Stacking goals for the new year

With a new year looming, many of us take time to re-evaluate our goals and resolutions for the coming year.  Often however, these resolutions fall flat.  Why?  Because we set ourselves up for failure.  We promise to do our best. We set unclear goals.  We don’t make ourselves accountable.  When we do these things, any changes to our environment makes the resolution fall flat.

It doesn’t have to be that way.  We can meet all of our new year resolutions, if we set ourselves up for success.

Stackable Goals

One of my new year goals is to finish writing my first book on E-commerce and Online Strategy. Two chapters are already done, but I have 12 more to finish.

My primary goal is simply to finish.  Yes, that is important, but I have secondary goals, like establish a reputation for excellence and increase my personal income.  I not only want to finish a book, I want to create something of immense value and sell the heck out of it.  Furthermore, I want to create an educational platform – book, blog, video lectures, worksheets, and perhaps even a certification. All of this to achieve my central purpose in life – to educate others on how to use web technologies for business success.

I realized I could use stackable goals.  Stackable goals are essentially goals for different levels of accomplishment.  The baseline goal – finish the book with minimal sales.  If I can’t do at least that, I set up a condition that will go into effect.  This low level goal is in place to push myself even if things in life get crazy. That’s all fine and good, but I would not be happy with that lack-luster in sales.  To push myself, I set some higher level goals.

The danger of doing this is that I will focus on the lower level goal and not the higher level goal. So the top level goal needs to be something amazing, something I really, really want.  AND something those supporting me really, really want so that they will fully support me.  It needs to be something that will push me to act, create, and sustain motivation for an entire year.

And that motivation, taking the family to California to visit my good friend I haven’t visited in 3 1/2 years.  My wife, who loves to travel, can also get behind the project.  I have already convinced her to be an editor for my book.

I also want to be extremely ambitious with my goal.  Especially for someone who is not very entrepreneurial, well connected, had much experience with marketing, and working full time. I want to look at the goal and think “How the hell am I going to make that in one year?”  By pushing myself outside my comfort zone, the high goal pushes me to get serious about product launches, marketing, and networking, things I only have a vague understanding about.  I’ll have to learn, improve, and conquer my fears.

What did I decide?  Well, here are my goals:

Level 1 – If I sell less than $2000 worth of my e-commerce book and course by the end of 2015, then I owe my friend $200, no strings attached.

Level 2 – If I sell more than $10,000 worth of my e-commerce book, course, and consulting services with a rating of 4.0/5.0 or better, then I will fly my friend to visit me.

Level 3 – If I sell more than $50,000 worth of my e-commerce book, course, and consulting services with a rating of 4.0/5.0 or better, then I will fly my family to visit my friend in California.

I haven’t worked out the price of my book or course, but if I sell the book for $20, then I would need to sell 100 copies to hit the $2000 mark.  If I sell my course for $200, then I need to sell the course to 10 students.  Or some combination there-in.  It’s a low bar, but one that is instrumental to pass.  If I can just finish the book and course, I should be able to do that without a ton of marketing.  If I can get past that low mark, then the upward limit is on marketing execution.

I also included consulting services which I consider a high-end add-on value to my educational platform.  Plus, it enables networking opportunities for further connections with the business world. I want to give myself options as I don’t know what opportunities might present themselves later in the year.  Supposing a business asks me to consult for 6 weeks this summer, I would lose potentially 6 weeks worth of writing time. Yet, I could net $25-30k and open up opportunities for more consulting or sales of my book/course down the road.  I have already taken on one such consulting opportunity for the spring.  It’s a small project, but worth doing.

Your New Year Resolutions

This technique of stacking goals can be used with all sorts of new year resolutions.  Want to get fit?  Set stackable goals for working out.  Something like – If you don’t do at least one high intensity workout a week, you owe someone $20. If you don’t do two high intensity and two low-intensity workouts a week  you will owe someone $5.  Or maybe you want to work on your relationships with your family.  Set stackable goals like plan a family outing at least once a month or else [pick whatever you want in here].  Next level, plan a family outing and a date with each child individually at least once a month or else [pick another consequence or reward].

Make it fun. Make it challenging. Set yourself up for success.

About John Drake

John Drake is an associate professor at East Carolina University. While pursing his PhD in management information technology and innovation, John learned the art of high productivity through setting difficult goals to achieve unending success. John is a student of Objectivism, an advocate of Getting Things Done, a parent of three, a husband, a writer, a business owner, a web master, and an all around cool guy. His professional site is at

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