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Halfway There: Nine Ways to Assess Your Year-Long Goals at the Midpoint
Many, many people set year-long goals for themselves. I do it myself – for me, this year is a year of downsizing in various ways. For others, the goals might be specific – I want to eliminate half of my debt in the coming year – or they might be vague – I want to get in better shape. No matter what your goal is, though, a key part of success with that goal is reassessment and accountability to yourself, and there is no better time to reassess a goal than at the midway point.
Right now, you’re halfway there (or very close to it). You’ve probably seen some successes and some setbacks. You also probably have a much more realistic understanding of the goal and what it takes – and will take – to get to where you want to be.
Here are nine strategies you can use at this halfway point to assess your big goals for the year. Take a few moments to pause in the next few days and go through these techniques with your big initiatives for the year. You very well might find that these strategies bring forth a renewed energy and new directions for your goals.
Strategy #1: Look at your overall progress
Most good goals are measurable goals, in that they offer some very clear way to count your progress going forward. It might be an account balance. It might be your weight. It might be your step count. It might be your total debt. It might be your net worth. However you measure your goal, step back for a moment and look at that measurement in three places.
Where did you start? Where are you now? Where do you hope to finish?
Ideally, of course, you should be somewhere around halfway to your goal at the midway point. It doesn’t have to be exactly halfway – you might be more than halfway or a little less and it’s all fine. As long as you’ve made some significant progress, you’re in good shape.
The thing to really note here is whether you’re actually tracking along for a realistic shot at achieving your goal by the end of the year. Do you need to step it up to make it? If you step it up, can you actually exceed your goal?
I find that I’m usually most successful with yearlong goals if I’m at about 40% of where I want to be at the halfway point, for several reasons. One, 40% is enough to show me that I’m making real progress and that the goal is achievable, but that I need to keep going forward. It also gives me a lot of incentive to step back and reassess my tactics, which is the real focus of the next few strategies.
Strategy #2: Assess which tactics worked the best
During the first half of the year, you likely tried a bunch of different tactics to achieve your goal. If your goal was debt repayment, for example, it’s very likely that you used a bunch of frugal tactics to cut your spending and maybe did a few things to earn some extra cash. The same is probably true for improving your net worth. If your goal was career oriented, you probably pushed yourself to make yourself more attractive to employers by taking on big projects and building skills.
Now is the time to step back and assess the individual tactics you tried. Which ones really seemed to take hold and provide great results for you? Don’t worry about the failures at the moment. Instead, look at what really worked the best.
For example, you may have found that buying store brand products worked really well because your grocery expenses dropped significantly without any real negative impact on your life. You might have done some energy improvements and you can really see the year-over-year difference in your energy bill. Maybe you found some success in selling off unwanted stuff on Craigslist and flipping some yard sale and thrift store finds.
Try to find five specific things that you did that were really successful in terms of providing positive results without a whole lot of negative impact. These are your big successes and they should be a big source of inspiration – and a source for ideas – in the coming months.
Strategy #3: Figure out ways to maximize those tactics going forward
Now, look at those five specific successful tactics. How many of them can you directly continue in the coming months? How many of them could you actually expand a little in the coming months? Those are ones you should really bear down on in the future.
Let’s say, for example, that you’ve found a ton of success in cutting food costs by making meals at home. Going forward, emphasize this even more. You’ve seen that it works, that you can do this, that you can produce great meals at home at a low cost. Double down on this line of attack. What can you do to prepare even more meals at home? Will bulk meal preparation help you?
What if you’ve found a lot of success selling stuff on Craigslist? Do you have anything else that you can sell on there? Maybe you can hit more thrift stores for things to flip onto Craigslist. Maybe you can hit more summer yard sales. Maybe there’s another closet or two you can pillage.
Maybe you’ve found success with improving energy efficiency. It’s likely that there are even more things you can do to improve energy efficiency at home. Are you running your ceiling fans in the right direction for the season? Is your home well insulated? Do you have weatherstripping?
The goal here is to get all of the value you can out of the strategies that really click with you, because that probably means (a) that tactic is successful and (b) you find it pleasant and repeatable. If it works, stick with it.
Strategy #4: Assess which tactics didn’t work
At the same time, you’ve probably thrown some tactics at this challenge that just didn’t work at all. Maybe you decided you would “spend less” on hobbies but your hobby spending hasn’t really declined. Maybe you decided to “cut down” on sweets but you’re still knocking back a bunch of sugary treats. Maybe you committed to walking 10,000 steps a day but are only averaging 4,000.
Right now is the time to look at your tactics and simply accept that some of them just aren’t working for some reason or another. It may be that you simply can’t follow through with what needs to be done with a specific tactic in its current form. It may be that other elements of your life are making it difficult for you to succeed, like a busy family that struggles to wean itself from ordering constant takeout.
Whatever it is, accept that at least a few of the things you’re doing right now aren’t working.
It can be really hard to accept that you’re pouring effort and time into tactics that simply aren’t producing results, especially when on the surface you believe that they should be producing results. The reality is that there probably is a way to find success with that particular tactic, but not in the way you’re approaching it.
In other words, you simply need to dump bad approaches. Wherever you’re investing time, effort, energy, focus, or money into progress toward a goal and you’re not seeing any significant progress, that’s a place where you need to accept that a new approach is needed and that your time, effort, energy, focus, and money can and should be used in a better way.
Strategy #5: Eliminate or refactor those tactics for the second half
These bad approaches, as well-intentioned as they might be, simply aren’t working. So drop them. Don’t keep throwing effort and energy and focus behind tactics that simply aren’t doing what you want them to do. It’s a waste of valuable energy, focus, and time, all of which could be used to find success with other tactics.
Dump those bad tactics and don’t lament that they didn’t work. Instead, be glad that you have given yourself permission to use your focus, energy, time, and effort in better ways that will produce more useful results.
That doesn’t mean that these experiences were useless. In examining your failed tactics with this kind of critical eye, you may see a new approach that might work much better for you. For example, if you’re finding it hard to hit a daily step goal of 10,000 steps and you’re not even coming close to it, perhaps resetting the goal to 5,000 steps might work. A simple readjustment of a daily or weekly goal into a range that’s actually achievable will produce positive results, even if it’s not the high threshold you once had. You’re better off pushing yourself to do a little more and succeeding than pushing yourself to do a lot more and failing.
At the same time, re-evaluation of a failed tactic might point you in a completely different direction for success. For example, you might realize that, although a particular class didn’t work for you as you try to earn a certification, you realized that hands-on learning really excites you, so seeking out hands-on learning opportunities could be a great tactic to use going forward in terms of bolstering your career. Alternately, you may find that, although you like cooking and eating homemade food, you don’t like having to do it in the evening after a ten hour day, so having a weekly “meal prep day” might be a really good strategy to try.
Dump bad tactics, but at the same time, try to learn from them. Adjust the tactics to match your reality, or use the ashes of a failed tactic to give birth to a new approach.
Strategy #6: Look for new tactics to try in the second half
Since you’re dropping some tactics, right now is a great time to look for some new tactics to replace them. Reworking your game plan doesn’t mean just dropping what doesn’t work and “doing more” of what does work. It means bringing new things online that may help the cause.
If you’re lining up for a promotion at work, take a fresh look at the job requirements of what you’re shooting for and start applying tactics to achieve all of those things. If you’re trying to spend less money, browse through some frugality strategies and pull out some new ones you haven’t tried before. If you’re trying to launch a side business, do some brainstorming of new directions to take on.
Just like the start of the year, some of these will work and some of these won’t. However, you’ve dumped a bunch of tactics that you know don’t work and you’re retaining a bunch that do work, so use that insight when collecting new tactics. You may be able to draw some general conclusions about things that will click and things that won’t click, and you can use that sense of what works to make smarter tactical choices.
In general, I find that thirty day challenges work really well for trying new tactics on the road to a big goal. Focus intensely on one tactic for thirty days and see what the true impact of that tactic is. Does it click? Does it give big results? If it does, keep it around. If not, drop it and move on to the next tactic.
Strategy #7: Look for unexpected problems that cropped up in the first half
No significant goal, and no significant stretch in life, is completely smooth. You’re not going to travel in a straight line from point A to point B if there’s any significant distance at all between the two. Unexpected events – things you can’t possibly see when you depart – are going to move you in unexpected ways and cause unexpected problems.
What unexpected problems happened for you in the first half of the year? Did you find yourself with a bunch of unexpected expensive travel? Did you find yourself in situations where you couldn’t count calories very easily? Did you get sick? Did you lose your job? Did you find yourself stretched way too thin in terms of time commitments?
Try to identify at least three problems that came up during the first half of the year that you didn’t expect that caused your progress toward the goal to be slowed or blocked in some way. What things happened unexpectedly in your life that caused you to not drift straight toward your goal?
Simply being aware that these problems exist can be an eye-opener, because it means that in the future you will plan for some unexpected events and you also have some idea of the impact they can have on even the best laid personal plans. However, you can also take direct advantage of what you now know and plot a better path going forward…
Strategy #8: Develop specific solutions to those new problems
If you followed the last strategy, you should have identified three problems that popped up unexpectedly as you marched toward your goal. Likely, you kludged together some sort of a quick solution for those problems and kept on marching. You paid for the travel with a credit card and a sigh. You nursed your broken ankle. You dropped all of your savings plans and started searching urgently for new work.
Now, with the benefit of hindsight, ask yourself what you could have been doing differently to minimize the negative impact of those unexpected events. What could you have done to be more prepared for a job loss? What could you have done to be more prepared for unexpected travel? What could you have done to be more prepared for unexpected interruptions to your workout routines?
These types of evaluations will often push you toward what I would describe as “transferable” life choices. In other words, when you start looking at how life has interfered with your goals and start looking at solutions to those different interferences, what you’re really doing is looking to make your overall life less susceptible to interference. It will actually help all of your goals.
For example, if you found that your debt repayment plan was slowed drastically by your car breaking down in March, you’ll quickly see that having an emergency fund in place would have done a great deal to keep that from happening, so you’ll make an emergency fund into a higher priority. However, an emergency fund is going to be helpful in terms of preventing interference with many different goals, not just your current one. It might keep you from having to miss a day or two of work to take care of a life problem, which can hurt your standing at work. It might enable you to take a trip to be with an ailing friend when you might not have been able to otherwise pull it off, which can help your social and spiritual life. Emergency funds are just helpful.
The same exact thing is true with almost every solution you implement to these problems. Efforts to improve your employability makes it easy to handle all kinds of unexpected career events and many personal events, all of which can impact both the flow of ordinary life and your progress toward a myriad of goals. Having a side gig improves your professional options and, eventually, improves your personal options, too.
Evaluating the unexpected problems in your life and coming up with lasting solutions for them is always a good strategy, but it’s particularly good at helping you keep marching toward big goals.
Strategy #9: Restate your goal as a six month goal
This is a strategy that works really well for me when it comes to big goals. At the halfway point, I actually cut the goal in half and restart.
So, let’s say my goal was to pay down $10,000 in debt this year. At the halfway point, I’ve dropped that debt down to $5,500. So, right now, my goal changes. I don’t worry about the “year long” goal any more. Instead, I have a six month goal – I need to pay off $5,500 in debt in the next six months.
I find this strategy to be very powerful because it makes that goal feel more immediate. It’s no longer a year long goal. It’s a six month goal. It’s coming right up and I have to get on it now. A year makes me feel I have more breathing room than six months does.
In truth, I tend to do quarterly reviews of all of my goals and I tend to refactor my goals in this way at each review. So, three months from now, this will become a three month goal and I’m going to have to hammer down even harder.
Basically, this is an excuse to feel like I’m starting from scratch with the goal, with two advantages. One, I learned a lot from the first half of the previous goal, which I can apply going forward. Second, the reduced time frame adds a strong sense of urgency.
The real purpose behind all of these strategies is to step back for a moment, look at your goal and your progress with a critical eye, and make some alterations to ensure that you finish out your goal with great success. You’re tossing out what doesn’t work, emphasizing what does work, bringing in a few new techniques, and shoring up your protections against unexpected events so you can shoot right to your destination.
These techniques all work for goals of almost any length. I tend to do a “quarterly review” of all of my goals and use these tools with each goal (and, yes, it does take a while, but it’s incredibly rewarding and has really improved my success with goals as of late).
This weekend, step back with your yearlong goals and use these strategies to re-evaluate them. See if you can streamline your tactics and put yourself in the best possible position to succeed, regardless of what your specific goal is.