How to Set Realistic Goals for the New Year

How to set realistic homestead goals


Updated December 2020

Have you set goals or resolutions in the past but failed utterly at reaching them? Learn how to set realistic goals and how to achieve them. 

In the past I've been over-ambitious and made too many goals.

My plans were often too big to keep up with and I'd finish less than half of them.

That's depressing - and embarrassing. I've always encouraged you to set goals and follow through on them, and yet I often fell flat.

There are secrets to setting goals, whether they are for your homestead, your career, your finances, or your personal life. Secrets that will help you actually achieve the results you're after.

Keep your plans reach-able

First, don't overcommit yourself. Make a long-term plan and stick to it.

It's too easy to jump in with both feet and try to do everything all at once, especially when you're homesteading.

We want to have a big garden, chickens, goats, be self-sufficient and never have to go to the grocery store because we're producing it all ourselves, right?

My friend, if we try to do that all at once, it's a sure thing that we will be burned out in a year and ready to chuck it all! 

Making a plan to start small and build on your success each year is actually a form of self-preservation.

I learned that lesson the hard way!

To read more about making a long-term plan, see my post on how to start a homestead, or where to go from here. It will help you define your purpose and help you make a homestead plan.

Too many goals

Many planning experts say we should set goals in each area of our lives.

By the time I set several goals for each of the areas of my life - homestead, work, finances, relationships, personal life, faith and perhaps a few more to boot - there's a whole page of single-spaced goals staring me in the face.

That's way too much for one normal person to try to achieve in a year and still keep her sanity.

There are three easy ways to avoid this over-commitment problem.

  1. Set one goal in each area of your life. I suggest working on no more than five goals at one time.
  2. Break the year into quarters and work on just one or two goals during that period of time
  3. Or set long-term goals, but work on just a few short-term projects at a time.

Fitting goals into your life

Personally, I'm going easy on the goals this year.

I'm so swamped with everything right now. Caring for the Chief after his back surgery, animals, part-time job, family, garden, homestead... well, I don't have time for much of anything more right now. 

But it's important to me to have a challenge or two, a direction. Life isn't about being stagnant, it's about stretching and having a plan.

Otherwise how would I know what to do when I wake up in the morning?

Life is also about being flexible. So when you're in a very busy season of life, your health gets in the way, or your finances just aren't working out like you'd planned, it's ok to change your plans, and scale back a bit. 

Take into account how much time you have this year and make your plans accordingly. You (and I) can revisit some of those goals in the future.

We don't have to get them all done now.

So, without being over-ambitious, let's take your wishes and dreams and turn them into attainable goals, shall we?

How to set goals

Many people make New Year's resolutions this time of year. Most of those people have already abandoned or even forgotten about them before the end of January.

Why? Because they don't have a plan to accomplish that resolution or goal. Or have any accountability or support to help them reach their dream.

After you write down all the things you want to do this year, all the areas of our life that you want to change for the better and the big plans you want to accomplish, take a realistic look at your list and decide on just a few to work on right now.

One goal per area of your life is enough for right now. Save the list of all your goals and dreams; you can work on the others later.

After you decide on a goal to work on right now, write it down. Writing down a goal is powerful.

The simple act of writing something down helps it "stick" in our brains. It gives your goal substance and importance.

Use these tips and examples to set realistic, measurable goals for the new year.

Example one: a gardening goal

Be specific with your goal. Instead of deciding you want to grow all of your family's food (which is a great long-term goal), narrow your focus into a short-term goal.

It might look like this:

 "This year I will plant a salad garden with two kinds of lettuce, radishes and green onions in one raised bed in that sunny corner of the yard."

This is a manageable goal, and right away you can see that there are several steps to accomplishing it. The steps are measurable and achievable. You can always add more raised beds and plants next year.

Break the goal down into those steps:

Step One is to build a raised bed in that corner of the yard. (I wrote about building a simple raised bed on my own in this post.)

Step Two is to obtain the seeds or transplants you'll plant.

Then decide:

  • Will you plant seeds or buy plants and onion sets? 
  • Where will you buy them? (You'll find advice on buying seeds in this post.)
  • How many of each type of plant will you grow, or how many feet of row will you plant?
  • When should you plant them in your growing region? If you don't know what gardening zone you live in, you'll need to research that.

Write down all the questions you need to research, and the decisions you need to make. Plan a deadline to complete this part of the project so you can move on to the next in a timely way.

Deadlines are one of the secrets of goal-reaching. Don't just set a final deadline for your goal, decide when you'll complete each step along the way

Procrastination won't help you reach your goals!

Then tell someone about your goal and your plan to reach it.

Accountability is another secret to reaching your goal. Choose someone who is supportive and encouraging, and who will enjoy hearing about your garden as it grows. Make a note to share some of your produce with this friend.

Step Three is to nurture your garden. Once you get those plants in the ground or your seeds have sprouted, you'll need to keep the garden bed weeded and watered. 

"Nurturing" is an important step on the way to your goal - and where most people drop the ball on reaching their goals. 

No matter what your goal is, you'll need to keep "watering and weeding" it. Keep on keeping on, my friend.

And when the time is right, enjoy those salads with your family and friends. You did it!

Since a salad garden only takes a few months to grow and harvest, you can now start working on another goal.

An example of a food storage goal.

Example two: building a food pantry

Let's say you want to stock up on emergency foods, just in case. You might write your goal like this:

"I want to have three months' worth of food in our pantry by the end of June, and I can spend $xx a month to do so."

Start out by answering these questions:

  • Will I store canned and boxed food from the grocery store, or a combination of commercially-canned, home-canned, freeze-dried and dehydrated foods?
  • Will I include staples such as rice, sugar and salt, or concentrate on ready-to-eat meals?
  • How many people are in my family? 
  • How many cans or boxes or pouches or ready-to-eat meals will I need?

The next step might be to make meal plans and figure out how many cans or boxes you'd need to make that meal. 

Or research sources to buy freeze-dried or dehydrated foods. 

Some of these companies offer free samples, so you'd be sure to order some of those and try them, so you know if you like the food, and how many servings each actually provides

Then you can make a plan to order or purchase a certain amount each week or month, and use a spreadsheet or reminders on your phone or calendar to make sure you stay on track. (There's the "nurture" part of this goal.)

Now go do it.

Set attainable, realistic goals.

My real-life, finish-the-garden goal

I've added raised beds to my garden each year. I still have plans and space to add more, but this year I have too many other things going on, so I'm trying to be realistic.

This year's garden goals are to finish fencing the last 25-feet of the garden, and to fill the bed we built last year with soil and compost and plant tomatoes in it.

That's it. Two simple, smaller, short-term goals. Goals that are also steps towards my long-term, multi-year goal of a larger garden.

They are my springtime goal, so that I can plant in the newest raised bed, and so that last section of fencing will keep rabbits out of my garden this year.

Here are the steps I'll need to accomplish:


  • Gather t-posts, fencing material and gate (we have these items on hand)
  • Install t-posts
  • Install the fencing (a two-person job)
  • Buy gate hardware
  • Hang the gate

Fill the raised bed:

  • Remove the weeds currently growing in this bed
  • Put down a thick layer of cardboard (I have a large stash of cardboard in the shed)
  • Fill the bed with layers of compost, aged manure, last year's fallen leaves and soil
  • Finish by March 1st so the bed can rest a bit before planting (I always plant tomatoes in the newest bed because they are the last transplants to go in the ground, giving me a bit more time to accomplish my goal.)

I have a deadline, a measurable goal, and a plan to reach it. Now I just need to do it.

And when I've reached these two short-term goals, I can focus on another of my goals.

You might have a one-month-long goal, a one-year goal or one that's even bigger than that, but at the end of the year I hope you'll have made some progress and some of your dreams have come true. 

Keep going. You can do it!

For more simple living and gardening ideas, subscribe to The Acorn, Oak Hill Homestead's weekly-ish newsletter, and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

Related Post:
Plan Your Garden, from Dream to Reality

How to set realistic homestead goals, and actually achieve them!

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  1. Hi Kathi~
    It's wonderful that you are being so active and joining in the 5K walk! Since I recovered from hip replacement I've been working to get back into a regular walking regimen. Hubby and I are up to 2 miles almost every gets in the way sometimes.

    You are so right about thinking carefully about our goals and setting up a plan for achieving them! I missed a few of my goals this past year too and I reworked the list for this year to be a little more flexible. :)

    Best wishes with you list this year!

    1. Lisa, I think you're doing GREAT by walking two miles daily after hip replacement! Good for you!

  2. farmgal (val)8:09 AM

    Hi Kathi,

    What a lovely post to read. Congrats on figuring out what you needed to trim out and what you kept even if it becomes a multi-year program, I feel the same way with my never ending changing gardens and food forests. Wow that must have been quite the storm to move that in such a way.

    Best of luck on the 5 k walk, I am working towards a goal of being able to do a lot more hiking this spring and I really want to work up to a my 5 or 10 mile rides on my horse.. but it will be a slow build as we are both out of shape :) We will start by hand walking on the road to get both of us back into riding shape.

    1. It was quite a storm! The house shook and the windows rattled and it was *noisy*.

      My horse and I are both out of shape too. :-) The longest ride we've done in the past is 4 miles, so I'm in awe of your goal!

  3. This challenge is wonderful and I am learning so much from all the different women taking part. It all begins with planning and goals.

    1. Planning is everything, isn't it?

  4. Hi Kathy, I'll admit you are not alone when all your goals from last year were not accomplished. I had several I had to admit to as well. It's difficult to get the "big" goals that require help done since my husband is rarely home due to his job.

    I just keep hanging onto them. Things like a garden shed, green house, and barn built. All needed I feel like before I can move more forward. But, it's ok. Its the stage that we are in at this time in our lives and I am thankful for being able to get done what I do.

    Thanks for sharing, I love reading your posts. Always so helpful.

    1. Those projects that require more than one person are the hardest, aren't they, Dianne?

  5. Hi Kathi,
    I think we are all guilty at times of setting unrealistic goals with good intentions. Sometimes life gets in the way and other we just have meet the goals at little later than we planned or change them to fit the situation. I try to keep my goals realistic but sometimes I don't always meet them due to many other circumstances. I think its wonderful that your planning on participating the walk - what a great goal and setting up for a bigger food supply for the coming year is also a great goal and very smart thing to do. Have a healthy, happy & blessed New Year!

    1. Happy New Year to you too, Marla!

  6. Great goals! Look forward to going through this challenge with you! I think just writing down our goals is a big step toward accomplishing them1

    1. Thank you Nancy. You're right, writing down our goals really helps us reach them.

  7. I'm an expert at setting unrealistic goals. One of my goals for 2019 is to be kinder to myself by not setting myself up to fail. I'll make it through January just fine but making it through the busy summer is where I'll really have to control myself.

    Best wishes on your goals, in 2019 and on the homestead!

    1. That's a good point, Robin. I have to remember that I'll be busy during spring and not as able to work on other things.

  8. Oh my gosh, you CAN do a 5k! You can do anything you want! Rock those goals!

    1. Thank you for the vote of confidence, Bethany! :-)

  9. Hey Kathi! Great goals! I got a Fitbit for Christmas from my kids, so I've got to get going on some step goals myself! I trained a bit last year for a 5K--it was fun, but my knees didn't think so! Good luck on your goals!

    1. Hi Kristi - as long as I'm walking and not jogging/running my knees are ok. Good luck with your step goals too!

  10. Amazing article, Kathi. Thank you for the information.

  11. Kathi, For me, goal number 1 is be self sufficient in green beans, corn, tomatoes, and sweet peas this year. It's an obtainable goal for me. I did it two years ago. This is an imperative. My food storage is empty. I've planned my garden areas, and bought the seed, and now just waiting for spring.

    But I guess my real #1 goal is staying out of the hospital so I can tend the garden.

    1. I hear you on that Real #1 Goal!

  12. Thanks so much for sharing with us at the To Grandma's house we go link party - I'm featuring you at the next party on my blog!

  13. Happy New Year Kathi! I set one major goal that will take almost a year to accomplish, and then break it down by month. I'll also set medium goals up to 3 months to finish (2), and then set small goals (6) that take 1-4 weeks to finish. With age/;imitations it takes longer to complete each goal, but it gets done. I've been at this for a very long time too.

  14. I love these tips. Thank you!


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