usually pretty stoked to get started on new goals. If I’m planning more frequently, I can use the early motivation to accomplish things faster and gain focus.

3. Success cycle

I’m lacking the drive that comes from successfully reaching a goal. When I achieve a goal, I get excited and want to do more. By using shorter periods, I have more opportunities for success and can create a cycle of winning.

My plan

I’m just coming to this idea and haven’t tested it… at all. It’s a journey that I’ll do my best to share. My plan for the next week is to set goals for the next 3 months, share as many of them as I can with you, and let you know how it goes.

That’s the goal anyway.


  1. Why 90-Day Goals Are Better Than Year-Long Ones - Fast Company
  2. Stop Thinking Long Term. Execute Strategy 90 Days at a Time. - Entrepreneur
  3. Why Our Brains Like Short-Term Goals - Entrepreneur