Planning Series: Yearly Goals


Welcome to the second post in this planning series. You can hop on over to the first one about setting an intention, here: Planning Series: Start with an Intention for the Year.

Once I have my intention set for the year, I move on to goal setting, which gets a lot more specific. As I mentioned in the intention setting post, I typically do this exercise at the end of the summer or the very beginning of fall term, but this could easily be done at the end of the calendar year (or whenever you want!). If I’ve planned far enough in advance, I might devote a luxurious full day to dreaming up all the things I want to do in the coming year and what that might look like, a little personal retreat, if you will. I find that it’s a nice way to start the school year and gets me excited for what’s to come.

I divide my goals into 2 (very) broad areas: personal goals and work goals. Each gets further subdivided into specific categories. For work I have categories for research, teaching, tenure, and service. Personal goals generally fall into health, travel, personal development, and home improvement.

Clarifying Expectations

If you have a specific long term goal you’re working towards (like tenure), you need to be clear on what the expectations are for meeting this goal. I also realize that in some places, specifics related to tenure can be really hard to come by. If this is the case for you, I would do the following:

  • Talk to as many people as you can about their understanding of tenure expectations, including those who have recently gotten tenure

  • Look at the CVs of the people who have recently gotten tenure

  • Read through your tenure guidelines to see if you can glean any additional information that you may have missed

  • Once you’re very familiar with the guidelines and have a good sense for your colleague’s expectations (they are, after all, the people who will be reviewing your materials), create your own benchmarks for tenure based on what seems realistic and feasible for you and your work/interests.

  • Once you have your personal benchmarks, go back to your colleagues and say, hey, here’s what I’m thinking about doing, this is what it’ll likely look like on a yearly basis, does it sound like I’m on the right track?

  • If yes, cool, move forward. If no, ask how you might adjust your plan, revamp it and ask again, repeating until you get some yeses.

If your tenure expectations are crystal clear, good for you! No need to clarify and set your own!

In addition to getting clear about tenure expectations, you’ll also want to get clear about what’s important to you in your personal life. I like to spend some time daydreaming, brainstorming, freewriting (whatever works) about what I hope to accomplish that year, pulling in my freewriting from my intention work. As I previously mentioned, my goals usually center on a few key areas: health, travel, personal development, and home improvement. These are the main areas where I spend my non-work time (in addition to parenting of course!). Health, because, well if you don’t have it then everything else becomes more difficult. Travel because we have family that lives far away and because we love to explore new places. Personal development because I think it’s important to grow and learn (I am an academic after all), and home improvement because I love DIY house stuff (Young House Love anyone?)... in another life I’d be fixing up houses.  

Get Out Your Calendar

It’s helpful to have a general sense of what your year looks like in terms of major events. Get out your calendar (electronic or paper or both) and make sure it includes important dates like birthdays, school start/end dates, any planned trips or conferences (even if they are tentative)... essentially anything big or important that you know will be coming. Having them in your calendar when you’re laying out goals is helpful so you know when things will be hectic and when they’ll be calm. You can (hopefully) more easily gauge your abilities to meet your goals based on whatever else is going on and adjust accordingly. For example, Ellie’s birthday, our wedding anniversary, and the end of spring term all fall within a few weeks of one another (and then they are followed by my birthday and Mike’s birthday). I know not to expect anything more than the bare minimum (at least as far as work stuff) around that time of year.

Set Your Yearly Goals

Start with one of your broad categories (for me that’s work or personal). I find working on my personal goals to be more fun so I end with that and start with work. For each broad category, go through your subcategories (e.g., research, teaching, tenure, service) one by one and set your goals, keeping your intention for the year and your calendar in the forefront of your mind. I’m not a SMART goal stickler (specific.measurable.attainable.realistic.timely) but do find that specificity and the ability to measure your goals in some way are really helpful for tracking progress.

Here are what my goals look like for this year (September 2018 - August 2019). Within research I set goals for publications, conference presentations, funding, and any active data collection.

  • Publications: submit 3 papers

    • I do have specific papers in mind although I don’t commit to them in my goals as I want to be flexible about any opportunities that might come up during the year. I’m (usually) never one to turn down an invite to partner on a paper (especially as a pre-tenure faculty).  

    • Progress update: Submitted 1 paper during fall term. There was another submitted during summer, I can’t remember if I’m counting it towards last year or this year! The second paper has a solid draft of the methods and results, with a little bit of the intro done.

  • Presentations: submit 2 conference presentations (1 first authored)

    • Similar to publications, I keep this flexible. There are conferences that are always a safe bet, but I also like to leave things open, e.g., I got an email about submitting an abstract to a conference where I live in the spring which fits my interests and wouldn’t require travel, win-win!

    • Progress update: Planning to submit at least 1 (first authored to a conference in January), and potentially a second 1 to this same conference.

  • Funding: submit 1 funding application

    • For funding I do typically set a specific target as applying for funds isn’t as flexible as papers/presentations.

    • Progress update: Submitted! Fingers crossed!

  • Active data collection: work on systematic review each week of each term

    • Right now, I’ve got a systematic review going on, and then eventual interviews. I want to keep the momentum going on this project so I’m trying to make sure I do something, even if it’s small, each week.

    • Progress update: I should probably update this to read... when there is something I can do. It’s a collaborative project, which means having to navigate multiple people’s schedules and availability... which doesn’t necessarily align with being able to move forward each week. Short answer, no, I haven’t worked on this each week of the term, but most weeks!

After I’ve set my goals initially, I’ll read over them while keeping my intention in mind (e.g., this years is finding myself) and seeing if they fit. For this year, a lot of the projects I’m working on allow me to explore a slightly different (but related) area of interest, which fits nicely with “finding myself” as a researcher. With my calendar out, I then outline when I’d like to do each of these things. Some things are easy - like funding that has a specific due date! Others, like papers, I set myself based on what I think is realistic given my other commitments.

I then do the same process for teaching, tenure, and service, which are, for me, a little more straightforward. For teaching, I simply outline the classes I plan to teach, the number of students I plan to advise, and then add in one professional development goal.

Here are my 2018-19 teaching goals:

  • Prep for 1 online research methods course

    • Progress update: all of the course logistics and week 1 content are set up, allowing me to be a few steps ahead of the students during the term.

  • Teach 1 online research methods course during winter term

    • Progress update: still in the prepping phase

  • Prep for 1 face to face research course

    • Progress update: almost done with course logistics and updating last year’s materials. I need to do some final prepping (like printing, giving my agenda a final review, etc.) for the first class, and then will continue to prep once the term starts.

  • Teach 1 face to face research course during winter term

    • Progress: still in the prepping phase

  • Prep for 1 face to face stats course

    • Progress update: have updated the course syllabus and pieces of the assignment from last year, they need a thorough review before spring term.

  • Teach 1 face to face stats course during spring term

    • Progress: still in the prepping phase

  • Prep for 1 online human development course

    • Progress update: have done some updating of course readings.

  • Teach 1 online human development course during spring term

    • Progress update: still in the prepping phase

  • Advise 30 students

    • Progress update: in progress!

  • Participate in 1 teaching related professional development workshop

    • Progress update: yes! Many! My university offered a number of teaching related development workshops that were of interest to me during fall term and I went to maybe 3 total. I also applied for and received a small grant to do some work related to open education resources in one of my spring courses.

I don’t set specific goals about what I’ll get on my teaching evaluations or anything like that. Just like getting an article accepted, I think evaluations are way too hard to control and not necessarily indicative of your actual ability to teach. I still feel pretty new to teaching, so I’m happy when I can just get through the term! In teaching, my intention shows up in how I teach. I’m making sure to try new things in (and out of) the classroom as a part of figuring out who I am as an educator. And once again, I get out my calendar and make note of when I’m teaching, when I’m prepping, when my advising office hours are, and when workshops are (if available). By this point, my calendar is starting to get full!

My tenure section is small and is dictated by when my materials are due each year. This year I submit my third year review, so that’s my goal for the year!

  • Submit 3rd year review in February

    • Update: Compiled 99% of materials and have notes about updates to my narrative and research agenda.

Finally, service. My expectations for tenure are pretty straight forward, serve on 2 committees, and also engage in some way, shape, or form with the community and profession.

  • Serve on equity committee from September to June

  • Serve as lead instructor (counts as a committee) from September to June

  • Serve on search committee from September to June(?)

  • Do 1 manuscript review  

  • Serve as a scholarship judge for one community organization during winter term

Once I’ve identified all of my goals for the year and tentatively given them some space on the calendar, I take a look at everything as whole. I ask myself if it feels doable and if they feel aligned with my intention. I didn’t do this, this year, but you could review your goals with a trusted colleague to get their take, to make sure you’re headed in the “right” direction.  

Now onto personal goals! As I previously mentioned, my personal goals tend to focus on health, travel, personal development, and home improvement. Health and travel are pretty much always on my list, personal development/home improvement may or may not be depending on what we’ve got going on. To start, I’ll take any free writing I have about what I want the year to look like, along with my intention for the year and use those as a guide for my goals. Unlike work, I don’t have anything set in stone about what I should/shouldn’t be doing, so this is a lot more of a free for all. Here are my goals for 2018-19.

  • Health (which I define broadly)

    • Exercise 3 times per week every week

      • Progress: There was a week or two in November where I was sick and opted for sleep, but otherwise I’ve been pretty consistent so far (we’ll see what happens when teaching gets added back in).

    • Work up to a 30 minute meditation practice every other day

      • Progress: Currently stalled at about 10 minutes every other day.

    • Start olympic lifting (I added this goal in after I did my initial yearly planning session)

      • Progress: yes!! It has felt so good to get back into this!

    • Work no more than 8 hours/day, Monday - Friday

      • Progress: I was really good in the beginning of the school year. The end of the fall term and the ensuing term sent me into a bit of a course prepping tailspin, so I’ve definitely gone over the 8 hour days as of late; however, my no weekend work is pretty solid.

  • Personal Development

    • Start a blog

      • Progress: you’re reading it!

    • Maintain a blog, posting at least once a week

      • Progress: good so far! We’ll see how I do once teaching starts up.

  • Travel

    • 1 trip back east

      • Progress: Potentially have something in the works, there’s a conference in Philly that coincides with a wedding so I can get my flight covered and we can see family and friends while we’re there too.

    • 1 “long” trip

      • Progress: Probably time we started brainstorming what we might do...

    • 2 short weekend trips

      • Progress: We took a trip in October with some friends to the coast for a birthday celebration which was lovely. We have another (conference related) trip planned where Mike and Ellie will join.

No specific home improvement goals, Mike is the one who implements all of my ideas and he just finished up a big project, so we’re taking a breather for a bit. However, as a Christmas treat to myself I’m consulting with a designer (who designed our friend’s remodel) about ideas we could implement ourselves.

Once my personal goals are set, I review them all with my intention in mind and also with my calendar open (that has work stuff already included from when I set work goals - but perhaps I should be doing this the other way around!). I tentatively plan out when I want to meet these goals (if they aren’t ongoing) and ask myself if my plan feels doable in light of everything else. I might make some adjustments if things seem like they might get overwhelming at any point. Otherwise, I’ll assess and adjust as the year progresses.  

This post feels long enough! I will save the quarter (or semester for you lucky people on the semester system) planning for another post (how i plan my quarter).