Tips for a productive 2021

Productivity expert Moira Dunne offers practical tips to maximise your goal-setting in 2021.

As we reach the end of an extraordinary year, the focus in business switches to 2021. The New Year is a great time to reset your focus and make new plans.

While 2021 may still bring uncertainty, it is still worth having a plan to help you get motivated for the year ahead.

“Consider what you learned from the changes you made in 2020. What do you want to bring forward into 2021?”

Reflect on 2020

Before moving on to 2021, it is useful to reflect on what we learned in 2020. Most people were forced to rethink how they work. We adopted new working habits and routines and found new ways to connect with each other. For many this new way of working had benefits and down-sides too.

Consider what you learned from the changes you made in 2020. What do you want to bring forward into 2021?

Here are some practical tips for goal-setting to help maximise your chance of delivering your goals next year.

Be Realistic

2021 goals on a notebook.

Take a realistic view of your workload and schedule. Where can you find extra time to work on your goals?  It can be useful to plan one goal at a time to avoid overwhelm.  Once you make progress on one you will motivated to tackle the next one.

Remove the Vague

The key to making progress is to break down a big goal into smaller actions. That way you can begin to make gradual progress every week. Use short gaps in your schedule to crack through a few tasks each day. They all add up and if well planned, will result in you achieving the overall goal by your deadline.

As Tim Herrera said recently in the Smarter Living section of the New York Times “rather than looking at tasks, projects or decisions as items that must be completed, slice them into the smallest possible units of progress, then knock them out one at a time”.

5 Tips to Reset Your Goals

Here are 5 simple questions to help you set a good goal.

  1. WHAT: What change do I want to make?

Be clear and be specific. This will help you decide the work that needs to get done to achieve the goal.

  1. WHY: Why do I want to do it?

What is my motivation, what difference will it make? Does this fit my overall vision and purpose?

  1. WHEN: When does this goal need to be achieved?

Set a deadline for completion and then work backwards to set interim deadlines for smaller tasks along the way. This helps you stay motivated and focused throughout.

  1. WHY NOT: What are the risks, the stumbling blocks or things that may prevent you succeeding?

List anything that may get in the way. Things that could cause you to give up. Things that prevented you in the past, things to avoid this time.

  1. HOW: What actual work needs to be done to achieve the goal?

This will help you develop an action plan, basically the work you need to get done.

Goal Action Plan

Once you work out the steps you can start to build your action plan. Add target dates, measures for success and any additional names to help complete the work. A simple Word table or an Excel spreadsheet can help you track your progress versus plan.

Be Productive

Now is the time to focus on 2021 so you can finish the year feeling optimistic. And while 2021 may still bring uncertainty, having a focus and a plan will help you get motivated for the year ahead.

Happy New Year to you all.

Written by productivity consultant Moira Dunne, founder and director of

Published:  31 December 2020