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2017 goals: my breakthrough to guaranteed success

A few days ago I was bemoaning the lack of progress on my 2016 goals. It’s now well into 2017 and high time I set my goals for this year – in an attempt not to repeat the same mistakes I’ve turned for guidance to some experts.

In his best-selling book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell suggested that the key to success is in regular and extensive practice. Whether you want to get your golf handicap into single figures, become a chess master or perfect your language skills, it takes effort. In Gladwell’s view success would require 10,000 hours of practice in your chosen discipline or task. To support his argument, Gladwell cited the Beatles, who amassed over 10,000 hours of playing time during their club days in Hamburg, and Bill Gates, who spent a similar amount of time on computer programming.

Sadly I don’t think even if I were to find that much time I think it a bit late for me to become the net computing guru, nor am I likely to top the music charts, become principal ballerina with the Royal Ballet or become the winner of the new-look Great British Bake Off. But Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule is still a good piece of over-arching advice for anyone setting a goal: to make any progress requires time and effort. There is absolutely no point spending hours crafting a goal and then doing little to achieve it. If I’m not 100% committed, then it shouldn’t be a goal……

Another influence on this year’s plan is an article I found in Harvard Business Review written by Dorie Clark a marketing strategist and the author of Reinventing You – a guide to how you can identify and change your professional ‘brand’. Clark says two of the biggest mistake corporations – and individuals make – when goal setting are attempting to do too much at once and then trying to stick too rigidly to the plan.

clocks-1098080_1920Goal setting Tip 2 : use a shorter planning time frame 

Dorie Clerk’s advice is to build in more flexibility to goals on the basis that research by Columbia Business School professor Rita McGrath shows that the best companies plan on a quarterly basis not annually. This shorter time frame means they can be more responsive to changes in their environment.

For individuals, says Clerk, it means that if part of the way through the year you discover your original goal is unworkable or you no longer have an interest in it, you don’t feel compelled to press on regardless. A goal that seems desirable at the beginning of the year like learning to play Mah Jong, or reading the entire sequence of A Dance to the Music of Time might seem like a terrible idea after four months. If you press on regardless it means you might miss out on an even more attractive opportunity that comes along later in the year.

goal_settingGoal setting Tip 2: Be realistic 
The other key mistake is to be too ambitious, spreading the energy over too many projects and activities. Many of us fall into this trap where the only way to manage all the activities is to keep a To Do list – and then end up frustrated because instead of crossing stuff off, the list just seems to grow … and grow…. and grow. We’re not alone – research by a others fail to generate meaningful accomplishments because they spread their energy too thin and attempt to accomplish too much at once. A startup called iDoneThis analyzed their users’ data and discovered that 41% of the to-do list  users created were never accomplished. Why? Too many items were included so the list looked overwhelming and there was little attempt at prioritisation. It was easy to knock off some things – ‘send email to xyz’  for example or ‘buy milk for tonight’ but by spending all the effort on the easy things, the harder, more rewarding activities simply never got done.
Understanding these two challenges helped me reach a decision on my 2017 goals. My mantra is encapsulated in this image….



Booker Talk’s 2017 Goals

Instead of creating an annual goal I am going for a six month plan. I’ll re-assess it at the end of June and decide on the plan for the remaining six months.  And instead of a long list of goals for each half-year, I am limiting myself to just two.

Goal 1: Relish the books I own but have not yet read

I’ve lost track of the number of blog posts I’ve seen over recent weeks about the ever-expanding size of people’s ‘to be read’ collections. Mine has grown enormously since I started this blog. It’s now around the 295 mark as a result of far too many indulgent purchases last year (69 I think) and there simply isn’t enough room left to stack them all.  I could see this as a problem but thats not the relationship I want with my books. So henceforth my TBR is re-named as ‘my library’ and I am going to make the most of it this year.

My goal is: Enjoy my library collection to the full by reading only these books for six months. 

Yes it does mean in effect a ban on buying anything new but it sounds much more positive stated this way doesn’t it? Especially since I’m the kind of person when told I can’t do something, I immediately want to begin doing that very thing. My get out clause is that I have the right to borrow from the public library if anything strongly takes my fancy but I will not be requesting anything from NetGalley for a while or succumbing to deals from publishers no matter how attractive.

Goal 2: Unleash my creativity on the blog

I’ll be coming up to the fifth anniversary of this blog next month and it’s time to up the stakes. I’m bored with the way I use images on the site – there isn’t often anything very unusual about them, just a basic cover image of whatever book I am reviewing for example or a photo of the author. There’s surely more I can do…

My goal is: Learn how to use Photoshop to create more compelling images. 

And there you have it – a plan that I think is so realistic I’m confident it will be successful.

Anyone feel like joining me in this new breakthrough with your own goals?


What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

43 thoughts on “2017 goals: my breakthrough to guaranteed success

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    • Thanks Luna for your support. It’s going fine so far…

  • The renaming idea is rather a good one. Not buying anything new for six months sounds more challenging, though again recharacterising it as enjoying your library is clever.

    What kind of imagery are you thinking of?

    • I knew if I declared I wouldnt buy another book for six months that I’d be guaranteed to fail….
      Re the imagery question – I’m trying to think beyond images which are just the book cover but I dont know exactly what approach to take yet. There are some wonderful collages that people have come up with on Instagram but I dont know that a) I have that much creativity or b) that much time

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  • ”attempting to do too much at once and then trying to stick too rigidly to the plan”, I know I was guilty of these. I still have to remind myself whenever I am making a plan not to be very ambitious.
    Your plan sounds reasonable and I wish you best of luck with it!

  • I really appreciated the part of your post about not adding too much to your goal list. That is something I struggle with, so I needed that reminder. I decided that I am going to revive my book blog and write more reviews. Now I have to resist the urge to also make a big knitting plan and set huge goals for the house!

  • I like the idea of shorter term realistic goals, though I’ve found for me that the most successful approach is not to have any goals at all. I have little background wish – read more, including preferably more from the TBR, and to buy less. But these are not formal goals and I need therefore never assess whether I reach them or not. This is not very ambitious I know, but it helps me keep my life peaceful.

    Still, like Lisa I’ll be interested to see what you do with photoshop – though I’m assuming you won’t be photoshopping book covers – moral rights and all that??

    • I sort of tried the no goals approach last yeqr – just broad brush objectives. But that didnt work either…
      I won’t photoshop the actual covers but they could be set against different backgrounds which I think is legal

      • Yes, I think that is… The whole covets bit is a bit tricky in terms of copyright.

        As for goals, I guess having no goals doesn’t work if deep down you really want to have goals! I don’t want to have them so having loose aims works for me!

  • Great goals! Seems to me you’ll do brilliant!

  • buriedinprint

    For the first time, two years ago, I tried a “six-month review” thing with reading goals and it worked really well; I kept all the elements in place but varied the details a little when I was better able to see what habits I was keeping and the parts that were holding me back from breaking with less-satisfying habits. This year I’m trying a review at the end of March, too, a quarterly thing instead, because I didn’t want to overextend and fail miserably. Better to try for something achievable and be inspired to continue, than to reach too far (and too fast) and fall flat and feel icky. And I love the way you’ve phrased things: words are so powerful and it makes all the difference to choose something which inspires rather than limits. Best of luck with the new approach!

    • Thanks for sharing your experience – that gives me a boost of confidence. I managed to walk out of a charity shop and a library today without buying/borrowing anything. Phew….

  • I think 6-month goals instead of annual ones are a great idea! I have a very low goal in mind, to start blogging again and keep up at least the semi-regular contact with the book blogging community that I used to have before I started my new job and my other activities (including many hours spent on online word games) began eating up so much of my free time just over six months ago! I’m dropping the online games and cutting back on Facebook, and will reassess in six months!
    I haven’t made any other reading resolutions, myself, but I’m not signing on for the usual challenges this year. I never get myself to focus on them. If I happen to be reading something that fits with an event (like Joy’s New Year’s Reading Resolution Challenge) I’ll try to join in, but the annual challenges don’t work with me! (I did sign on to a readalong of The Bone Clocks, but haven’t even started the book yet, so that may have been overambitious…)

    • Short challenges seem to work better for me too. Hope you get back into the groove soon and good luck with weaning yourself off the games. I’ve done something similar with Facebook

  • Sage advice. I like the idea of re-naming the TBR pile your Library. And I like the idea of only 2 goals, with a 6-month shelf life. Thanks fort reminding me to relish what I already own, instead of panting after The Next Big Thing. I plan to make serious inroads into my … what ? Unread Stack, shall I call it? Happy reading!

    • Do you have anything in mind this year that you want to accomplish – maybe join me in the six month approach 🙂 And you can rename your TBR whatever takes your fancy ….

  • Sounds like a smart way to do things! I like that you gave yourself six months and the option to use the library, I imagine it will help make you more successful 🙂

    • My life is going through so many changes right now I cant see even three months ahead so in a sense I’m being ultra practical

  • I see that many of us have vowed to enjoy the books that we already own. It is a goal that I set a few years back and improve on a little more each year.
    I like your new approach and I wish you the best of luck. It’s good to have goals.

    • it seems like all book lovers get the same issue – we cant stop acquiring yet more. But there are worse addictions in life – at least book buying doesnt harm our health!

  • Through my workplace, I’ve found that doing things in sprints (Agile and all that) really works for me. LOL, not sure how I”ll use that for my personal goals and blogging though.

    I like the idea of creating compelling images for books featured on the blog. I don’t know if you’re on Instagram. But if you create nice photos, you should share them on there (#bookstagram).

    • I was so used to creating annual goals in work that the habit just trickled over into my private life. But now I am retired I can do what the heck I want! Not sure I have the bandwidth to do Instagram but I shall certainly look for that hashtag for inspiration. Thanks Nish

  • I was waiting for you to say that you were sitting down for 10,000 hours of reading 😀

    You have all my support for relishing what you already own. I did it last year and I’m continuing this year – once you ‘tune-out’ all the noise around new releases, it’s really quite easy and lovely to rediscover books that you’ve bought but forgotten about. Good luck!

  • I think the goals are already inside us, they are an extension of where we’ve been, it’s just stretching the brain muscle to articulate that which hasn’t been expressed yet, sometimes borne out of a frustration, time to get proactive and find the solution, the next step.

  • Good luck with the plan, Karen… I’ll be interested to see what you do with Photoshop.

  • Realistic and achievable goals sound good to me. I don’t really have any – except for wanting to read at least one more book than last year. My reading numbers have been going down each year. Numbers really don’t matter I just want to reverse the trend. I also want to read my own books. I have so many.

  • Great and realistic goals – my main one for this year is to engage, properly with other bloggers and I have a plan to do so – all will be revealed tomorrow.

  • Realistic and achievable goals are definitely the way forward. Enjoy your personal library reading, the satisfaction from that alone will be immense.

  • Short-term and realistic goals are the best, I think…I categorize them into “achievable goals.”

    Enjoy reading your own books….that goal gave me the best feeling in this past year. Here are MY WEEKLY UPDATES


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