What Aren’t You Going to Do Next Year?


What are your anti-goals for the next year? If a goal is a decision to achieve something in the future, an anti-goal would be a decision not to achieve something else. While you may not give a lot of thought to what your anti-goals are, they are something you need to have. A goal is meaningless unless you also determine what you are not going to work on as a consequence.

You can’t do everything. Becoming a millionaire, meeting the person of your dreams, and competing in the Olympics might be possible, but it’s unlikely you would be able to do them all at once. Setting a focus for the next year means that you need to define what you aren’t going to focus on.

Choosing an Anti-Focus

Picking what you aren’t going to do might sound limiting. If you decide to get in shape the next year, that doesn’t mean you should let your business crash or stagnate. But this isn’t want picking an anti-goal means. It simply means that you are selecting areas of your life that you aren’t going to devote attention and energy towards improving.

With myself I’ve decided to make this business my emphasis for the next year. I’ve decided that it is on the verge of being able to support me full-time, and several months of hard work can push it over that point. But it selecting this emphasis, this also means I won’t focus on my health, relationships and other skills.

Overloaded With Goals

I’ve found it easy to overload yourself with too many goals across too many areas at the same time. Trying to do everything at once defeats the entire purpose of goals. A goal serves like a magnifying glass, focusing you on one direction. But if you place several goals in different directions, you spread your attention too thin.

Reaching an Ignition Point

How long would it take to set a piece of paper on fire in midday sun? The paper could stay there for hundreds of years and never catch fire because the heat never reaches a critical threshold. But if you put a magnifying glass, the paper can start to singe in just a few minutes.

I like to see goals as working the same way. Spreading yourself over five areas doesn’t necessarily mean that improvement will be one-fifth as fast across all five areas as it would be if you just focused on one goal. There are times when a complete focus might only improve twice as much as spreading over five areas. But there are also times when a complete focus might improve a hundred times.

Investing your focus isn’t like investing your money. Although there are some similarities, you won’t find stocks that have a 6% return when you invest 50$ and a 200% return if you invest 300$.

I always strive to reach ignition points with my goal setting. That is, investing my focus and time in such a way that it create the biggest impact. A magnifying glass might warm paper in one second and set it on fire in the next. The difference in temperature might only be a few degrees, but the effect is dramatic.

Integrity in the Moment

The future is never certain. You might decide to focus on your health when an amazing business opportunity comes up. You might be focusing on your business and meet a person who you want to start a relationship with. Deciding whether to keep your original focus or switch takes integrity and decision-making.

A focus shouldn’t become a chain, binding you to a goal when other opportunities make it foolish. But at the same time, it needs to be strong enough to keep wandering.

What are your goals and focuses for 2008? More importantly, what have you decided to put on hold to invest the extra energy?

  • thach

    Scott, did you write any article on picking a goal or prioritize goals or something similar?

    I found that if you focus your time and attention to one goal and “ignore” the others, usually the consequences are not very good like seniors who are drained after years of supporting their families! I guess there must be a way to balance or analyze for the best ending!

  • Jean Browman–Cheerful Monk

    My intentions for the coming year are to continue spending enough time doing nothing and to start having the sense that God gave the goose. Clearly my life is already going well. 🙂

  • jd

    Cutting scope on one of my basic buckets (mind, body, emotions, career, financial, relationships) won’t necessarily buy me in another — in fact, it would probably hurt me since the buckets actually support each other. Instead, for my anti-goal, I’m going to avoid taking on lower ROI projects. I’m going to set a higher-bar for what makes it on to my plate, and choose work that better supports the buckets (improving mind, body, relationships …etc.) From a Covey standpoing, I’ll carve out more time for the big rocks, and spend less time on the little rocks.

  • Marina @ Sufficient Thrust

    Great post!

    I love setting goals and creating new projects. Over the last year, I’ve really perfected my personal productivity system so that I can get a lot more done in less time.

    I spend too much time working for other people and not enough developing my own projects. While it’s certainly nice (and necessary) to pay the bills, sometimes it’s an endless cycle of playing catch-up that will just never allow you a break if you don’t forcefully take it.

    Between now and January 1st, I’m going all-out to get as many of my back-burner projects to at least 1.0 status (per Merlin Mann’s fantastic “Beauty of 1.0” podcast episode) as I can. My resolutions are mainly to get each of these projects to a certain goal, like reaching 1,000 blog subscribers at my upcoming nutrition blog, Hack Your Health.

    I published The Ultimate Guide to New Year’s Resolutions on my blog this week and I’d love it if you’d check it out and tell me what you think! I think the most important thing for any goal, even an anti-goal, is adequate planning and preparation.

  • Nick Pagan

    Hi Scott,

    This article reminded me of ways in which I look at what I’m not focusing on to gain greater clarity of my overall situation. You inspired me to finish a nascent post on the subject – many thanks!

    Here it is, for your interest: