Quarterly Goals and Habits over Resolutions

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The beginning of the New Year is the time when businesses and individuals set resolutions for the year. While it's important to set high-level goals for the upcoming year, I tend to focus not on resolutions, but creation of habits and quarterly goals instead.

Setting a yearly goal/resolution is like developing a software product using the Waterfall model, it doesn't account for change. Things happen that can alter the course of our lives and businesses. By planning quarterly over yearly, it allows us to embrace change and shift our focus to goals that will have the most impact on our businesses and lives.

Achieve Yearly Objectives with Quarterly Goals

Planning quarterly all the time is nice, but sometimes there are high-level goals which your business does want to achieve. This can be something like reaching X amount of revenue in 2013. To plan for these types of goals, break them down into manageable parts.

For example, if a software product wanted to gain 1000 new customers in 2013, they could set a quarterly goal of 250 new customers instead. After the first quarter, based on the amount of new customers obtained, you can pivot the goal for the next quarter, or proceed with trying to obtain 250 more new customers.

How I Plan

I've developed a system using a combination of techniques found in The Accidental Creative, Getting Things Done, and Eat That Frog.

The Accidental Creative discusses the concept of "Checkpoints", which focuses on having weekly, monthly and quarterly reviews. Within each of these checkpoints, you evaluate:

  • Your areas of focus
  • Relationships
  • Energy (Are there projects that need to be pruned?)
  • Stimuli (What will help you with upcoming projects and grow?)
  • Hours (What will require the most of your time)

On top of these areas, I apply the "Law of Three" defined in Eat That Frog. In each following category, I define the three most important goals for the quarter:

  • Business/Career
  • Family/Relationship
  • Financial
  • Health
  • Professional Development
  • Social/Community

Once all quarterly goals have been set, I create projects for each goal in my GTD system. I recommend Things as it works perfectly with GTD and syncs over the internet. The next step is to set challenges/tasks for each goal/project. Set deadlines for each action step, as a goal without one has no urgency.


Some lifestyle goals such as losing X amount of weight/inches, and being more productive are fundamentally tied to developing habits. Charles Duhigg's book "The Power of Habit" goes into how certain habits are triggered via a habit loop. This loop consists of a trigger("cue"), a routine, and finally a reward.

Once you are aware of how habits are triggers and created, it makes it much easier to develop new ones. I cue habits everyday using the iPhone application Commit. At a specified time, Commit will send me a reminder("cue") asking if I've committed to a specified goal. By executing the commitment once I am reminded, it triggers a "routine", which ultimately allows me to reach my goal("reward").

Current Goals

Listed below is a sample of some goals/challenges I want to achieve in the next quarter.

Write 1000 words a day

One of my high-level goals is to become a better writer. The key to becoming better at anything is practice, practice, practice. Thus for the next quarter, and most likely the year, I want to write 1000 words a day. The writing can be done towards anything from this blog, a book, or a journal. I will be using the site 750words.com to keep track of my progress.

Complete the "Rails 4 Upgrading Guide" eBook

With the completion of the Rails 4 Countdown series, the next step is to expand on what I have wrote, and make an ebook which can be used as a reference for those developers upgrading from Rails 3. Over the next three months, I want to have this completed and sent to all the Remarkable Labs newsletter subscribers.

Launch a Web Application

Nathan Barry in his blog wrote about a Web App Challenge. Essentially to complete the challenge, you must build a web application within six months to have $5,000 in recurring revenue each month. Over the next quarter, I want to take the steps necessary to launch my own product to coincide with this challenge.

Get back to the gym and lose 18 pounds

While this goal is cliché, going to the gym in the morning was something that allowed my day to get off to a great start. I had more energy, felt better, and enjoyed setting fitness goals for myself. Over 8 months ago, I stopped going to the gym due to an injury and never got into the habit of going again. Hopefully, I can rectify that.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on this system and any goals you have personally set. Feel free to email me or leave a comment.


This post is by Kevin Faustino. Kevin is the Chief Craftsman of Remarkable Labs and also the founder of the Toronto Ruby Brigade.


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