Setting Systems and SMART Goals to Help 2021 Start on the Right Foot

A #Reclaiming2020 Thread

For so many of us, the end of 2020 can’t come soon enough. The allure of a new year and the proverbial blank slate is something that has incredible psychological power.

Well now we’ve got 30 days left and, though the last few months have given me hope for a brighter future, my own personal future is still a bit of a hot mess.

While the allure of January 1st as a clean start is tempting, I know from personal experience that starting a brand new routine or adopting new habits is a process of trial, error, success and failure, highs, and lows. Starting on a new blank routine from day zero anticipating perfection and success is a recipe for disappointment. Logically, you wouldn’t sign up to run a 10k on January 1st without participating in some kind of training regimen beforehand. So why do we consistently operate on the idea that we can successfully launch ourselves into a brand new routine or lifestyle with zero preperation?

There are 30 days left in 2020, and I intend to use them as my ‘training period’ for 2021. Trying new routines, new habits, training for a fresh start at the beginning of the new year.

So, with 2020 coming to a close, I’m setting SMART goals to try new habits and routines leading into the New Year.

What are SMART Goals?

SMART Goals are something I first learned about in business school, but have recently been used by self improvement and study guru’s to help people create more effective and targeted methods of reaching their goals.

Full Function Rehab | SMART Goal Setting Vaughan
For more on how to create SMART Goals, click HERE

The underlying idea of SMART goals is to find a way to make us accountable. ‘I want to find a job’ or ‘I want to write a book’ or even ‘I want to get an A in Genetics’ are all wonderful goals, but because they are so vague they can often be difficult to track, and therefore difficult to stick with. You can find more on how to create effective SMART goals HERE, but the general idea is in the name; make your coals specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.

Kaizen – The Art of Continuous Improvement

Something else that I have found makes a vast difference for me ties in with the Japanese Concept of Kaizen – or the art of continuous improvement.

Kaizen de-emphasizes perfection, which can be a leading cause of stress and a major contributing factor to giving up or abandoning our goals altogether, and instead focuses on improvement. The idea is not necessarily to get it right the first time around, but instead to do just a little bit better than last time.

In that thread, I focus less on my relation to an ultimate and ever-changing goal, and more on my engagement and performance in the day to day process of it all.

Otherwise called a ‘System’.

Atomic Habits – Systems not Goals

If you have not yet heard of Atomic Habits by James Clear, I really must ask what rock you have been living under. Even if you do not have the time to read the book in full, there are plenty of taking aways and summaries that can be of tremendous insight. But for our purposes, we are going to be focusing on the delineation between goals and systems.

If your goal is to be able to deadlift 200 lbs by the summer, and you spend every day pushing yourself closer to that goal, you may ignore warning signs from your body in favor of adding on just a few more pounds. But if you end up injuring yourself in the process, you could be setting your goal back by months if not years. By shifting focus from your proximity with the end goal to continual growth and consistently showing up, this changes the pressure we put on ourselves and makes our goals, ultimately, more achievable.

My 30 Day End of 2020 Goals

My general goals for 2020 focus more on routine and continuous improvement. They also happen to fall into the four general categories of self-improvement that most of our New Years goals tend to fall into, but perhaps that will make them easier to relate to or use to draw on for examples when making your own goals.

My 2020 – 2021 Goals

My general goals are blocked under four categories but are free to change from day to day. The ultimate takeaway is my ‘participation’ in that given area.

Physical Goals

I want to be more physically active and just generally take better care of myself. Sitting in front of a desk for hours on end is not generally a good thing for either my spine or general level of fitness. It would also be good if I ate less like a gremlin and more like a hippie, but I’ll settle for somewhere in the middle.

Intellectual Goals

I want to learn something new every day. And yes, I’m in grad school, so learning is kind of par for the course. But diving through pages of notes often feels less connected to learning than mastering a singular concept. So even if I’ve been studying ‘phenotypic heritability’ for hours, I’ll only be counting it if I have an ‘Ah-ha!’ or ‘Eureka!’ type moment while doing so, or if I have that moment in a completely different subject.

Creative Goals

The same general principle holds true for creative enterprises. As a children’s author, I spend a lot of time thinking about stories, characters, impact, engaging readers… but that doesn’t result in a finished product. So much my collecting of ‘Ah-ha’ moments above, I want to be able to wield tangible results in my hands for it to be able to count. Whether that is words written, pages drafted, characters sketched, or even scarves knitted… I will be focusing on things that yield tangible results in real time.


Being in Sweden, so far from most of my family, in the middle of lockdown, the short days and long nights are easy to let get to you. It is so much simpler to turn to merge dragons than it is to turn on mentally. But that is neither healthy nor sustainable. I want to do things that feed my soul. I want to reconnect with friends and family (even if it is digitally). I want to consume media that helps me grow. and I want to take the time to check in with myself on a regular basis, rather than just keep on pushing forward.

Trackable SMART Goals Example

The four categories above, while representative of most of what I want to do, are hardly specific. So for a better idea of what those goals will look like in the real world, here are a few of the micro goals I will be setting myself.

Drink Water

And oldy but a goody, and yet I still never do it. I will be attempting to drink 2 liters of water, each and every day, of 2020 and beyond.

Read in Swedish

This is really a 2 for 1 so I should want to do it even more but, again, it often gets pushed to the wayside. I’ve picked up two children’s chapter books in Swedish from the second hand shop and intend to read 5 pages (one sided) before bed at least 4 times a week (70%).

Stay off Social Media

I feel bad leaving this for last as this goal will actually affect those reading my articles here at TNN. I walk more about the why’s behind this on my YouTube channel HERE, but suffice to say I have a busy month coming my way in December. And, as such, for the rest of 2020… this will be the last you see of me. I will be staying off Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, and, yes, even for the remainder of this year.

At the end of my free trial run for 2021 (also known as December 2020) I will create SMARTER Goals moving forward. SmartER because I will Evaluate (E) and Review (R) the steps I have taken, the systems I have tried, and see what really works for me and what doesn’t and adjust. Hopefully, I’ll be back and writing away with a clearer head and more time to focus on what is important, but I am trying not to enter into this trial run with any preconceptions. This is an experiment after all, and as any student at the school of Bill Nye will tell you, bias = bad science.

So, until next time, here’s hoping to a better and brighter future in 2021.

Check out this and more original content available every week at by subscribing to us on Facebook or Instagram.

You can also check out Eve Daniels, author of The Nerdy Nanny books, on YouTube where she gives writing and academic advice as well as updating you on all of her latest and upcoming projects.

Ringing in 2020 with a Bang

As 2020 looms just around the corner, it is hard not to get excited. We Millennials, as a generation, have decided that the Roaring ’20s are going to be EPIC.

Every holiday in 2020 has lined up in the best way possible, Great Gatsby style New Years’ Eve Gala’s, opulence in every shape and form, and the knowledge that 2020 will be the beginning of the decade in which we change the world.

So take 2020 by the reigns, prepare to conquer, and get ready to ring in the New Year!

Set Yourself up for Success

Every year, the boundless positive energy of the New Year quickly meets the reality of our every day lives. To help the positive energy survive in the harsh light of day, take steps to let yourself success.

Do the laundry, clean the kitchen, take care of the grocery shopping, prepare a meal for the next day, take out the trash and recycling and, depending on how seriously you intend to enjoy the celebrations the night before, maybe leave the bottle of aspirin out for yourself the next morning.

But seriously, if there is something on your Resolutions list (eat better, spend more time with friends, read more) then set yourself up for it before the new year has even begun. Ditch the junk food, make lunch dates, or scheduled game nights ahead of time, pick up a couple of books from your local library. Many people make the mistake of treating the New Year as a start point.

But the best plans require preparation. Start Now.

Celebrate Safely

The Roaring 20’s are meant to be celebrated in absolute opulence. Full Tuxedo’s and low cut sparkling dresses. Glass after glass of sparkling champagne, top-shelf whiskey, or classic Gin Rickey’s.

And, most importantly of all, a chauffeur in an elegant top hat… or just your local Uber or Lyft driver, most of which, along with public transportation, provide ‘RIDE SMART’ discounts on New Years’ Eve to help reduce incidents of altered driving and preventable deaths.

In all seriousness, this is supposed to be an incredible decade. Don’t start it off being responsible for a tragedy.

Gatsby Confidence

Jay Gatsby was a man who made his fortune bootlegging illegal liquor during the prohibition and then proceeded to spend his time mingling with high society through and throwing lavish, opulent, weekend-long parties. He schmoozed his way into the upper crusts of society through sheer force of will, confidence, and gumption despite the fact that he was spending well beyond his means. He was a problematic figure, to be sure, and shares more in common with a certain president than I am entirely comfortable with.

But the reason the figure of Jay Gatsby has continued to resonate for all these years was his charisma. The legendary figure that was Jay Gatsby made things happen purely through the lethal combination, of charm, confidence, and a killer poker face. He was the living embodiment of –

‘Fake it ’till you Make it.

Millennials are a generation who, much like Jay Gatsby, entered the world on a shaky foot. In the middle of international conflict, on the tail end of a burst tech bubble and just stepping into adulthood amidst a Global Recession. As all that was brought to a head, media and news networks took turns painting millennials as lazy and self-indulgent children overpaying for avocado toast and cold brew. And despite the fact that the youngest of millennials will soon turn thirty and the oldest of us are approaching forty, somehow that impression of us as ‘children’ who don’t know what we are doing in the world has remained. For far too long we have believed the articles condemning us as lazy or lacking in common sense. But the time for letting others define our limits is over.

This goes for more than just Millenials. Tuesday marks the end of not just a year, but a decade. The chance to usher in a new era. And we might be faking our way forwards for now, but we won’t be for long.

Happy New Years Everyone

Welcome to 2020

Check out this and more original content available every week at by subscribing to us on Facebook or Instagram.

You can also check out Eve Daniels, author of The Nerdy Nanny books, on YouTube where she gives writing and academic advice as well as updating you on all of her latest and upcoming projects.

7 Healthy Habits

The Holiday season can be a time of chaos, stress, and feelings of being overwhelmed. Most of us are running on not enough sleep, we are eating like teenagers (whatever is around) when we remember to eat at all, and basically doing anything and everything possible to slowly degrade our own physical and mental health only to try and do a complete 180 as soon as January hits. But why?

Why are we waiting for a designated day on the calendar to start taking better care of ourselves?

So, whether it is the middle of December, the first of January, or a random Tuesday in April, here are a few things you can do NOW to help take better care of yourself.

Ditch The Caffeine

While an extra cup of coffee was helpful for a quick influx of energy, the more cups I consumed, the worse the inevitable crash. It started to take a long term toll on my health.

I’m basically running on caffeine and stubbornness at this point. But as the days and my to-do lists got longer, my two cups a day was rapidly closing in on six. Eventually, I became a walking bag of sleep-deprived delirious jitters being held together at the seams (just barely) by my next fix. That was when I realized I needed to cut back.

The Nerdy Nanny

Simple things like switching to a smaller coffee mug in the morning, or ditching the travel mug in exchange for actually having to get up and get a fresh cup in the afternoon, can drastically reduce your overall caffeine intake. Avoiding sugary flavored coffee drinks is also a generally good idea, though for other reasons.

Drink More Water

Most likely, someone has been telling you this already. As a general rule, we rarely drink the amount of water we actually need.

Most people should be drinking about 2 liters (or a half-gallon) of water each and every day. Men a little more than women, and someone who is 6’8″ need more than someone who is 4’9″. But in general, a half-gallon is a good place to start.

The best advice I’ve ever gotten came from a 13 year old.

Get a new cup or travel mug, but like, one that you really really like, so that you’ll remember it and use it more often.

-R (age 13)

Bring a Snack

I am a firm believer that 9 out of 10 problems can be solved, or at least helped, with the addition of a snack. Don’t have time to meal prep? Don’t worry about it. No time to eat in between business meetings? We’ve got you covered. Screaming toddler? Well, I never said you had to eat the snack.

Whether it’s a Multigrain bar, granola, a piece of fresh fruit, a Ziploc of mixed nuts or pretzels, or just an assortment of whatever was in your fridge; veggies, cheese, deli meat, fruit, boiled egg.

The world is a much better and more easily manageable place with the addition of a snack.

Take Ten

Meditation is not for everyone. And while Yoga is great, taking the time for a one hour class isn’t always manageable.

So Take Ten.

Just ten minutes. Set a timer on your phone, start with twelve in the beginning as it will take you longer to relax the first time. In your office, at home, sitting in your car (a personal favorite). Take ten minutes, eyes closed, to just breathe. Think about all the things you’ve managed to get done already. Check-in with yourself. Are you hungry? Thirsty? Need to pee?

What can you check off your to-do list already? Which errands are you stressing out about that really aren’t that important? How do you really want to spend your time that day?

Times up. Open your eyes, turn off your timer, take a deep breath, and go conquer the world.

Blue Light = Bad

Blue Light, which is visible light with a wavelength between 350 and 500 nm, exists all around us. It’s why the sky looks blue, it comes from natural and unnatural sources, and, most notably, computer screens. This is a problem for a couple of reasons. First of all, the eye is not particularly good at blocking out blue or ultraviolet light, which can harm the cornea and cause eye problems after extensive exposure. Additionally, blue light activates certain parts of the brain which essentially tells your body ‘it’s time to be awake now’. This is why it can be so hard to wind down while using electronic screens.

I am by far one of the biggest culprits the world has ever seen. When stressed, I have a tendency to turn to my phone for ‘downtime’.

What started out as ten minutes of games or a casual scroll through Facebook, can easily become an hour or more of screen time. I don’t feel any more rested for it and usually have a headache.

The Nerdy Nanny

The Solution? Parental Control yourself.

No, I’m not kidding. These days everything from your smart phone to your laptop to most modern TV has a plethora of parental control options. Check your usage, see what’s sucking up your time, and put down healthy limits.

For me it was two things; social media, which I kind of need for work, and Merge Dragons, which is painfully addictive. I limited myself to two hours per day on total social media, but quickly learned I needed to exclude FB Pages from that ban (which is very easy to do) for work. Merge Dragons on the other hand… in once spent in one week on vacation a grand total of 17 HOURS playing that game. That’s another part time job! I cut myself down to one minute a day for 30 days, just to break myself of the habit. And now that I am (mostly) able to control myself, I have two hours per week.

Parental control are easy to set up and a great resource for breaking bad habits. Because sometimes, the person we need to parent is ourselves.

Plan Ahead

Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance


I used to HATE that expression. I thought it was pompous and arrogant and disingenuous… and I especially hated it because it was true.

I would spend hours each week working through my to-do lists, coming up with to-do lists, forgetting/losing those lists, and then having to come up with them all over again. But, beyond giving myself and anxiety headache, I never accomplished much other than actually making the lists. I knew what I needed to do, I just never put any thought into how I was going to do it.

This may sound like a simple step. And for most people, it is. But for me, there was a logical disconnect between knowing that I had to do something, and actually planning out how to do it. But once I did that, I found my to-do lists continuously shrinking rather than growing faster than I could handle.

  • Buy Milk – stop at the store on way home from work Thursday
  • Submit Sample Writing – use draft from ‘Mocking Bird’, edit & submit Friday
  • Christmas Presents – Stop at Super Target Saturday & Envy Sunday.

Once I laid it out so that I knew not just what I had to get done, but also when, how, and where I was going to do it, everything became that much more manageable.

Forgive Yourself

Too often we are ready to forgive others, but hold ourselves to such high standards that they are impossible to meet. We are only human. We are flawed, and we are fragile. We deserve the same kindness we would give to others. If you are struggling, or overwhelmed, or feel like you have failed in some way- please, I beg you, just take a moment, and forgive yourself.

If you’ve forgotten some important form or piece of paperwork – forgive yourself. If you’ve been working hard to eat healthily but fell off the bandwagon when someone brought in donuts – forgive yourself. If you said something careless to someone you care about and hurt them, even if you didn’t mean to – forgive yourself.

The world will keep on turning. We all will keep on trying. And tomorrow, we will try again. Flaws, failures and all.

So put a granola bar in your bag. Grab that cool $15 water bottle that you really liked but held back on. Put the phone down before bed. And give yourself a moment to breathe, be, and be happy.

Because I think you’re doing a darn good job of being a human being.

Check out this and more original content available every week at by subscribing to us on Facebook or Instagram.

You can also check out Eve Daniels, author of The Nerdy Nanny books, on YouTube where she gives writing and academic advice as well as updating you on all of her latest and upcoming projects.