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Do you define what you want to accomplish at the start of every year? Are those for professional use, personal use, or both? How do you track it throughout the year?

In this post, I will share what I do, how I do it and what are my plans for this year.

I have always been defining goals at work as part of a standard process, but from the last few years, I started setting personal goals. And this is not to beat myself up at the end of the year if I don’t achieve it. Instead, it is to help me clarify my thoughts and focus on things I would like to do throughout the year. So, I like to call “personal goals” as “things to focus”.

At the end of the year, I start with defining what I want to do next year, at a high level. These are the goals. Then for each goal, I define projects which will help me achieve those goals. In the end, for each project, I define tasks or activities which are required to complete the project.

Let me give you an example - let’s say a goal is to improve physical health. The projects for this goal are (a) regular workouts and (b) eat healthy. And the task for “regular workouts” are cardio and weight training.

When defining the tasks, it’s important to keep it simple and granular. Projects and goals are high level, but tasks need to be low level and simple. One of the key points when defining the tasks is that I need to be able to track it. I should be able to say “I did this task today” or “I didn’t do this task today”. If I cannot do this with a task, then either it’s not defined correctly or it’s high level, probably a project.

In general, there are 2 ways to track tasks - using a physical notebook or a digital tracker like a website or a mobile app. Both have its own pros and cons. Personally, I like to use the digital tracker for a few reasons. First, if I am using a digital notepad I can customize its appearance, format and give it a look and feel the way I like. I can change its background color, use different fonts, different icons, etc. Second, digital trackers are easy to manage in the long run. I can archive old tasks, I can search across all my projects and I can take backups to avoid losing it. Third, automation. There are apps which automatically shows how I am progressing towards my goal and send reminders to perform a task based on a time of the day. And fourth, summarization and visualization. The ability to see the summary of the progress towards my goal and visualizing it using graphs, charts help me review it quickly and perform analysis towards the end of the year.

Over 2 years, I have used many apps and websites for tracking my tasks such as Evernote, Wunderlist, Google docs, Spreadsheets, OneNote and many others. But, I haven’t found one which provides all the capabilities I described above. As a result, I ended up using more than one app at any given time to use different features.

Thus, I have decided to create my own digital tracking app with all the features which are important for me to track my goals, effectively. It is going to take me some time to develop the app, so, until then I am going simple and using OneNote. Once I have my app finished, I will share it via my blog.