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How to Brainstorm Your 2020 #Goals With a Mind Map

Here’s a theory: there are 3 types of people. There are the people that hate New Year’s Resolutions and the people that love them. And then, there are at least a handful of people that see the word “resolutions” and feel a little lost — or they’re just trying to get through December before setting their sights on next year.

Regardless of where you fall on the love/hate resolution scale, I hope you’ve taken some time to think about your goals for 2020. But sitting down and writing a list of what you want to do over the next 365 days can be daunting, so I wanted to share a bit of how I’m approaching my goals for the new year.

I love brainstorming, so here's a how-to for a really easy way to tackle it. Building out a mind map with Gliffy helped me wrap my head around all my opportunities in 2020.


1. Define Your Mind Map

This step might be obvious, but give it some serious thought. In my case, I’m going to focus on my personal goals. If you’re not clear on what your mind map will be about, it’ll get really cluttered as you keep brainstorming.

I started mine with “Samie’s Goals” to keep me focused. That means I might have some work-related goals, like improving my presentation skills, but I can’t go down a Marketing-for-Gliffy rabbit hole. (That gets its own top secret brainstorm. 😉)


2. Brainstorm Zones to Focus On

Alright, now let’s start zooming in. These are the big categories that smaller goals can fall under — the “live, laugh, love” of your mind map, if you will. If you’re focusing on your business, those categories could be items like team-building, new business, or customer experience. Or, maybe it’s specific products and categories within your business; for example, a grocery store could have categories like deli, bakery, and produce.

For a personal mind map, common categories are:

  • Friends & Family
  • Spirituality
  • Health & Wellness
  • Community & Giving
  • Home & Physical Spaces
  • Work & Professional Development

Not all of those may resonate with you, and that’s okay. I skipped “friends” because I feel like good things in that zone come naturally — I do have friends, I swear! Here’s where I landed:

3. Start Dropping in Big, Exciting Ideas or Goals

These should fill in the blank: “In 2020, I want to _____” if you’re focused on personal goals. Other statements to work from could be “In 2020, my team will _____,” or “this brand will _____.”

The idea here is to start coming up with inspiring statements that can fuel your actions through the new year. If you’re familiar with the SMART format of goal-setting, don’t worry about that yet (that’s Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Based and I’ll get into it later).

You might also end up with some specifics jumping into this step. That’s okay, too. Brainstorms are about giving yourself the space to get it all out. You can always fix this later, especially if you’re using an analog tool like sticky notes or a whiteboard, or a diagramming app like Gliffy. My “family” brainstorm got pretty specific already:



I worked my way around and kept dropping ideas in. Here’s a peek of where I ended up after this step:

4. Add Actionable Steps

With big, exciting statements like “In 2020, I want to do a case study competition,” now start thinking through the smaller, concrete steps or tactics. To do that case study competition, I’m going to have to find the right opportunity, apply to be on the team, and ultimately get accepted to a team. For the case study item, I quickly came up with three things to do to support that goal:


As you start working, though, you might find yourself adding steps in this tier of your mind map that still don’t feel super specific. “Practice French” under my Study Abroad goal could be more built out. The last step of this brainstorm will help you identify those items.


5. Apply the SMART Goal-Setting Rules

For each item in that outer tier of your Mind Map, it’s time to write a statement that’s Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. 

Here’s how I think of each of those items:

  • Specific: state it clearly using action words
  • Measurable: have a way to evaluate success
  • Achievable: don’t set yourself up for failure
  • Relevant: you need a reason to stay motivated
  • Time-bound: this makes it harder to procrastinate

I’ll write statements for each of those items, like:

  • To do a case study competition in 2020, I will research opportunities in January, meet with the professors that sponsor them before each application, and add all the relevant deadlines to my calendar as I go.
  • To complete my study abroad application, I’ll meet with the Carlson Global Institute by March, research and apply to three relevant scholarships, and listen to a French podcast every week to make sure my language skills stay strong.

Those statements essentially become the goals you'll work toward next year.


Bonus Tip for Trello Users

This format is really easy to translate into a 2020 Goals board

  1. Add each "zone" as its own list
  2. The next tier you brainstorm can get its own card in the corresponding list
  3. You can add your goal statements in the description of the card to keep yourself focused
  4. Additional action items you came up with can drop into a checklist
  5. Make it happen

Of course, there are a ton of ways to project manage yourself through a successful new year. Remember to give yourself space to experiment, slip up, or adjust your goals as you progress through the year.

Best of luck & let me know what big things you want to accomplish next year!


I love this post!

Truly actionable and example-driven. Kudos! ❤️

Like # people like this

Thanks so much, Fernando! I hope to keep doing some posts like this, so your feedback means a lot.

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SriKumar P Atlassian Team Jan 17, 2020

@Samie Kaufman - Your Gal at Gliffy 

Thanks for sharing this amazing write up. Every new year people ask me what is your Resolution and I was bit lost in that work. I will surely go ahead and try this 🙂👍




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I've already run this in my team's 1:1 goal setting session 👨‍🔬Very good outcomes, to be honest. I'll be writing something up on the experience, for sure :)

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Will have to try this with the Jira Align Mind Maps module...


nice!!! I'll give that a go too as soon as I get some time to dig into the features of Jira Align


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