How to Make SMART New Year's Resolutions

With Thanksgiving passed and December only a few days away, the end of the year is fast approaching. With that comes reflection on the past year and excitement for what’s in store for next year. According to Statistic Brain, 68% of Americans usually or infrequently make New Year’s resolutions. Only 8% are successful in achieving their resolution, while 49% infrequently meet them. That’s a lot of unmet goals!

If you’re excited to make New Year’s resolutions but worried about failing at them, I want to share with you a method for setting goals that will help you achieve them.

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When you hear common New Year’s resolutions, they often sound like this:

  • Lose weight

  • Save more money

  • Achieve work/life balance

  • Find a boyfriend/girlfriend

  • Learn a new skill

These are great goals to have. However, they’re very general and therefore hard to meet.  How will you know if you’ve achieved better work/life balance by December 2017 if you don’t measure where you area now or think about it much during the year? How would you feel after losing 5 pounds over the year, when you know you could’ve lost 20 pounds if you had tracked your progress better?

This is where SMART goals come into play. SMART is an acronym. The letters stand for different criteria that make up a complete goal. Note that multiple versions of SMART exist. I’ve provided the most common criteria here.


S – specific

  • A focused, well-defined goal

  • Answers wh-questions of who, what, where, when, why, and how

M – measurable

  • The goal has criteria that are either met or unmet

  • Frequently numbers based (e.g., once a week, 80% accuracy, 3 times in a row)

A – attainable

  • A realistic, achievable goal

  • Able to be met given your physical ability, amount of free time, and other life factors

R – relevant

  • Meaningful or significant to you

  • Targets the exact goal you want to achieve

T – time-bound

  • Has a start date and an end date

  • Gives you enough time to achieve your goal but not enough to slack on it


Here are some examples to help you get started. Just a note: My goals may sound academic since I learned this method in school. Once you become familiar with SMART goals and have practice creating them, you may find a style of your own.

1)      Health

Example 1: Get in shape

  • Resolution: Get in shape

  • Long-term goal: By the end of 2017, I will have run a half marathon.

  • Short-term goal 1: By 2/31/17, I will have run a half-marathon.

  • Short-term goal 2: By 4/20/17,  I will be able to run a 10k.

  • Short-term goal 3: By 7/31/17, I will have run the SF Half Marathon.


Example 2: Exercise more

  • Resolution: Exercise more

  • Long-term goal: I will improve my fitness by exercising 3 times per week for at least 45 minutes each session and maintain in from July - December 2017.

  • Short-term goal 1: In January, I will enroll in my local gym, dance studio, or ClassPass and complete at least 2 classes or visits.

  • Short-term goal 2: In March, I will workout 2x/week for at least 45 minutes each session.

  • Short-term goal 3: In May, I will review my exercise schedule and modify it as necessary (e.g., add a class, decrease minutes, add a playlist) to meet my long-term goal.

  • Short-term goal 4: In July, I will work out 3x/week for at least 45 minutes each session.

Tip: If a weekly workout routine feels too rigid, consider setting a goal for a certain number of gym visits per month instead of per week. This provides more flexibility towards meeting your goal and can accommodate those busy work weeks and vacations.


Example 3: Eat healthier

  • Resolution: Eat healthier

  • Long-term goal: By December 31, 2017, I will eat healthier by cooking at home at least 4 out of 7 dinners a week.

  • Short-term goal 1: In January, I will sign up for a meal-kit delivery service and begin receiving meals to get started cooking.

  • Short-term goal 2: In February, I will select 10 basic recipes that I like and attempt to cook at least 2 of them.

  • Short-term goal 3: By April 2017, I will try a new recipe 1x/week.

  • Short-term goal 4: By July 2017, I will select 10 additional recipes and cook dinner at least 2x/week.

As a bonus, you’ll probably have enough recipes to make a recipe book of your favorite meals by the end of the year.


2)      Relationships

  • Resolution: Date more to find the right person

  • Long-term goal: By December 2017, I will have met 20 people in real life for potential further dating.

  • Short-term goal 1: In January, I will set up online profiles on 3 sites such as OkCupid, eHarmony, or Match.

  • Short-term goal 2: By March, I'll have met 5 new potential dates in person.

  • Short-term goal 3: If I am still searching by June, I will attend at least 2 social events a week (e.g., Meetup events, outings with friends, church socials, etc.) in addition to continuing my online search.

One reason to take a break from working on your goal is if you start a relationship. Hooray!


3) Finances

  • Resolution: Save more money

  • Long-term goal: At the end of December 2017, I will have improved my financial situation by having kept a budget for a year.

  • Short-term goal 1: In January, I will research budgeting programs and apps, select one to use, and enter my financial information.

  • Short-term goal 2: Every Saturday in February, I will enter my income and expenditures for the week.

  • Short-term goal 3: By April 1st, I will identify two categories in my budget where I can reduce my spending.

  • Short-term goal 4: By July 1st, I will have saved $500 by reducing my spending and using the money to fund my retirement account.

Deciding to save more is great, but “more” could be anything from $5 to $5000. Put numbers in your goal to make it measurable and keep you motivated to attain it.


4) Hobbies

  • Resolution: Improve my blog

  • Long-term goal: By the end of one year of blogging, I will have improved my blog by providing quality content as demonstrated by having 200 email subscribers.

  • Short-term goal 1: 

    • December Week 1: Create an Instagram account and post two images.

    • December Week 2: Add disclosure and disclaimer statements to my website.

    • December Week 3: Add a content upgrade for email subscribers.

  • Short-term goal 2: By the end of December 2016, I will have completed the Pinterest course I purchased.

  • Short-term goal 3: In January, I will implement all the Pinterest strategies that I learned in the course and then enroll in an affiliate marketing course.

  • Short-term goal 4: In March, I will create my blog media kit.

This blogging goal can be measured in a number of different ways. Improving the quality of a blog can be measured by your number of subscribers, number of posts written, amount of money earned, creating a logo and adhering to a color scheme, and so forth.

I wrote short-term goals for this last resolution only through March 2017 and only four short-term goals at most for any resolution shown here. The primary reason for that was to give a small sample of some short-term goals.

In writing for yourself, you may find yourself with lots of short-term goals planned throughout the entire year. You may also find yourself with only the first few months planned out like I did for the blogging goal. Both are okay as long as the end goal is in clear.

You may have noticed that your and many other people’s goals focus on money, relationships, health, and self-improvement. These are significant areas of people’s lives and goals to improve them are seldom easy to achieve. But you can give yourself a head start and set yourself apart from the 92% of people who rarely or never meet their New Year’s resolutions by setting SMART goals. Give the method a try by downloading your free worksheet below and letting me know what you think.

What are your goals for the new year? How are you planning on achieving them?

Next week I’ll cover more tips to help you meet your New Year’s resolutions. Stay tuned!

How to Make SMART New Year's Resolutions