Wouldn’t it be great if you could flash forward to the future and find out whether your plans worked out? Knowing that your New Year’s goals are sure to pay off is an excellent way to stay motivated. But until you develop the gift of foresight, the best thing to do is learn how to set goals you can realistically achieve.
Unsure of where to begin? Try using visualization tools to brainstorm what you hope to accomplish this year. They’re not quite as convenient as having superpowers, but visuals can help you organize your thoughts and find patterns among your ideas.
Diagrams are easy to create, and they serve as a visual resource you can keep referring back to throughout your journey. Whether you’re inspired by colorful graphics, analytical techniques, or orderly charts, we’ll help you find a goal-setting strategy you love.
Don’t underestimate the power of a classic, no-nonsense Venn diagram. They’re simple yet efficient, and from a visual standpoint, Venn diagrams make it easy to see the connections between related ideas.
A traditional Venn diagram is made up of two overlapping circles. In the spaces where the circles overlap, you add ideas that apply to both topics. In the spaces without overlap, you only include ideas related to the individual topic. For a goal-setting strategy, we recommend a three– or four-circle Venn diagram for more detailed brainstorming.
The best part is you can structure Venn diagram topics however you like. One option is to start off with “New Year’s goals” in the center. Then, label each circle with categories like “strengths,” “interests,” “motivations,” “expectations,” and “obstacles.” By looking at the relationships between these topics, you can generate goal ideas that fit within multiple categories.
Fill up the diagram with as many ideas as possible, so you can figure out whether a goal suits your talents and passions or has a significant chance of failure.
Mind maps and spider diagrams
If you like visualization techniques that are both freeform and organized, mind maps and spider diagrams should be your go-to methods. A mind map is a hierarchical network of ideas grouped around a central theme. You use branches to connect categories to the central theme and then add more branches and sub-themes to each category to break down your ideas further.
Similarly, a spider diagram is a loose web of concepts and sub-themes, allowing you to explore your interests and link ideas. Both mind maps and spider diagrams provide an in-depth graphical representation of what you want to accomplish. On top of that, they offer broad flexibility to create as many categories as you need.
Depending on your aspirations, choose categories such as Finance, Health, Career, Family, Hobbies, Travel, or Skills. Then, include anything you want to improve in that area of your life. Branch off into smaller, more detailed sections to develop plans for tackling your New Year’s goals.
Have you ever used the SOAR technique to prepare for an interview? With a few adjustments, it’s equally effective as a brainstorming tool. SOAR stands for Situation, Obstacle, Action, and Results, and it was originally a method of conveying your experiences through purpose-driven storytelling. Another version of this acronym lists Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results, but we’ll stick with the first model.
Here’s how to set goals using a SOAR analysis. Create a 2×2 grid with the following categories and content. You can make a separate grid for each goal or chart several at once. If you go with the latter method, we suggest color-coding each goal, so you can easily distinguish them on the grid.
- Situation: describe the personal circumstances you want to improve or change.
- Obstacle: list the personal or external obstacles that could hinder your goal.
- Action: list the most crucial steps you must take to accomplish your goal.
- Results: define the results you want to achieve by completing your goal.
First, compare your Situation and Obstacle categories. Are there any obstacles you can easily remove or overcome either by making personal changes or obtaining related resources? If so, convert those obstacles into steps and add them to the Action section. As you go, update the Results section if the other changes you’ve made will create more positive outcomes.
Once you’re finished, compare your goal grids. Which New Year’s goals look the most well-defined and attainable? That’s where you should focus your efforts, and now you have a solid plan for getting started.
Lotus Blossom method
For diagramming enthusiasts, there’s no better way to analyze your New Year’s goals than with a lotus blossom diagram. The lotus blossom is a Japanese mapping technique that involves exploring a big idea by breaking it down into nine grids. Inspired by the lotus flower, each 3×3 grid includes a topic in the center square and eight sub-topics in the surrounding ‘petals.’
Next, you turn each subtopic into the central topic of one of the eight supporting grids. We love the lotus blossom technique because it brings order and structure to the creative thought process. You can choose whatever categorization method you like, and the grid will challenge you to think more deeply about what to pursue or what motivates you.
The BSQ method
Not everyone likes to meticulously dissect a goal. For some of us, too much analysis drains all pleasure out of an activity. If you’re the kind of person who normally makes decisions by throwing darts at pictures on a wall, you might find the BSQ technique appealing.
The BSQ method stands for Big, Small, Quick, and its purpose is to help you define a goal and drive momentum as rapidly as possible. Using a basic table, you can chart out the following stages.
1. Think Big
The Think Big stage should be a rapid-fire exercise where you list ambitions that have been on your mind for a while. Start with a big goal that’s challenging but still within your reach. If the task is overly simple, you’ll accomplish it too easily, and the experience might not feel as satisfying as you hoped. If it’s too hard, you’ll get discouraged and lose interest.
Do you want to run a marathon? Are you determined to win a promotion or take the lead on a project at work? Have you fantasized about traveling abroad or learning an instrument? The most important thing is to avoid selling yourself short. As long as you’re willing to commit to the activity, your goal is worth pursuing.
2. Act Small
In the Act Small stage, divide the main goal into small steps you can execute quickly. The number of milestones you create is entirely up to you and should be based on your personality. And be honest with yourself: if you need frequent gratification to stay motivated, then make your milestones shorter. For example, if you’re learning a new language, setting daily or weekly goals may be more helpful than monthly ones.
3. Move Quickly
The Move Quickly stage is when you decide on a timeframe for each milestone and the larger goal. While it doesn’t have to be set in stone, you should foster accountability by sticking to the timeline as much as possible. By building momentum right away, your early triumphs give you the confidence to keep pursuing the bigger target.
The Question-storming method
It’s a new year, so why not ditch old-school brainstorming for a newer trend? Introducing: question-storming. In reality, the techniques are similar, but the point is to focus on the unknown instead of what you already know.
Question-storming is a creativity technique that involves coming up with as many questions as possible about a topic within a set timeframe. Typically, you would limit yourself to 10 to 15 minutes to generate a high volume of rapid-fire responses. For instance, if you were question-storming company goals with your marketing team, you might end up with questions like this:
- What gaps do we need to fill to keep our customers happy?
- Are there any untapped marketing channels we should be using?
- What comes to mind when people hear our brand name?
- Are we using the right performance metrics to measure our success?
- Why aren’t we getting enough customer engagement in specific areas?
- What can we do to communicate better with customers or other departments?
By developing a wealth of questions, you’re stimulating your natural curiosity and desire to get concrete answers. Question-storming works best as a group activity. After all, you never know what insights your peers may contribute, and some of your team members may already have answers to your questions.
Goal-setting is an invaluable skill that will help you gain more purpose and direction in everything you do. And when your New Year’s goals actually align with your personality and strengths, you’re more likely to see them through to the end.
Use diagrams to work through your ideas and fully flesh out the objectives that are most important to you. With our Cacoo diagramming tool, you can create organized visuals in minutes using our templates or design custom diagrams to match your brainstorming style.
And if you still need more goal ideas, look to our New Year’s resolution flowchart for inspiration.