How to Set Realistic Goals for the New Year

How to set attainable goals for the new year.

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

It was often too much 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's a trick to setting goals, whether it's for your homestead, your career, your finances, or your personal life.

First, don't over-commit. Make a long-term plan and stick to it. It's so 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?

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

The thing is, if you try to do it all, all at one time, you'll burn out real fast. Making a plan to start small and build on your success each year is actually a form of self-preservation!

Choosing and setting goals

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

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By the time I set a few goals for each of the areas of my life - homestead, business, finances, relationships, personal life, spiritual life and perhaps a few more to boot - there's a whole page of single-spaced goals staring me in the face. And that's way too many.

One way to beat this over-commitment problem is to just set one goal in each area of life. Another is to break the year into quarters and work on a goal or two during that period of time. A third is to set large long-term goals but work on short-term goals this year.

Personally I'm going to do a combination of all of those this year. I'm so swamped with everything right now - caring for the Chief (hubby) after his surgery, animals, part-time job, family, homestead... well, I don't have much time for anything new right now. But it's important to me to have a challenge or two, to have 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. You might remember my big scary goal of walking in a 5K. Well, my bout with kidney stones put an end to that one. I've moved it to my bucket list for now. I'll revisit it in the future.

So, let's take all those wishes and dreams and turn them into attainable goals, shall we? Without being over-ambitious.

How to set goals

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

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

A resolution is a wish; a wish with a deadline and a plan is a goal!

After you decide on a goal, writing it down is the first step to reaching it. Writing down a goal is powerful; the act of writing something down helps it "stick" in our brains. Some of us (ahem) need all the help we can get remembering things.

Let's use a gardening goal as an example.

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

Be specific with your goal. Instead of simply deciding you want to grow your family's food, write down that this year you will plant a salad garden of two kinds of lettuce, radishes and green onions in one raised garden bed in that sunny corner of your yard.

Start with a manageable goal; you can add more raised beds and plants next year.

Now make a plan to plant that garden. Will you plant seeds or buy seedlings? How many plants of each, or how many feet of row will you plant? How long will it take for each kind of vegetable to mature? When should you plant them in your growing region?

If you don't know what gardening zone you live in, researching that could be your first step. Write down the topics you will research and set a "deadline" to complete it by. Deadlines are one of the secrets of goal-reaching. Don't just set a final deadline, decide when you'll complete each task along the way. Procrastination won't help you reach your goals.

Write those planting dates on your calendar or in your planner too.

Tell someone about your plan, someone who will be 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.

Nurture your plan... and 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. Keep on keeping on, my friend.

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

Another example: stocking your pantry

This time let's use a pantry goal as an example.

An example of a food storage goal.

Let's say you want to stock up on emergency foods, just in case. You want to have 3 months' worth of food in your pantry by the end of June, and you have a certain dollar amount that you can spend to do this.

Do you want to store freeze-dried foods only, or a combination of freeze-dried, dehydrated and home-canned or commercially-canned foods? Will you include staples in your plans, such as rice, sugar and salt, or concentrate on ready-to-eat meals?

Your first step in this case might be to make meal plans, deciding what meals you would want to make in such a situation. How many people are in your family? How many cans or boxes or pouches will you need per meal?

Once you've made these decisions, you'd research sources to buy these items. Several offer free samples, so you'd be sure to order some of those.

Then you'd decide how much money you can spend each week or month, and order as many of those foods as you can afford according to your plan.

You might be able to set up an automatic order at some companies, or you could use a spreadsheet and reminders on your phone to make sure you place your orders and stay on track.

You have a deadline, a measurable goal, and a plan to reach it. Now go do it.

One of my homestead goals

One goal I'll be working on this year is the ongoing project of expanding the garden. Four years ago I thought I could accomplish this in just one summer, but I'm still working on it. (I was a prime example of not being realistic!)

An important part of that big project was to do it for as-close-to-zero dollars as possible. It's taken awhile to acquire the materials I need and for that reason, I'm not yet finished. But the end goal is very important to me so it's still on my list as a long-term goal.

Set attainable, realistic goals.

I've added raised beds to my garden each year. I still have plans and space to add more, but maybe not this year. I have too many other things going on, so I'm trying to be realistic.

This year's goals in the garden are to finish fencing the last 25' of the garden, and fill the empty bed with soil and compost so I can plant in it.

That's it. Two simple, smaller, short-term goals, goals that are also steps towards my multi-year goal of a larger garden. They will be my springtime goal, so that I can plant in the latest raised bed and keep the rabbits out of the garden this year.

Here are the steps needed to accomplish these two goals, listed below. I've done several of these steps already - these were both goals last year that weren't reached because of those horrid kidney stones I had.


  • Gather t-posts, fencing and gate (we had them on hand)
  • Install t-posts (done)
  • Install the fencing
  • Buy gate hardware
  • Hang the gate

Fill the raised bed:

  • Remove the weeds currently growing in the bed
  • Put down a thick layer of cardboard (I've been saving cardboard for this purpose)
  • Fill the bed with layers of compost, aged manure, last year's rotted leaves and soil
  • Finish by March 1st so the bed can rest a bit before planting

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 short-term goal.

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 measurable progress.

Want to share your goals with me? Leave a comment below.

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Related Posts:
How to make your own vinegar for pennies (free download)
How to Make a Homestead Plan: Where Do You Start?
Canning tips and tricks

Tips for setting attainable goals this year.

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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!


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