If you're like most people, January is when you plan your goals for the coming year. You may or may not make New Year's resolutions, but you do spend some time thinking about what you want to accomplish in the next twelve months, in your business, your career, and possibly in your life as well. If you're serious about your goals, you may even write them down.

Before you do that, there's something important you need to do first--take another look at the goals you set a year ago. That advice comes from executive coach and bestselling author Wendy Capland. For the past couple of years, I've been working with Capland as my coach and writing about the process. As 2017 was drawing to a close, she asked me to review the goals I'd set for myself at the beginning of the year.

Reviewing last year's goals before you get to work on this year's is a great thing to do. It can tell you where you're stuck: For instance, you may be planning to set a goal that was exactly the same as one you had a year ago and on which you've made no progress. (I have a few of those.) It can help you realize what you've accomplished. And it can let you know what you need to continue with and where you may need some course correction.

So, if you wrote down a list of goals at the beginning of 2017, go find that list. (If you can't, that in itself might be a bad sign.) For every item on that list, decide which of the following is true:

1. Nailed it.

If your 2017 goals were at all reasonable, you probably did accomplish at least some of them. For instance, I had a goal to write a book proposal, and I did. I planned to take up horseback riding again, something I haven't done in years, and I did. I planned to find a creative writing class that I liked (yes, I'm a pro, but you can never stop learning) and I did.

What did you set out to do in 2017 that you got done? Take note of those accomplished goals and pat yourself on the back. I do this literally when I've accomplished something I'm proud of, but you don't have to go that far.

2. Got partway there.

For some of your goals, you've probably made meaningful progress but not done everything you hoped to do. I had a goal to complete a 15-mile hike, a step toward a longer backpack that I wanted to do with a friend. Well, I never made it to 15 miles, but I got through a 10-mile hike in fine shape, a longer hike than I'd done in many years. That counted as a partial victory.

What did you set out to do in 2017 and partially got there? Pat yourself on the back for those accomplishments as well. Then decide if you're content with that, or if you'd like to make accomplishing the full goal part of your plan for 2018.

3. Failed, but will keep trying.

There will be some goals where you've made no progress at all. One item on my list of goals is to write a will, something I've known I should have for...well a lot of years. It was in my list of goals for 2017 and I totally flubbed that goal. But it's still important so I have to keep trying.

Capland's suggestion in this situation is to see if you can break down your goal into subsets of activities and see if you can do one of them. For me, that might mean making a list of my assets or talking to people about my plans.

For the goals you've failed to accomplish but still want to, can you break them down into smaller steps? And maybe make one of those steps your goal for 2018?

4. Failed, and never mind.

Some items on your list of goals will be things you didn't do--and it's OK. Maybe you were planning to create a new marketing campaign for a product but it turns out you don't need one because you're going to stop selling that product. Or conversely, it's selling well enough by word of mouth that the marketing campaign is no longer needed.

It's always a good idea to take a second look at the goals you haven't accomplished and decide if some of them are no longer relevant or necessary, or too much of a challenge for the reward. Or they may simply be things you really don't want to do. 

Crossing something off your list because you've decided you don't need to do it is almost as satisfying as crossing it off because it's done. So go ahead. Getting rid of some items will give you more time and energy to devote to the things you really want to get done.

Now that you've been through last year's list, it's time to add whatever new goals you have for this year to your list. Use your complete list as a master plan. Then break down each of your goals into things you need to do each week and each month that will get you to your final goal. Then, this time next year, you'll be giving yourself credit for a job well done.

Published on: Jan 4, 2018
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.