2020 has been quite a year. Nobody knew what to expect but I can safely say nobody expected this. As we wind down the year there is a lot of talk about 2021 and the cautious optimism about it being a better year. I’ve been alive long enough to realise that what you probably need is a better self not so much a better year. For your 2021 you probably ideas and dreams of what you would like to do. Or maybe they are fully-fledged goals. I thought it would be great to discuss 5 effective goal setting techniques to help you achieve your goals in 2021. 


I will not spend too much time on this one because it is probably the most widespread method and there are many resources including textbooks that cover it. Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound goal setting has its merits and is proven to work.

Bullet journaling 

Bullet journaling is not so much of a goal-setting system as it is a tracking or administration system. What I mean is that journaling isn’t about setting goals but rather about making them happen. Depending on who you listen to writing down your goals can increase the chances of achieving them by any between 40 to 90%. What I know for sure is that a system like a bullet journaling will happily carry goals through from week to week and move towards achievement. You can read this article or watch this video for details on bullet journaling. It works great whether you prefer to write in a paper journal or like me you prefer a digital version.


Another acronym system for goal setting but not as well known as SMART is HARD. Between you and I, that acronym does not inspire confidence but it is best not to judge a book by its cover. Heartfelt, Animated, Required and Difficult are the words the letters stand for. Firstly the goal must have meaning to you and you can establish this by doing a list of “whys”. The more reasons you have to achieve it the better. Secondly, you must see vividly the achievement of the goal. Visualizations definitely work and entrench the goal in your subconscious mind. Third, the goal must be a need not a want. Simply put, for the most part, people do what needs to be done. If your goal is not a need the chances of it being achieved diminish. And finally, accept that the goal will be difficult. Document and quantify the difficulty you will meet and plans to deal with it.


Yes, another acronym and they do get weirder by the minute. Wish, Outcome, Obstacle and Plan are what the letters stand for. Firstly you identify your wish or desire, your goal. Secondly, you must quantify the outcome. What I mean by this is best illustrated through that now-famous US Navy Seals saying “every man wants to go to heaven but no man wants to die”. What will achieving your goal mean? What comes with it? What will be lost because of it? Third, we identify obstacles. This is difficult because it is very rare to have all the information available to you at the start. Do not let this discourage you, I will speak a little more on this aspect.  Finally, for each identified obstacle create a plan to overcome it.

Vision board 

The vision board is treated as something out of a magical story but it has its roots firmly in psychology. Regardless of the type of thinker, you are your mind still works very well with visual queues for those gifted with sight. Vision boards are all about using this visual bias to constantly program your mind towards your goals. Some people prefer the paper collage vision boards but I say get some collage software and stitch together pictures that represent your desires. Use them as your lock screen, home screen and wallpaper (especially in WhatsApp) on all your devices. The idea is to program your mind with visual inputs. There are many resources on vision boards out there and you cannot go wrong.

I think the most difficult part of goal setting and achievement will always be the information asymmetry.  When you are doing something new it is almost impossible to have all the information you need. So a goal review system that constantly factors in new information (hence my preference for a digital journal) will be your best friend. I recommend reviewing goals at least every 7 days and factoring new information into the plan. You can review more frequently than every 7 days but I would not recommend reviewing less frequently. Finally, I would recommend you use all the systems outlined here.