4 Reasons Why Your Annual Plan Will Fail

January 1st. The busiest day at the gym, the most Google searches for “diet”, and the beginning of all the other New Year’s resolutions people set for themselves. We all know most people fail at these goals, but everyone still makes them.

Why is that?

Because planning what you want to achieve is easier, sexier, and more fun than doing the work to actually get there.

So what happens? We fail a few weeks or months in.

Now don’t get me wrong, failing can be a good thing (even Seth Godin thinks so). But if you don’t learn anything valuable from your failures you will just have wasted your time, money, and energy.

And let’s face it, an “annual plan” is basically just business jargon for New Year’s resolution.

Anyone can write down their goals, but unless you can deliver on what you set out to do year in and year out (like Chris Guillebeau in his annual reviews), what’s the point?

In this post we’ll look at four ways you can keep your annual plan from failing.

1. Consistency

Something I’ve been hearing more and more of lately is that success comes from two things: consistency and perseverance.

And consistency just comes down to developing positive habits, both personally and professionally.

(If you are like me and have trouble keeping the habits you create, check out what Leo Babauta recommends you to do avoid failing at habits.)

For your business or blog, this consistency could come in any number of ways:

  • Amount of content published each week
  • What day & time you publish each week
  • Logical pricing of products & services

Trick to Avoid Reason #1: When you’re setting an annual plan, pick some goals that you can make consistent progress on and build a pattern of habits to stick with them.

2. Ambition

A year is a really long time, so sometimes we set goals and milestones we can barely fathom reaching.

While it is important to have those bigger stretch goals (like revenue, visits, subscribers, etc.), you should make short-term goals that you can actually reach in a week or two.

As Corbett, Chase and I are building Fizzle.co we break down our tasks into “two week sprints”. Every other week we set out to achieve certain deliverables, milestones, or fixes and then check them off the list.

By staying near-sighted you can keep yourself from getting overwhelmed by what comes next.

Yes, we have longer term goals and ambitions, but if you can’t deliver in the short-term then end goals are pointless.

Trick to Avoid Reason #2: Set and track short-term or “sprint” goals alongside your year-long goals.

3. Wishes

Goals can make you go crazy. Especially if you make ones that aren’t measurable. (What “shape” am I supposed to get into? A triangle?)

So even if you pick goals that are measurable like losing 20 pounds, gaining 1,000 subscribers, or earning twice as much money, you’re still missing a step.

One of the biggest problems with the typical New Year’s resolutions is that even if they are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound), they are NOT tied to specific actions you can take to get there.

A goal of gaining 1,000 subscribers to your site in 12 months is SMART, but how are you going to gain them? Where will they come from? Why will they sign up? What value will you provide them with?

Without a plan of action, a goal is just a wish. (Tweet this.)

Trick to Avoid Reason #3: For every goal you make, outline a plan of action with specific tasks you can take to help you reach that goal.

4. Accountability

This may be the granddaddy of them all.

If no one knows what you are working towards, cares if you don’t do it, or calls you out if you quit, then chances are you will fail.

This is why in both Fizzle and Start a Blog That Matters we highly recommend keeping both an accountability journal and joining a mastermind group.

Like I mentioned at the start of this year, “The power of mastermind groups is not just in connections you make with your fellow peers. Accountability is the biggest reason.”

Trick to Avoid Reason #4: Don’t just put it all on your shoulders. Let other people help you stay on track with your goals.


What is your one big goal for this year? Let us know in the comments. (And if you’ve written publicly about your plan for next year feel free to link to it below.)


Published by

Caleb Wojcik

Caleb Wojcik is one of the 3 C's at Think Traffic and Fizzle.co. He writes at CalebWojcik.com and hosts the Cubicle Renegade Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @CalebWojcik.

44 thoughts on “4 Reasons Why Your Annual Plan Will Fail”

  1. HI Caleb

    I think consistency holds the key and it has to coupled with Good Habits which one gradually develop. I believe in breaking the big tasks and Goals into very small logical tasks and surely pat my back once I achieve them, and for that you need to make yourself accountable for all the things you are doing or not doing.

    Thanks for this great post at the start of New year.


  2. Nice post. I gave up on New Year’s Resolutions a few years back. Found annual goals fostered procrastination. Now, it’s daily goals I share with no one. I am accountable to myself and don’t need the guilt of broken promises to shame me into accomplishing things that are important to me. Happy New Year!

  3. Hi Caleb,

    Something I’m focusing on a lot right now is Simplicity. For the most part, I don’t have many problems actually committing to, and succeeding at things, but the bigger issue is over-committing or wanting to do too many things at the same time – and I suspect the same is true for a lot of other driven people.

    I’ve been ruthlessly cutting out the fat from my life in an effort to more intentionally master those couple things that I really want to be exceptional at. It’s been wonderful so far.

    Doing a couple things like Chris Brogan’s 3-Book Diet and doing a minimalist strength training program. Pretty excited about both. Wrote a post about them the other night called 2013: A Simpler Year : http://www.nogym.net/2013-a-simpler-year/

    Anyways, I do think the simpler a task is to consistently do day-in day-out, the more likely we are to be able to sustain the effort and actually create new habits.

    Thanks and Happy New Year!

  4. Hi Caleb and Corbett,

    Happy 2013:) Looking forward to more awesome posts by you awesome guys this year.

    Great post. I really like the one about consistency and accountability.

    My greatest goal for this year is to help as much people as possible to quit your tedious full-time job by working from home (and spend more times with their loved ones).

    Other goals will include, being able to do 32 pull-ups.. Read 12 self-help books by end of this year and generate additional side income of $2,000 from Amazon (niche site). Currently at $527 (December 2012).

    Wish you a blessed and wonderful 2013.

    With regards,

  5. Really pleased to see your “sprint” advise! I’ve read so many posts and comments in that last few days from people who claim to have 2013 all mapped out for success. That year-long plan is only a guess. I’d rather deal with reality 2 weeks at a time! Will I have long-term goals? Sure, but I’ll take action steps based on my 2-week sprint.

  6. Hi, Caleb. Happy new year! We vlogged and wrote about our goals in our newsletter this week: http://tinyurl.com/aqj6svb

    What we like to focus on is an action list. Intentions and end-results are just too vague for us. We need the ‘do this, do that’ formula to make it work. So when we come up with our big goals for the year, we immediately break them down into actions we’ll do throughout the year to make them come true.

    A great resource for effecting change is Chip and Dan Heath’s book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. It’s a few years old, but still very relevant.

    Wishing you guys a fantastic 2013!

    1. Happy New Year to you as well Betsy. :)

      I’m the same way. I focus more on the lists of actions that I have than the “pie in the sky” goals. Loved the video too by the way.


  7. My biggest goal this year: Take my blog to the next level, by increasing my subscribers and my monthly income (I do have specific numbers for this) :)

    Happy New Year!

  8. Well written Caleb, thanks for sharing. I personally like to have three elements in my list: End result I want, How I will measure it, and How I will do it.

    Also, it’s most important to carry out the plan durin the year. Rosabeth Moss Canter had a great quote on this “Everything looks like a failure in the middle. Everyone loves inspiring beginnings and happy endings; it is just the middles that involve hard work.”

  9. Thanks Caleb and Corbett! (feels like I’m leaving Chase out 😉 ),

    Consistency. Commitment. Focus. Accountability. <–on the daily. Those are my words to live by in 2013.

    Love this quote by Muhammad Ali: “I hated every minute of training, but I said, “Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”

    Not that I plan on entering the blogging ring or anything, but I think the secret to success in any endeavor is to work hard and work smart. Nothing more, nothing less.


  10. I made all my goals of 2012 a reality , now is the time to improve and keep going forward ..

    People fail because they don’t act and because mostly they are afraid of failing!

    NLP says that there is no failure only feedback thus we should learn from failures and consider them a chance to better results

    I started a month ago a Google Plus community about NLP, Self development.. and i intend to make it the large community on Big G

  11. Happy New Year Caleb and Corbett! Great post here, we all know most people will not achieve their goals, which is unfortunate.

    I wanted to get your opinion about accountability and sharing our goals with others. You know me – I share all of my goals and sometimes I meet them, and sometimes I don’t, but I feel that sharing my goals does help me stay motivated.

    But, I ran across a TED talk and study (see Derek Sivers on TED) sharing the fact that revealing our goals can be a bad thing. I guess it depends on the person, of course, but sharing goals and getting feedback about those goals even before we work towards them can give us a false sense of accomplishment and work against us.

    I just wanted to know if you have heard or experienced this ever with your community or yourselves, or what we can do to make sure that when people do share their goals that they don’t get this false sense of accomplishment that can hinder their progress.

    1. I remember that speech, it went something along the lines of people applauding you for your goals, hence giving you instant satisfaction which takes away the pressure because you feel like you already succeeded. Sounds logical…

      I think accountability + sharing goals with others is key here. In my opinion sharing goals with others alone is not really an act of accountability. In order for them to hold you accountable you have to set up real consequences. Some people might forget about the goals you told them, or they won’t approach you if you fail to reach them, to avoid making you feel bad. What I like is for example betting on your own success: “I bet I can get X subscribers till the end of the year.” Maybe bet 10 Dollars or some symbolic figure, or the loser of the bet has to run around naked on times square (unless you enjoy that kinda thing) to make it count. That way if you fail to reach it, the person will approach you and ask you for the bet. I think what you did with the niche site duel was amazing in that perspective: You found someone to compete with. Anyways, real consequence and making it count is key I think…

    2. Hey Pat, thanks for chiming in and the great thoughts about publicly sharing goals.

      In my opinion it can really go both ways. I think the public accountability is a good thing if the people you are sharing them with will actually hold you accountable and “call you out” on things you fail out.

      If they are only going to pat you on the back and say good job now matter what you do, then that doesn’t add as much value. But for some, just announcing something publicly (like a launch date) is all it takes for that final kick in the pants.

      Guess it depends on the person. :)

    3. Hi Pat,

      I think that for every argument “For” something there is inevitably going to be a counter argument “Against” it. In most cases each side has merit. The individual should seek many opinions, contemplate and then follow their gut.

      For the sake of perspective, consider also “A Journey Without a Goal” http://zenhabits.net/journey/

  12. Thanks for the helpful tactics for making our dreams become reality! I’ve been recently toying with the idea of having “themes” for the new year, and making goals for each week/two weeks that are tangible aspects of those themes. I think setting goals that last for an entire year is nearly impossible. However, if we can identify the themes we’d like have for our personal and professional lives and follow that up with, what you referred to as “two week sprints”, I think our dreams can more easily become a reality! :)

  13. My absolute #1 goal is to work on building solid relationships with potential clients and with other cool people. Now that I have my “sea legs” under me (2 years into this new world of entrepreneurship), I’m ready to start building my tribe / network / what have you.

    I *think* I have all the pieces in place: overall goals, a weekly work plan, accountability buddies. Now if only there were a magic pill that would allow me to follow through picture-perfect on this awesome plan I have laid out, I’d be set! 😉

  14. Sticking to a weekly or fortnightly well laid out action plan is a must. I actually do this in a kind of funny way. I know what I have to do for the next week. There are specific things I must do on certain days and I stick to those times. With the rest of it, I tend to do them when I want to. I find that throughout the week there will be a time that I want to do x, y, or z. Though if I try and force myself to do X on a day that I really don’t want to, then it’s a waste of time.
    In regards to the accountability, I think you need to be really conscious of who you tell your plans to. Especially if we’re doing something unconventional and we’re talking to those around us who are more traditional. This can really bring us down. I really like the accountability journal. It’s personal accountability, I don’t know about you but I really do get a buzz from putting a big red tick next to something!
    Thanks guys.

  15. Good post. I’d enhance your SMART goals with SMARTER Goals. After you have set your SMART goals, you need to Evaluate your progress and if necessary Reset your goals. If you set a time bound goal, as you should, Evaluate your progress and if you reach the time limit without achieving that goal, then that goal needs to be Reset.


  16. I would agree about the accountability bit. What I’ve committed to is showing up. It’s scary, and it’s uncomfortable, but I’m doing it. I’ll be running group programmes for the first time, working with a coach for the first time and aiming to inspire multipassionate entrepreneurs (my tribe) to lose the safety net of ‘not being able to decide’ and get themselves in a supportive group, whatever that may be. I just wrote about this, and about how that sense of being witnessed is so vital, over on my blog: http://www.minestronesoul.com/edge

  17. You got me with the consistency thing. One of my objectives for this year is to stay consistent.

    Also agree with what you said about SMART goals – so, how are you going to get there? That’s why I like the Vision Mapping concept, where you break everything down into small, manageable tasks.

    My big goal for the year is to be making a full-time income by July. This is the first year of the 4 that I have been doing online marketing that I have a realistic plan to see this achieved.

  18. Love the annual reviews Chris does. And making mini goals to break up your larger goals is a great tip. I’ve been doing that for years and it’s always helped me stay on track. If my mini goals are still to big, I break them up even further. Not only does it help me realize my larger goal, but gives me little benchmarks to feel proud about achieving on the way.

  19. Definitely agree that Accountability is the most important to help avoid your annual plan from failing. I have declared that this is the year I was ‘going to make s@#$ happen!’. I hope to get a blog and some niche websites off the ground as soon as I can. In order to keep accountable I have used Evernote and shared a notebook with a good friend, documenting all my daily progress so he can keep track of me and pull me up when I start slacking off.

    I also find that if I don’t set some sort of deadline in any project I decide to pursue, I really don’t achieve anything. Again I will be using another online tool, Google calendar, to generate a scheduled action plan and sharing it with a the same friend.

  20. In past years, I have struggled with focusing on just one goal and one aspect of that goal at a time. Because I want to grow my freelance writing business, finish my novel, do more volunteer work with homeless animals and get healthy, I try to do them all at once. Then, when perfection doesn’t happen in 12 months, I feel like a failure. This year I’m going to be kinder and more forgiving to myself. I have a growing writing business and happy clients, even if I’m not yet making six figures. I have done quite a bit on my novel, even if the first draft wasn’t completed last year and I have fostered and helped more than a dozen dogs, even if I haven’t saved every single one of them. I did gain 15 pounds last year but something had to give….

  21. Great points to consider, Caleb, especially the importance of adding questions like How will I achieve this or that goal? and of recognising how much more we can achieve if we let others help us out.

    I would add a 5 reason. Incorporating answers to Why you want/need to accomplish your goal.

    For example, a lot of people set goals of losing weight telling themselves and others it’s because they want to get fit, healthy etc.

    In reality, it may be because they hear society telling them thin people are better, more attractive, more acceptable, good, etc.

    In other words, losing weight is not this person’s own goal; they’re only setting it because they want more acceptance, etc. They’re trying to achieve a goal that’s given to them by others in authority over them. No wonder it’s a struggle that often leads to failure or disinterest, because they’re not doing it because they want to for themselves.

    You have a much better chance of succeeding in achieving your goals end results (and enjoying it) if you:

    1. Know exactly WHY you want to achieve a goal.
    2. Can honestly say, any goal you set is a goal (or has an end result) that you really want.

    For example, I used to set goals to become a millionaire with a mansion and fast car.

    It took me a while to realise that I was only setting these goals because my peers were setting them (or talking loudly about setting them – it was the 1980s!). And that, in reality, I didn’t really want so much money that I didn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t want a mansion with all the stress of owning it, and actually, I wasn’t really into cars, fast or otherwise.

    More realistic goals for me are to enjoy a comfortable house, be able to work in a stress-free environment, be able to do what I want to without counting pennies, and to feel good about it. You don’t need a million bucks to do that!

    In the end, it’s asking WHY, and getting down to the nitty-gritty reason you want to do, be and have something, adding your answer to these other 4 reasons, that determines whether you deliver on what you set out to do.

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