There is something about a new year (or sometimes even just a Monday) that makes one feel hopeful… a new beginning… a new you. A you that stops standing in its own way and realises all its life dreams. I surmise this is why we bother with New Year’s resolutions. The problem with such lofty ideas of the new you are that they are made at a whim without a plan of actionable goals. And as such they are often left unrealised… until next year off course, when we add them to our list of New Year’s resolutions once more.


This Monday we are back in the office and to prepare for the new year I am setting out my goals to achieve my vision for 2017. Whether you are a client working towards a launch or a fellow photographer wishing to improve your lighting skills, I want to share some goal setting techniques that have helped me move my own dreams forward. Besides serving my clients in 2016, I also achieved three milestones: I saw two fashion editorials published internationally, hosted a workshop at Nikon School South Africa and attended an artist residency at the Arteles Creative Centre in Finland!


Before we start setting goals for 2017, it is important to first set some life goals.

One of my favourite quotes was told to me in sculpture class in my first year at university by my friend Benita Page. It went like this…

goal setting quote by lewis carroll illsutrated with image of trees in woods by johannesburg photographer natalie field


Whether you enjoy meditation, yoga or walking; take a quiet moment to visualise your path. Imagine your “retirement”. How old are you? Where are you located? What were your life achievements? Now work your way back to the present moment. What are the important milestones you must reach to fulfill this dream, and how could you reach them?

Write it down. Commit your ideas to paper. According to a study done by Gail Matthews at Dominican University, those who wrote down their goals accomplished significantly more than those who did not write down their goals.

Build a Vision Board. A vision board is a great way off pulling your ideas together. I love Pinterest for this. It can be used for something as simple as envisioning the styling for a shoot or as elaborate as your mood, goals, adventures and achievements for the year.


Smart goals are small, achievable steps with realistic time-frames. Here is where 2017 comes into play. What can you achieve in 2017 that will set you up to achieve the impossible dream?

Milestones. Create a list of milestones you need to reach to see your dream come to fruition. Which of these are currently the most attainable? Make reaching this one goal your mission for 2017! Break this monumental task into monthly, weekly and bite-sized daily goals.

Skills. Create a list of skills you must master to be the best in your field. Which of these are most crucial to reaching your milestone selected above?

Habits. What habits could you develop that would assist with your goals? Make the most of these new habits by using them to replace bad ones.

goal setting quote by norman paele illustrated with image of moon in sky by johannesburg photographer natalie field


A couple of years ago, I discovered what I called the “Sticky Note System”. Subsequently, I’ve learnt that many rely on the visual brainstorming capabilities of the sticky note to organise their lives. However, I ran into a couple of problems. For one, some sticky notes aren’t particularly sticky, and you could come back to your life in disarray on the floor. They also don’t do too well in the breeze.

Now I’ve discovered the digital version: Trello Boards! I’m currently in the process of migrating my existing boards, but so far it looks promising. And as an added bonus, I’ve installed the app on my mobile, making it possible to take my sticky notes with me everywhere I go!

One of the habits I aim to form this year is to re-organising my boards at the end of every day. This will also allow me to assess my current position, identify the next step and prepare for the day and challenges to come. Not only does ticking off completed tasks give a sense of satisfaction that inspire us to do more, it also brings a peacefulness into our everyday lives. That’s right, being organised simply feels good!


Learn to say no. Goal setting is not only about focusing on what you should be doing, but also on what you should not be doing. For many years, I was proud to call myself a “Yes-Man”. I took on every opportunity that came my way and often had to learn a new skill to complete a project.  I would say things like “Never say no! Never say die!”. Looking back, I realise that I spent way too much time on projects that were not in line with my vision for myself. Choose social networks and projects that will help you move forward.

Productivity. Learning to categorise tasks is critical to your success.

goal setting chart focus funnel illustrated by designer Matthew Harvey for Natalie Field photography

The Focus Funnel. Not every task at hand requires your personal attention. The Focus Funnel indicates that most tasks can be eliminated, automated or delegated, leaving you with only the tasks that require your immediate attention. Eliminate tasks that are not in line with your future goals. Automate tasks like monthly payments, email responses and social media. For the latter I highly recommend Buffer. This social sharing application saved my life last year when I challenged myself to sharing my portfolio on Instagram over 365 days! Delegate tasks that do not require your specialised skill set. For example, using a courier for all my deliveries has saved me endless hours (and much frustration) of sitting in traffic. The tasks that remain are either important enough that you do them immediate, or if they can wait they make their way back into the funnel until they become urgent.

goal setting priority matrix chart illustrated by designer Matthew Harvey for Natalie Field photography

The Priority Chart. The above matrix chart can be used to assess where your attention is most required and assist with your goal setting.

Time management. If you are anything like me, you may be thinking that you don’t have time to stop for daydreaming or goal setting. And I agree that your time is the most valuable asset you have! But give yourself permission to spend time on things today that will give you more time tomorrow. Use your time wisely and purposefully, and you may yet achieve your IMPOSSIBLE DREAM!

I would love to hear about your goals and dreams for the 2017 in the Comments section below.