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Advice Life

Why Setting Objectives Isn’t Always For Me

why setting goals isn't for me whathannahwrote

Does anyone else ever get a sudden buzz where you feel really organised and on top of things, so you set yourself goals and objectives? And then that buzz wears off, and you’re just kind of stuck with a load of things you never achieved? And you just end up feeling rubbish and incapable? Yeah? No?

This post might as well be titled “A Year in the Life of Hannah”, because this has been my entire year summed up. With so many things going on and happening, I had numerous occasions where I would wake up and set myself goals to be achieved that day or week. Numerous list books purchased and filled out. And numerous nights spent crying over how badly I crashed mere hours later.

I’d like to say that it was the pressures of society, driving me to make myself the best at everything when it was impossible to be. I also often blamed it on how badly my mental health had gotten at the start of the year. But that all fizzled out, and I was still struggling. So what was the issue?

My issue was – and this might sound ridiculous and a little bit like an excuse to some of you – that I don’t work well when goals are set. I like to work at my own pace. I know where my achievements occur, and actually work really well when I’m left to it. But even to-do lists make me panic; they make me acutely aware of everything I have to do (which I know is their job, but more on that later) and they make me feel that by not getting to cross items off or put a big tick next to them, that I’m not doing well. And the whole thought puts me on a go-slow, or gets me so down that I can’t even bring myself to even try and accomplish the task, so a whole catch-22 situation occurs. Does anyone remember my 21 Goals at 21 post from last year? That legit gave me sleepless nights.

I’m trying to think of a way to illustrate this just in case my own explanation (read: ramble) doesn’t make any sense. You know when you were younger, and you’d think “hmm, I should tidy my room”? And you’d plan to tidy it and were more than willing to… and then your parents would tell you that you needed to tidy your room, and that was it. Ruined. You had no longer made the decision by yourself, and you were now being told to do it, so it wasn’t the same. Remember that? Like that.

I mentioned to-do lists. I love a list, as I’ve made clear on here previously. But I’ve begun to only use lists when I either need to remember something, or when I’m making a plan for coursework (hand-in dates, essay structures, yadda yadda yadda). I have ultimately banned myself from setting goals for myself, no matter how easy they may be. Because I know that knowing how easy they were supposed to be will just make me feel even worse if I don’t complete them.

I’d originally planned for this post to be a kind of advice thing, but all I’ve really done is natter on. I don’t even know what advice I’d have given!

But I’d genuinely love to know if anyone else feels the same with this sort of thing – or even if you don’t! And if you’ve managed to understand half of my descriptions and attempts to illustrate my point, then you’re a wee gem.

Featured image by Plush Design Studio on Unsplash





  • Sarah

    Loved this post, I think there is so much pressure to stick to goals!

  • thoughtsfromjasmine

    This is a really interesting take on it all! I personally work better when I have a goal to work towards, however I understand how disheartening they can be when they’re not completed :/

    Jas xx |

  • PuddyGeeks

    This is such an interesting view point, and really useful for you to share with others. It’s always helpful to know you aren’t the only one. I love the reference to cleaning your room as a kid, got to love a bit of teenage rebellion! Your writing style is great and natural and feels like chatting with an old friend. Keep up the good work!

  • Claire

    Everyone works differently! I like having a list because I feel like it takes the clutter out of my head, and means I don’t have to worry about keeping it straight in my brain, but my husband can’t stand them because, like you, they stress him out.

    I have to say, though, I never put dates on my tasks unless absolutely necessary, because I find that puts unnecessary pressure on me! I make a list weekly, and anything which doesn’t get done just gets rolled over to the next week. Sometimes that’s incentive enough to do it, because I get sick of looking at it!

    It’s about knowing what works for you and what is comfortable.

  • Simply Michelle

    this is such an interesting topic, usually i would have said that yes i love to set goals for myself but with the reference you made about tidying up your room maybe i don’t because i get the exact same way. someone tells me i need to look for a new job? not happening. someone tells me to lose weight? ordering a bunch of chicken nuggets. if i do set goals they need to come from a place of wanting genuine growth. i feel like there is a lot of pressure from society to make so many goals and i think often it leads to us not achieving our goals but they aren’t ever really our goals in the first place. they’re goals were made to believe we should have. this was such a thought provoking post, thank you for sharing. x

    mich /

  • Katie Thayer

    Wow! I do this! I love love love making lists but the past few months really just dragged on with numerous unfinished to do lists. Making the lists eases my anxiety but then trying to get them done just hurts! I’ll be trying to figure this out myself in 2019, maybe I’ll do more journaling about what I have done before simply listing what I have left.

  • A Cup of Wonderland

    This is such an enlightening post, I think so,times goals do put too much stress on you and actually instead of motivating you can actually hurt you. It’s why I haven’t set any goals this year but instead that I just need to take each day as it comes. I think we need to stop putting so much pressure on our selves and think about ourselves and take a chance to enjoy the day.

  • Lindsey

    I do exactly the same! I clear my list, get really inspired and add a ton of stuff onto it and then just get really stressed out by it! You’re right; making the decision yourself definitely makes all of the differences as well. This is a really interesting post – possibly something I’m going to have to adopt myself!

  • Christina Reid

    Such an interesting and relatable post – I can recall many occasions where that exact thing happened with my parents too! I like making lists, but I often find myself making lists most whenever I’m overwhelmed with everything I have to do, so my new system is to split the page into 4 sections (Usually Home, Work, Blog, Other) and put no more than 3 things in each section. Nothing else can be added until they’re done, otherwise the list just gets ridiculously long…

  • Willy Burden

    I can relate! What has worked for me is setting short term goals. And learning how to give myself grace. It’s sometimes hard to give ourselves permission to take it slow and easy in a world that applauds people who just get stuff done. It’s refreshing to read about your perspective. Know yourself and what works!

  • bookmurmuration

    Hi Hannah,

    I totally understand that feeling. Lots of readers report feeling the same way about books. Book groups often split because nobody enjoys the pressure of ‘having’ to read a book at a set time.

    I have found with goals that it often means I am planning in a way which doesn’t work for me. I could set a pages-per-day checklist of all the books I need to read this month but I reckon the joy would go out of reading. If I leave some flexibility, I can get through the same books but choose the order as I go along.

    I find the same with lots of goal and habit trackers. If we draw them up ourselves we can find a system which works best for us.

    Hope 2019 works out for you, whether you plan it to the last detail or make it up as you go along. Thanks for a post which made me think.

  • Nervous Bookworm

    This was actually really interesting to read, because I love lists and goals. But I do now and again hate them because they remind me about how much I have to do. But normally I then use that hate to fuel myself into getting stuff done. And bit like when someone tells you, you can’t do something so you do it anyway to prove them wrong 💖

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