Yearly Goals and a Quarterly Plan: 12 Motivating and Attainable Goals

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Wow! Somehow 2020 was both a decade long, and a year that I blinked and it was over. After a year like 2020, how do you approach yearly goals in 2021? My 2020 word of the year was ‘restoration’ and even with all that the year ended up hitting the world with, I feel good about that. 

I’d list the 2020 end of the year theme as ‘dichotomy’, and in that dichotomy, there was a lot of personal and family rest and restoration as we had time at so much time at home together. Coming out of that, I want to springboard into 2021 with some pretty big goals and areas of my life that I want to improve. 

I was recently told that I’m very much a ‘silver-linings’ person, which was incredible to hear, because for many years I was definitely a ‘glass is half-empty’ person. The last few years have been so challenging in a number of ways, and I’ve made an intentional effort to focus on the positive even within hard things. It’s amazing to get affirmation that my intentionality in this area is paying off and is noticed. 

When it comes to goal setting, I’ve set either annual goals or a word of the year for the last several years. I am a huge fan of breaking goals for the year into quarterly planning under the umbrella of a larger annual theme. 

Why frame yearly goals under an annual theme?

The more I critically look at my goal setting approaches and failures, the more I realize (yet again) that I hate traditional trackers and everything the experts tell you about daily tracking of habits and such. I’m so much more motivated by general directional themes and tracking milestones + gut-level updates. 

As I look at goals for the year ahead in 2021, I know the 80/20 rule is the way to go, because with strict goals I get too easily caught up in perfectionism. 

By using an annual theme instead of yearly goals, I can keep my primary focus on the big picture and use smart goals in my quarterly goals and monthly goals. 

Quarterly goal planning has become quite popular in the last several years, for good reason. As 2020 proved, a whole lot can change in the course of a year, effectively rendering many goals irrelevant with a large chunk of the year left. 

By setting an annual theme and intentional direction, I’ve found it’s much easier to keep the big picture in mind while focusing on more specific quarterly goals. (I loosely use the model laid out in the 12 Week Year.)

I’m turning the big 4-0 this year, and that also leads to some introspection. It’s funny though, 40 doesn’t seem like that big of a milestone. 36 hit me harder, with the realization that it had been half my life since I graduated from high school. Maybe it’s partly because my husband and one of my closest friends both turned forty last year, this kind of seems like no big deal. 

So, how does that all come together in an annual theme for 2021? 

2021 Annual Theme Informs Yearly Goals

As we head into 2021, I kept coming back to an idea of achievement through (or in spite of) struggle. I wanted this to  convey the idea of working toward something new and accomplishment – but without the negative connotation of striving. The last few years have been rough. (And, writing this toward the end of January, January came in with a bang!)

I spent a lot of time looking for the right word to convey this sentiment, and let me tell you, it was difficult! So many words just didn’t quite fit. Some of the (perfectly good) rejects were: 

  • Learning
  • Growing
  • Discovering
  • Spark
  • Accelerate
  • Dominate

I ended up landing on an annual theme phrase rather than a single word: 

Forged with wisdom

I spent a lot of time reviewing dictionary and thesaurus records to find something that both had meanings that truly conveyed the sentiment I was after, as well as words that actually sounded good to me. 

To forge means:

Forge definition as part of yearly goals |
  • to make or shape (a metal object) by heating it in a fire or furnace and beating or hammering it
  • to create (a relationship or new conditions).

Forge wasn’t quite complete on it’s own though. While it felt right, it was missing something. 

Two forces came my way in January to shape out the annual theme. 

First, my dear friend Cherie Wagner does an annual scripture memory challenge, and this year the theme is wisdom, and is a selection of verses from the book of Proverbs.  

Then quite unexpectedly, the theme of wisdom was confirmed with the quotation of James 1:5 in the inauguration prayer.

5 Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. – HCSB

Regardless of where you fall on the political or spiritual spectrum – and this is not intended to be political! – I think we can all agree that wisdom is a phenomenal quality that we call could use  a little more of. 

Okay, now that we’ve landed on a yearly theme of “forged with wisdom,” let’s talk about how that translates into loose goals for the first quarter of 2021. 

Yearly Goal Focus Areas

With our theme for yearly goals in place, the next step is to think about the areas of life that we’ll set goals in. I’ve landed on four key focus areas that can encompass a wide array of goals. Note: I’ve seen a lot of people have quite a few more focus areas, or domains. I like keeping things as simple as possible, and any larger set can really come under the umbrella of one of these four. 


The Personal umbrella can include spiritual, physical health and wellness, mental health and wellness, hobbies, self-care and more. 


Relationships includes marriage, parenting, extended family, friendships, acquaintances, etc. 


Adulting, because dollars are required to sustain life. 


Because vocational goals matter to me, and a career brings fulfillment to my sense of self, my finances and thereby impacts all other areas of my life. 

Yearly Goals and a Quarterly Plan: 12 Motivating and Attainable Goals |

Q1 Quarterly Goals

Whew! We finally made it to quarterly goals for Q1. 


Oh boy. As much as I wish I had a different personal focus right now, my primary focus is on my mental health. Like many during this pandemic, I’m struggling with anxiety and depression. This isn’t a new thing, but pandemic life has made it harder. I think it’s so important to talk about this, and normalize it. Everything is 10x (or 100x) harder when you’re anxious or depressed. 

One of the areas affecting my mental health is my physical health and weight. It feels completely cliche, but I need to lose weight. My oldest will be 10 in August, and I’m still holding on to a good chunk of baby weight. Depression and pandemic life hasn’t helped. 

I know this is an area that it’s especially important to set attainable, realistic goals based on my actual mental state. I was very tempted to add several more, like drinking a set amount of water, or doing an exercise program or training for a 10k. But being honest with myself means that I know those feel big enough that I’d likely quit before I really got started. 

So, with that, my personal quarterly goals are: 

  1. Complete Dry January
  2. Complete 30 days of keto as a reset / kickstart. 
  3. Weekly accountability check-ins with my coach/sister
  4. Track food + exercise using the Lose It! App daily. 



My husband is the most important person in the world to me. We love each other and we like each other, which is incredible. I wake up every day – even when we’re arguing – and thank God for him. One simple goal here:

  1. Do a monthly intentional date – at home or out.


Our overarching philosophy as parents  is that our job is to raise healthy and productive adults. That’s no easy feat for any parent, but with twice exceptional kids, it’s apparently even harder. There’s so much we want to do, accomplish, teach them. With that in mind, our 

  1. Read aloud 4 chapter books. 

We use Audible and the Libby app (library) for audio books. I love that we get to ‘read aloud’ together, but I can enjoy it and don’t have to do the actual reading. 

2. Be more consistent with chores. 

Ugh. Any other parents find it’s easier to let these slide and do them yourself when kids are grumbling, complaining, and arguing? No, just me? Okay, move along then.

3. Continue to troubleshoot lagging skills

Both of our boys have medical diagnoses that lead to significant struggles not readily apparent at first glance. We are doing a lot of work around executive functioning and emotional regulation.


Be intentional in cultivating friendships, even when much interaction isn’t in person.

While I know it’s not the same everywhere, we’re still pretty shut down here in Oregon. It’s hard to not physically see my close friends on a regular basis. As an almost-introvert, I’m working to be more intentional at reaching out to people and not letting too much time pass.


Under the umbrella of forged with wisdom, our financial focus for this year is, “Grow our wealth while living an intentional life we love.” 

Last year we set 10 year goals, in part because my husband was turning forty, and in part because it was 2020, so those combined seemed like the perfect time to do 10 year planning (oh, the irony!). As part of that, we set what felt like fairly aggressive “dream big” financial goals. 

Looking at 2021 in light of those 10 year financial goals, it became clear that we’re at a point where we need someone more expert than us to give us guidance. That means that our big financial goal this year is to begin working with a certified financial planner. 

In a big early win, I scheduled interviews with several financial planners in early January to get this solidified. We landed on one of the individuals interviewed, and it’s been an amazing experience so far. I’m kicking myself for not prioritizing working with a certified financial planner earlier. It’s really shifting our mindset and freeing us up to focus on how we want to live our lives first, and then use our finances as a tool to get us there. 

So really, with the financial planner in place, and working together on our 10 year goals, we’ll take our cue from him and do what he tells us to do! We’ll definitely keep using YNAB to manage our daily budget. 


At this stage of life, and in the middle of a pandemic, career is an ideal area to focus on quarterly goals rather than any longer term horizon. Like many these days, my immediate job has an element of uncertainty that’s far beyond normal uncertainty. There’s a lot of the usual rhythms and routines that aren’t happening for a variety of reasons. I know this. I also know it’s unlikely to change in the next 12 weeks. That means that while I do have a general idea of a longer term career roadmap, Q1 2021 career goals are all about putting my head down and delivering well in the next 12 weeks. 

I’ve asked myself one key question: With all the macro and micro uncertainty around me, what can I impact? 

I landed on two things: My presence and attitude and a smaller scope of project deliverables than under normal circumstances. 

  1. Show up to work (from home) every day every day with energy and focus. 

Do this with the grace to know that energy and focus means a different capacity level on a day to day (or even hour to hour basis). Give this grace to both myself and others, as a leader, teammate and employee. 

2. Two specific day job projects.

I have intentionally scoped these two projects to be possible to deliver in the context of the current environment. It was so freeing to intentionally narrow down a shorter term focus with concrete deliverables. 

Yearly Goals: Inspiration

I’ve set yearly goals for several years. See how my goals, and goal setting approach have evolved over the years:

Whew! That was a lot. If you stuck with me this far, I’d love to know: Have you set an annual theme or word of the year? Do you have annual goals, quarterly goals, or monthly goals set? Send me an email and let me know!

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