Goal Buckets Instead of Resolutions

A blog post in February might be a little late to talk about goals and resolutions for a New Year. But the end of January, inching to early February, also tends to be the time when conversations go from “what are your resolutions” to “are you sticking to your resolutions?”

I’ve tried the New Year’s resolution thing and like many others, have failed the New Year’s resolution thing. It took a long time for me to realize that when I set specific resolutions, that were almost always infused with sky high expectations, I set myself up for failure. For me, setting resolutions that were too specific and too sky high was a recipe for disaster. I put so much pressure on myself to hit each goal with perfect precision. If I missed the goal by the slightest of inches, I then felt like a complete failure. That feeling of failure kept me from feeling confident and with that lack of confidence, I’d convince myself there was no point in trying again and I’d abandon my resolution altogether.

Now I understand that cycle I’ve found myself in is driven by my need for perfection. In the past year, I’ve come to terms with my perfectionist identity and I try to use this knowledge to think about goal setting in different ways so that I can succeed.

For 2019, I decided to set goal buckets, rather than specific resolutions. My three buckets are:

  • Mental Health

  • Physical Health

  • Creative Health

The objective is to do something each day to add to at least one of these buckets. If I do that, then I have succeeded for the day.

Sounds easy, right?

I purchased a blank notebook (see photo below) to set aspirations for the week. Each day, I fill in the boxes with what I’ve done to add to my goal buckets. I might add, “revised manuscript” (creative health bucket) or “meditated for 5 minutes” (mental health bucket) or “went to doctor” (physical health bucket).


The bucket approach allows me to work towards goals that are important and provides me with a wider range to succeed. The more I add to these buckets each day, each week, the more I know I’m working towards my goals and the better I feel. When I don’t add to the bucket in a given day, I don’t spiral into the self destruction cycle that would derail me from previous resolutions because I have a visual log of all the other times I’ve succeed. I’m putting in the work and I have the proof on the pages.

I also like this particular journal format because of the task categories “Need to Do”, “Love to Do” and “Hope to Do.” I prioritize what I want to work on each week according to these buckets and feel oh so satisfied each time I get to cross something off the list.

However you call it, goals or resolutions, setting and working towards them is an individual practice. Not every strategy will work for everyone. I needed to figure out what didn’t work for me, in order to figure out what did. Now that I have, I’m feeling more confident about achieving what I set out to do at the beginning of 2019.

Are you a goal setter? A resolution maven? How do you set goals and work towards them?