As we get closer to the end of the year, I’ve been spending more time deciding on my new year’s resolutions. I’m exciting for the new year. It’s a chance to keep up the good habits and activities I’ve started this year. It’s also a chance to start over on the things I haven’t been so successful at. Darn those difficult-to-learn photography skills!
If you’re creating New Year’s resolutions, then you may be in the same situation as I am, thinking about everything that you want to accomplish next year but not sure how to get it all done. Thankfully, there are ways to make accomplishing your goals easier. Last week I posted about making SMART goals (with free worksheet) to help you make clearly defined, achievable New Year’s resolutions. This week I want to share more tips on how to meet those resolutions.
1) Make SMART goals
SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. See last week’s post here for step-by-step instruction and examples on how to create them.
2) Prioritize a few select goals
Select a few goals to focus on for the year. First, brainstorm everything you’d like to work on. It’s okay to recycle old goals if you have some you didn’t meet this year. Then decide which ones to prioritize. Some people may want to focus on only one major goal. Others may find three to five major goals and a few smaller ones manageable.
Try not to overwhelm yourself with too many goals. It’s easy to feel optimistic and ambitious about achieving them now, but you may not feel the same as the new year progresses. The worst thing about having too many goals is being too overwhelmed to get anything done. There will be additional years for other goals!
3) Keep yourself accountable
There are two schools of thought on how to keep yourself accountable. You can decide which is best for you given your specific goals.
One of the best ways to keep yourself accountable is to keep your goal to yourself. This may seem counterintuitive, but when it comes to your goals, you are your biggest advocate. If sharing your goal will lead to negative comments or doubts from yourself or others, try keeping it to yourself.
Likewise, if you tend to drive your own successes without needing help from others. You may have all the motivation to achieve your goal within yourself.
The second method is to share your goal with others. You may feel more pressure to complete your goal when you know that you’ll look bad or let yourself and others down if you don’t accomplish it.
You would also have to tell others of your goals if they were essential to its success. For example, you might tell your gym buddy of your goal if that person motivates you to go to the gym together regularly. You might tell a family member of your goal if your plan is to spend more time with him or her.
No matter which method you decide to do, keep yourself accountable by keeping your goals within sight. Write them down or post reminders of them in your daily life. You know the saying, “out of sight, out of mind.”
4) Track your progress
Another tip towards meeting your goals is to track your progress. You might be tempted to track your progress in your mind, but sometimes the mind plays tricks on us or forgets. Using a tangible or at least visible tracker will keep you moving towards your goals.
You can go low-tech by tracking your goals with pen and paper. Use a yearly planner or even basic grid paper and write down target dates for your short-term and long-term goals. Then check off the boxes as you accomplish them.
A more high-tech way of tracking your progress is by using an Excel and Google spreadsheet. Again, fill out one column with your short-term and long-term goals and one row with a measurement of time for the year. Most common would be to mark the weeks, months, or quarters of the year. Then check off the boxes or write in “goal met” as you go.
An even more advanced way to track progress towards your goals is to use an app. Several free apps exist to help you track your goals, including Mint for money management and MyFitnessPal for weight loss.
5) Stagger the start dates of your goals
Vary the start dates of your goals to give yourself the time to focus on each one. If you have five goals, you might become overwhelmed thinking about how to begin each one on January 1st. In fact, you don’t have to start on New Year’s Day.
Stagger the start dates of your goals by picking one or two to start on January 1st. Then pick one to start on January 15th or even February 1st. If you’re feeling really ambitious, try starting one in December to build momentum for the new year. This method gives you time to build up to working on multiple goals simultaneously.
Last year, I did this by starting to work out twice a week on January 1st. With this blog, I gave myself a month to research how to start a blog and to brainstorm ideas on a blog topic and early posts. I finally signing up for Squarespace and creating my first blog post in late January. I also wanted to improve the quality of my sleep, so in February, I started putting the cell phone down and turning off all electronics at least 15 minutes before bed.
6) Reevaluate your goals as the year progresses
As the year progresses, it’s good to review your goals from time to time. Rather than seeing reflecting and rewriting goals as failing, consider the process as fine-tuning your goals to what you want and what you’re able to achieve. You may find that you blew past your goal by June and need to rewrite your goal to challenge yourself even further. Or you may find that you come to a plateau in your progress and need to decide whether to continue at it, tweak it a bit, or rewrite it completely.
7) Celebrate your progress!
Lastly, take time to feel good about yourself and the progress that you make towards your goals. Celebrate the little accomplishments as the weeks or months pass rather than waiting until the end of the year.
If you’ve followed your exercise routine for a whole quarter, you might like a massage or a new workout outfit as a reward. If you’ve doubted yourself along the way, allowing for self-affirmation of your abilities and accomplishments can be rewarding too. Just be sure that whatever way you choose to celebrate or reward yourself doesn’t set you back, but motivates you to keep working hard at your goal.
On the other hand, if you don’t make much progress, be forgiving of yourself. Sometimes life throws curveballs at us and things don’t go as we intend them to. You might have had to help an ill family member and didn’t get to exercise for several days. Or you forgot to track your meals or budget for a week. Accept those things and allow yourself to move on. You can always pick up again tomorrow.
If you have any of your own tips or tricks for success at New Year’s resolutions, I’d love to hear them. Have a good week!