This is how your goal setting should change during the pandemic

by Stephanie Vozza, Fast Company

It’s still important to set goals, but you likely need to think differently about timeframe—and significance.

There’s a good chance the plans you made for 2020 at the beginning of the year had to be scrapped when everything changed. Looking ahead at 2021, you may feel a little hesitant about making plans. With even more change on the horizon, who knows what the year will bring?

But L’areal Lipkins, author of A Woman with Vision, still believes in setting goals, adding that they just need to look different during a pandemic.

“2020 was not a waste of a year,” she says. “It allowed us to see what we truly want. As a result, goal setting requires a different approach in a very different world.”


Traditional goal setting follows the SMART formula, with goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound. “They may work when it comes to corporate goals, but SMART goals do not work when the goals are personal,” says Lipkins. “One of the pieces that is missing is identifying why the goal is important.”

Too often people realize they’re spending time, energy and effort on someone else’s desires, and the goal isn’t important to them. Instead, find your core “why.” Being emotionally connected to the goal will help you achieve it.


Another tweak for setting goals this year is timing. Instead of setting goals for the year, Lipkins suggests 90-day sprints.

“It can be overwhelming to think over the next 365 of days,” she says. “Breaking down goals into quarterly sprints makes it easier to focus on what matters most now. Plus, it offers the flexibility to make adjustments if your life changes.”


While many of the goals people set are external, such as wanting a new job, a certain income, or dream vacation, this year you should look inward, too. “There is nothing wrong with those types of goals, but you should also set internal goals,” says Lipkins.

For example, think about changes you’d like to make, such as becoming more patient, confident, or productive. The important step with this type of goal is to define what it means to you.

“Being more confident might be speaking up more in meetings or advocating for yourself,” says Lipkins. “Or if you own a business, it might going live on Instagram. Instead of saying you want to be more confident, know what that looks like. Internal goals are more important now than ever.”


It’s natural to start off motivated and ready to take action. Often, though, you can get derailed if you miss a day or two. “All of a sudden days and weeks go by and before you know it, it’s June,” says Lipkins. “It can be frustrating, and it can become an endless cycle. The reason it happens is that you set goals but don’t have a plan for making them happen; you don’t have daily routine. Those pieces critical to being able to stay on track.”

Another trap is not considering the mindset you need to achieve the goal. “If you set a goal that you want to save money, but your deep belief is that you’re not good with money, you’ll ultimately sabotage yourself no matter how badly you say you want it. You need a mindset change to make a goal happen. The biggest reason people fail is that they have a new goal but an old mindset.”


To stay on track, you need consistency. The things you do every day will bring you closer to your goal. Lipkins recommends spending 60 minutes a day working on your goals. “One thing that keeps us from achieving what we want is that we think we need more time,” she says. “It’s not more time you need, it’s more focus. If you devote 365 hours to goals this year, there’s nothing you can’t get done.”

If 60 minutes is too much, break down the hour into smaller efforts, such as spending 30 minutes on a project, 15 minutes on reading, and another 15 minutes on improving your focus by taking a walk outdoors. Then stay on track by reflecting on your progress every day.

“Have a midday check in,” says Lipkins. “Around noon, assess your thoughts and any anxiety you may be feeling. Stay on track by picturing what your life would be like if you already were where you want to be. What beliefs and behaviours would you need to have? Then do those things now.”