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Goal-Getter or Goal-Forgetter? How to set your 2024 Creative Goals

by | Jan 2, 2024

Here’s a slightly awkward confession: my New Year’s resolutions for 2023 if was going to make then would bear a striking resemblance to those of 2022, 2021, and, well, every other year before that.

I always kick off with enthusiasm but the weather, the effort, the pull of the fridge, doom-scrolling, the sheer pressure of it all defeats me within days. It’s not a great way to kick start the new year and your creative success.

As the calendar flips, millions of us will pledge to reinvent ourselves. Whether on scraps of paper, crumpled napkins, or in new fancy notebooks, the annual ritual involves listing the ways we’ll be better this year. Yet, statistics suggest that up to 80% of people abandon their resolutions by February, with only 8% staying committed all year. So how can we try to adopt changes that last longer than a few weeks?

I have given up setting myself a long list of should-dos. It just feels so depressing to feel like you’re failing 2 weeks into a new year! But I always try to set some shape to the year and intentions before tackling the to-do list this week.

Setting meaningful goals and making real change requires more than list making just because everyone else is doing it. It takes motivation, time and effort. But of course a new year does mean a fresh start, an empty calendar and a full 12 months to make your “dent in the universe” to quote Steve Jobs. So what can you do if you want to achieve your creative ambitions this year?

 “Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.’

Japanese proverb

So starting today, and over the next few weeks, I thought I’d share some of the ideas and exercises that I use personally – these combine the vision-setting and the practical actions to help you make 2024 your best creative year yet.

Michael Bungay Stanier is author of Do More Great Work’, a book that had a big impact on how I approach the start of each year professionally.

It’s a simple idea really. Stanier suggests that we can all be preoccupied every single day doing what he calls ‘busy’ or ‘bad work’ – that might be being in meetings we don’t need to be in, answering emails or writing endless reports.

‘Good work’ is better, but it’s treading water, maintaining the status quo and working on projects that never really move the needle or drive the organisation ahead. Stanier suggests instead that we focus on our ‘great work’ – expanding on the innovative, interesting ideas that stretch us, and move ourselves, and our companies forward.

At the start of each year I think about what my ‘great work’ project is going to be (or could be, no matter how embryonic), and this is the North Star that provides focus and drives my actions on a monthly, weekly and a daily basis. It’s not always straightforward because of course we all have a limited range of time, energy and resources. But if I reach July and I haven’t started on the project that I identified as important, or I’m stuck, then I know something’s gone awry.

So the start of a new year is a great time to ask yourself:

‘What is my great work project for 2024 going to be?’

This might mean reprioritising. Perhaps you’ve come across the ‘stop, start, continue’ framework for managing change, which is useful in a range of situations, including here. Ask these three simple questions, which can then lead to further questions:

  • What are some things I should stop doing?
  • What should I start doing?
  • What should I continue doing?
  • What should I do more of?

I’ll leave the last word on this topic to Stanier and this great question to help you prioritise:

“If you’re saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?”

Next time we’ll look at representing your great work plan and 2024 goals with imagery, bringing them to life by creating a vision board.

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