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It’s the new year, so I imagine many of us are thinking about what we want to do in our own lives over the coming weeks and months.

What systems/tools/formats do you like to use to capture these goals, and how do you prefer to follow up/track progress against them?

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      Not to be glib, but I don’t.

      If I have personal stuff going on that requires more than a page in notebook, I probably have too much going on.

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        Totally with you. I don’t either.

        It’s not about being glib or pessimistic. For me it’s about my sanity. The list of things I want to do and haven’t will always be longer than the list of things I have. In a perfect world, I would have PhD, be the author of a wildly popular programming language or library or something, and be highly regarded in my field. There’s nothing wrong with being down to earth and realizing at this point in my life the odds of any of those happening is slim. I’m okay with that.

        Now on a positive note, that doesn’t mean I’m not constantly out to do something I haven’t. Or trying to accomplish a new goal in my life. I just try not look back.

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        For me having more than that page is a sign that I am not working on the right thing, or not in the right way. For work and other commitments it is different, but personal “goals” and projects are the only place where you can do things purely driven by intrinsic motivation. If you have enough of that, you don’t need a system to guide you, or a system that helps staying disciplined. It is very important for my mental health to have a place in my life where that can happen.

        So, if I have a day off and I can do whatever I want, what should I work on? On whatever I feel like. It’s that simple.

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      Same tool I use to track most things - orgmode. For goals with historical measures (like waist measurement) I use org plot to graph them.

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        I put everything in orgmode. Thanks for mentioning org_plot. It news to me.

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      A markdown file that I sync between phone and PC and view in the android app “Markor”, with the following format:

      # 2021 January
      - [ ] Start an exercise habit
      - [ ] Meditate 30min 6 times
      - [ ] Figure out python asyncio
      - [ ] Buy new table
      # 2020 December
      - [X] Just survive 2020
      - [ ] Start an exercise habit
      ![new year's eve photo](nye.jpg)
      ![hiking photo](hiking.jpg)

      Key points:

      • I add as many months as I care to plan ahead for
      • Of course a headers like “2021” or “2021 January-March” are possible as well
      • The lists contain (optional) checkboxes, so I can see what worked and what didn’t
        • If I care enough, I carry over failed items into the next month
      • Sometimes I write additional paragraphs to detail my plans or break down why a plan failed
      • I add memorable photos to get a sense of progress, continuity and gratitude when I scroll through the file
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        I really like that format. Maybe I will stole it to use with simplenote to try to have a long-term to-do.

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      I’m pretty religious about my yearly goals and New Year’s resolutions for about 4 years running now.

      This is my list:

      • Todoist. the “recurring tasks” feature is good for goal chasing.
      • The “Daylio” recurring journal app, which I wrote about here.
      • a “mastermind group” of humans, described below. I use the term differently than some mastermind group adherents.

      The most effective tool I use is that last one- it’s very low tech. I formed a group of humans that also have yearly goals. I found them by asking on a Slack channel at my local maker space.

      We meet for 45 minutes every Wednesday. We decide a start date and end date for the meetings, decide when we will stop meeting or swap out members, etc.. I’ve found that you can’t form a group with more than 4 people, and a group of three is optimal.

      In the first meeting, we introduce our goals to know what we are trying to do.

      In subsequent meetings, we follow a straightforward agenda. A proctor is chosen to lead each meeting. The only software we use is a video conferencing app and a Google Doc for tracking meeting notes. We go in a circle asking the following questions:

      • What did you do last week?
      • What will you do next week?
      • Do you have any stretch goals or “hand-wavy” goals that you want to talk about?
      • Where are you struggling / what’s on your mind?

      Member responses are tracked in a Google Doc to make it easier to remember where we left off at the end of the week. I recommend deleting notes that are more than two weeks old. It creates much clutter with a group of 3-4 people.

      As participants, we try to help each other by:

      • Keeping members on track and accountable to their goals.
      • Help members figure out why they are/are not meeting their goals.

      Having a group of people to support me and keep me accountable has been critical. When we disbanded the group, we all noticed that we began to slip on our goals and unanimously decided to re-form the group. It’s been the most effective tool for me so far.

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      I use the Bullet Journal method. Electronic/digital tools don’t work for me, they are inhumane, inflexible, and I have too many distractions.

      I suggest reading the book. It has lot of stuff one might know from other places, still it gives a toolset to organize your life with one of the simplest and most flexible tool available: pen and paper.

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        Do you use the basic bullet journal format or do you add the multiple trackers pages that we see when looking for trendy/hip bujo?

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          Well, one thing I really liked about the book was that the author emphasized several times that there is no silver bullet, and he is not triing to given he one true method, that will be the holy grail of life organization, rather showed some approaches to solve some problems.

          I use pretty much vanilla BuJo, but I have some “collections” for some topics which are typically slower moving, and regularly check those pages and try to schedule something for my day. Otherwise I mostly use the daily notes, and sometimes groom them to these special collections (or monthly schedule or future log),but I still rely on the daily tasks as a main compass for things to do.

          My examples for these colelctions are: home improvement todos (like fixing that clogging drain in the bathroom, etc..), car related todos (I have and oldish car that has some minor non-critical problem list ever needing some attention, like a broken button, etc), home network related todos, work projects related todos/idea collections, book reading lists, etc.

          So I have:

          • index
          • future
          • special collections (see above)
          • monthly schedule
          • daily logs for the month
          • repeat last 2/3 steps until notebook is full or year ends

          Is this what you were thinking about by trendy hip bujo?

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            Not really, I was thinking more about sleeping / eating / gratitude trackers that people draws in everyday. Using it also as a logging for various aspects of their daily life body/mind interaction. So, your way does not fit what trendy bujo I have seen around. I don’t find those uses of the method neither good or bad just different for each of us and I was curious.

            I had a vanilla bujo during an year (special collections did not stand the test of time) with only an index, future, monthly calendar + todo and daily logs but finally stopped gradually to uses it as the time go because life got messy quicker than I can effectively use it. I still use the notation of bujo (., o, x, >, <, etc) in my notebooks as it seems a clear visual legend when I write some stuff that fit that format.

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              Ok I see. I guess then I’m pretty much on “vanilla BuJo”.

              I tried some health tracking in the daily log, by coding some health status/symptoms with a few symbols on the margin near the current date in the daily log. Luckily my health problems necessitating this are gone, so I stopped doing it.

              I think the gratitude tracker is also a good idea, I don’t do it, but often think maybe I should. When I have a really good or really bad day, I simply note that in my daily log, and add an appropriate smiley as a signifier.

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      High level : I recommend starting with the journaling and (self dialog) habit e.g. “it would be nice to do xxx by feb”. If you have it searchable you can easily reference your ideas.

      Qualitative ones: google doc or google keep note. Quantitative Ones: Spreadsheet (e.g. financial goals, tax goals) Reminders: followupthen.com e.g. you can send email to 90days@followupthen.com.

      disclaimer: I’m very sloppy at this.

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      I’ve been using a kanban-style workflow with a Trello board for the past few years, and it’s been pretty life-changing. It’s hard to remember how I used to get stuff done beforehand, in the dark days of a brief list scribbled on my whiteboard. I’ve completed 1028 tasks since June 2018.

      It’s more of a to-do list than a goal tracker… but I guess I could handle large goals with a new column for epics, and linking other cards to those. Or just a new label.

      For some goals, like eating a few portions of fruit or vegetables every day, I use beeminder. A daily recurring Trello card would be way too much overhead. I only have three of those, though.

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        I have started with a similar Kanban + Trello model. And just recently, I have moved to my own simplified “Get Things Done” solution. I have analyzed what parts of Trello I am using, and it turns out not many. So I have written my small tool using vanilla JS and Go.


        • Each to-do item is a Project;
        • Each project consists of Actions;
        • I always split Project into the most simple atomic Actions;
        • “Drafts” is for something that is not refined yet;
        • “Active” is what I am going to do next, sorted by priority;
        • “Next Actions” is a unique column that contains Actions from “Active” projects. The column gives me a list of simple things to do that moves me towards my goals;
        • “Waiting” is for tracking delegated Actions;
        • “Maybe” is for something that I want to do in the future, but it is not a priority. It is nice to have such inspirational goals separately and not at the bottom of your current Projects.
        • “Done” is for completed items that I keep in this column for a week and then archive during the weekly board review;


        • Draft projects
        • Active projects
        • Next Actions & Waiting
        • Maybe / One day
        • Done

        Why it is good for me:

        • I dump every plan there and keep my head free from these thoughts;
        • I analyze and refine every Project while I am fresh. Then I just complete primitive minimal Actions one after another during the day;
        • I do not forget about household chores because I have both professional and personal projects on the board;
        • I am not trying to sell myself any kind of golden plans and perks to boost my app with features that I do not use;
        • It is not a universal Kanban board; contrary - it has a rigid structure, where I have one way of doing things;
        • I own my data;
        • I learned new things while implementing it;
        • I am the only customer, so this is 100% product-market fit.
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          Can I ask if you would dump this code under some permissive license? I’ve wanted something like this, and I promise not to ask for bug fixes

          1. [Comment removed by author]

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            UPD: @Vaelatern, I have deleted my first answer to your comment. I will try to provide more details in this reply.

            I like the idea of open sourcing my tool. What currently prevents me from doing so is the storage backend. I am using Google Datastore, just because it was faster to do it this way. And I realize that it can be painful to deploy it now. I believe self-hosted version will do better with sqlite. I will implement it and then publish. Cheers.

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              Lobste.rs replies are back! Have you decided not to do this, or is this still on your roadmap?

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                Haha! Thanks for the reminder. I have successfully migrated the backend to SQLite. Some minor UI issues require a fix. But overall, I am ready to opensource it. BSD license.

                I will write a short post about it 😁

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                    While I am working on release, you can check it here: https://getdone.club

          3. [Comment removed by author]

    8. 2

      I don’t track. I have two notebooks (one A6, one A5) where I braindump and explore ideas but I don’t set goals. I read them from back to back to extract some ideas or projects from time to time. When I finish one notebook, I write into the new one stuff that seems important at the time.

      I tend to be pretty bad at setting new habits and tracking myself, it took me a few years to realize that. I tried to do some stuff and sometimes I got it down.

      The only real change for 2021 is using simplenote to manage basic notes and todo and move the knowledge part to neuron so the notebooks would be pure braindump and sketchbooks.

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      First of all – very envious of those in this thread who don’t need such a tool. Between family complexity (medical and otherwise), house complexity (yearly maintenance, etc), and an increasingly complex job – I would have lost my mind without tooling assistance.

      That said, my documentation tool, my tracking tool, my scheduling tool, and my task tool are the same tool. I use TickTick – but all you need is any task-oriented tool that has subtasks and logs completed tasks. Bonus points for having reoccurring tasks and a bit of organization.

      All “goals” are just large tasks with subtasks. Follow SMART/VAPID to make sure your tasks don’t suck. Remember to be creative in the use of your tool, if you are blocked waiting for Joe to give you the data, that is a subtask, [ ] Get data from Joe (blocked) – large task like “lose 20 pounds” can be broken into specific subtasks (and repeatable ones like a workout).

      I was lucky enough to be able to link my work task tool with m personal – so my task tool gives me a complete view of what I need to do.

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      Not a big fan of Scott Adams, but he did sell me on creating frameworks instead of setting goals a few years back; it plum works. I wrote it up a while ago if there’s interest: http://blog.cretaria.com/posts/goals-and-frameworks.html

      Best to you in 2021!

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      I have tried everything under the sun, but only Notion does it for me.

      Notion is a DIY Knowledge Management System. Kind of like a wiki but so much more powerful than what you are used to. In Notion, I use backlinks, kanban boards, reminders, and more!

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        Do you use it as a single user? When I was looking at it – it seemed very team focused.

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          Yep in fact, I find it interesting because it’s ridiculously powerful as a single-user tool. I imagine as a team, it’s even better, but they seem to exclusively want to make money from the team use-case for some reason, not sure why. I imagine it’s much easier to milk a team as it expands and adds members, whereas single users will not be willing to spend additional money over time.

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      I’ve never really tracked goals… I sort of just do what makes me happy. In the past year I got to a point where I can run 3-5 miles per day, eat (and cook) mostly vegetarian meals, give up coffee, pick up and get better at sewing, read more books, watch more foreign language films (Korean, Japanese, and French cinema).

      Usually after some dabbling I just sort of know if I’m in love with it or not, and if not then I’d rather stop than force myself to complete any goals I set in advance (without experiencing it fully). But if I am enjoying it, I’ll keep finding new challenges in that space (if it’s repetitive, I’ll get bored) and that helps me naturally grow / improve.

      :shrug:, not sure it’s the best advice to give to someone… but worked well for me so far

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      I have a bunch of text files in a folder (some are links from elsewhere). I open the folder in vim using an alias and then work on whichever notes I need. It is good enough for smaller notes, but a mess whenever it goes 100+ lines. Too lazy to bother with searching and learning a better way to organize. And I sometimes dread opening one of the todo list that keeps growing exponentially, too many ideas and too little time/motivation.

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      I write them out in a markdown file. https://wiki.nikitavoloboev.xyz/focusing/goals

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      I don’t set goals aside from, do the best I can do for whatever opportunities land in my lap. Then I document successes. Most of the things I want to do involve travel so this is the new norm.