Step-by-Step Templates for All Your 2021 Goals

From organizing your finances to cooking at home, make a plan to accomplish your goals in the New Year

Illustration by Vicente Nirō

New Year’s resolutions have an unfortunate tendency to become wish lists instead of goals.

Each year, we think the fresh start magic we feel on January 1st will carry us through the next 364 days, but experience tells us it won’t. There will be days we just don’t feel like working towards our goals, and we’ll need something stronger than a resolution we made months ago to keep showing up.

Luckily, research into goal-setting sheds some light on how we can give our New Year’s resolutions a fighting chance. Numerous studies have found that writing out a specific plan for when and where you’ll do something – from exercising to voting to showing up for your colonoscopy – makes you more likely to actually follow through.

With that in mind, we put together step-by-step templates for common New Year’s goals – from organizing your finances to cooking more at home to starting that side business you’ve been dreaming about and more.

Use these templates as a starting point for deciding not just what you’ll accomplish in 2021, but how you’ll make it happen. Start this new year not with a wish, but with a plan.

We want to hear from you: how did your 2020 goals pan out, and how are you setting goals for 2021? Fill out our super short survey. We might make a template just for you!

December is the perfect time to take a step back, reflect on the past year, and make plans for the new one. Throughout the month, we’ll be publishing more articles to help you tackle your 2021 goals. Keep an eye on the blog or subscribe to the Ambition & Balance newsletter to follow along.

How to use these templates

Each of these templates include a step-by-step action plan for accomplishing each goal. They include both initial, one-time action items to set yourself up for success as well as recurring tasks – daily, weekly, or monthly – for making key habits stick.

These templates are meant to be a starting point for your 2021 plans, but each person’s circumstances and preferences will be different. Import a template, then customize it to fit your needs. Keep what works, edit what doesn’t. Add details and due dates – especially recurring due dates – that fit your life. You can even share your goal projects with an accountabilibuddy for mutual support.

2020 has taught us that plans that don’t bend to changing circumstances will break. Make it a habit to revisit your goals weekly, assess your progress, and make sure they’re up-to-date and relevant to your life.

Browse all 2021 Goals templates →

Organize Your Finances Template

How to Budget

It’s hard to make progress on any of your other goals if you’re worried about money. Getting your financial life in order frees up mental space for what’s important to you – personal, professional, or otherwise.

We partnered with the popular budgeting app YNAB (short for You Need a Budget) to create a step-by-step template to organize your personal finances, pay down debt, meet your savings goals, and make budgeting a habit.

Preview the template →

Cook More at Home Template

Cooking at home is one of the best things you can do for your physical and financial health. But if you’re not someone who loves cooking for cooking’s sake, it can be a daunting endeavor. Luckily, cooking at home doesn’t have to be complicated. Like any goal, it’s a matter of figuring out a sustainable system that works with your life.

This template will walk you through making home-cooked meals a habit including the basic tools that are worth investing in, the best way to organize your grocery list for maximum efficiency, how to plan your meals in advance, and simple but delicious go-to recipe ideas for when you’re exhausted at the end of a long day.

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Disconnect From Tech Template

2021 goals self care disconnect from tech

Most of us have an ambivalent relationship with technology. We know how useful it can be for keeping in touch with loved ones, learning new skills, building our careers, and just plain enjoying ourselves. At the same time, we feel its negative effects on our focus, mental health, and self-esteem. The start of 2021 is a perfect time to renegotiate our relationship with tech, embracing it’s benefits while putting limits on its role in our lives.

Use this template to find tips on disconnecting from your devices and using technology more mindfully when you need to. With downtime tasks and self-care to-dos, you’ll feel like your best version throughout the year.

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Read More Books Template

Speaking of disconnecting from tech, reading more books is a screen-free pastime that lets us explore different literary worlds or learn more about our own. Commit to more time spent reading and less time spent scrolling in 2021.

This template will help you choose books you’ll love, set reading goals that don’t feel intimidating, and find fun ways to keep yourself accountable. By the end of the year, you’ll have a stack of books under your belt and the foundation for a life-long reading habit.

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Start a Side Hustle Template

Starting a side business is an incredibly effective way to learn new skills, add an interesting line to your resume, and earn a little extra money. Make 2021 the year you stop daydreaming about your online store and start taking steps to launch your venture.

We’ve created a checklist to help you carve out time during evenings and weekends, make progress on your passion project, and launch your idea to the world.

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Organize Your Home Template

Reclaim your home from piles of junk and clear the clutter from cupboards, countertops, and closets. Bring order and calm to your physical spaces by thoughtfully deciding on what goes and what stays.

Use our template to go from room to room, decluttering, sorting, and cleaning as you go. In no time, you’ll have an organization system for your space and a home where everything has its place.

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Organize Your Tasks Template

Our list wouldn’t complete without a template for keeping track of everything you need to get done. Your big goals are important, but you also need to remember to put out the garbage on Wednesdays, call Grandma on her birthday, and make that colonoscopy appointment you’ve been putting off for obvious reasons. Trying to keep all of that in your head is a recipe for feeling stressed out and overwhelmed.

This template will walk you through setting up and sticking to a system for keeping track of everything you need to get done – from your big goals to your little chores and everything in between.

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Healthy Habits Challenge Template

If a year seems like a long time to commit to one goal, monthly challenges might be more your speed. Monthly challenges are a great way to jump start healthy habits without biting off more than you can chew. They also have the advantage of novelty –– instead of starting fresh once a year, you get to start fresh twelve times.

This template includes 12 ideas for small, daily habits with an outsized impact on your wellbeing and productivity. Challenge yourself to stick to each habit for a whole month. Use the Don’t Break the Chain method to build your streak and track your progress.

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Goals Tracker Template

One of the biggest problems with goals is that we set them and forget them a few weeks, or even days, later. We need a system that connects our goals to our daily actions and ensures they feel as relevant to our lives on July 16th as they do on January 1st.

This template is a high-level goal tracker you can use to get a bird’s-eye view of your priorities at any given time throughout the year. Use it to align your daily tasks with your top-level priorities, keep track of your progress, adapt your goals to changing circumstances, and say “no” (or at least, “not right now”) to the things that don’t bring you closer to your current goals.

Preview the template →


What big goals will you be taking on in 2021? Share screenshots of your goal projects with us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.