Hands up, who’s guilty of making ambitious resolutions at the beginning of the year? Who is fully aware from the start that these resolutions are going to be like a daunting grey cloud hanging over your head all year long? All to often, people know what they hope to achieve throughout the year, but they have no idea where to start. This inevitably leads to hours of procrastination, feeling like a bit of a fail-face and the all too familiar “tomorrow, I’ll start tomorrow”.
Rather than making doomed resolutions this year, why not make goals - and then break those goals down into teeny tiny little goals that are super easy to achieve.
I don’t want to go where all goal-achieving advice goes, but I’m going there. Let us embrace the SMART goals. What do you want to have achieved by the end of 2013? “I want to get fit” or “I want to get ahead in my career” aren’t enough when it comes to goal setting. Your goals need to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. You’ve already got Realistic and Attainable down – any goal of yours is very much achievable and don’t you go forgetting that.
Let’s focus on the Specific, Measurable and Timely. Our goals need to be precise (“I want to exercise for an hour three times a week”), they need to have a time limit that’ll nag you into completing or keeping up with that goal and they need to be something that can be crossed of your list once you’ve achieved them. There should definitely be a list! Writing your ambitions down on paper makes it easier for you to clarify what you want and, if written somewhere you’ll see it often, will motivate you to get working on them.
Let’s think about making goals easier this year. Your overall dreams for the year ahead may be bold and seemingly out there, but once you’ve narrowed them down into smaller goals, they’re easy peasy.
Breaking Your Goals Down
Do you want to eat healthier this year? Munching on a juicy apple once in a while doesn’t mean you can tick that one off the list by 2014. What’s the specific goal - “I want to eat 5 fruit and veg a day” - and how are you going to break it down? If eating 5 fruit and veg a day seems a little ambitious right now, aim for 2 of 3 a day for the first month and build it up over time. You can decide to cut out fast food for a month, up your water intake or quit boredom-snacking. Choose a new goal for each month and tick off your daily accomplishments on a calendar for extra satisfaction.
If you want to exercise more, take up one fitness class a fortnight or go for a walk every other morning rather than insisting on picking up an expensive gym membership right away. Think easy steps! If you want to save money, for example, make your lunch at home rather than buying it for one month, resist buying any clothes for another – you’ll see the pennies building up and be eager to keep at it. If you want to get ahead at work, decide what your ultimate goal is for the end of the year and come up with 12 things you will do in order to achieve it, working on one a month. Keep your focus on one goal at a time.
I’m going to suggest SMARTER goals this year. There’s no E, I just needed a vowel, but the final R makes all of your hard work worth it. On top of the incredible satisfaction of achieving your goal, you deserve to REWARD yourself. While I don’t suggest that the reward be counterproductive to what you’ve been working so hard for, a good reward (a pair of jeans, a day at the spa, dinner at a fancy restaurant) will spur you on all the more.
Resist those doomed to fail resolutions this year. Create goals and sub-goals and make them SMART, fun and rewardable. Jot them down and keep them in regular eyesight. Work on getting one step closer to your goals for the year each month and keep yourself accountable and up to date with your sub-goals with checklists/calendars/phone apps. My favourites are Joe’s Goals; a simple daily goal tracker, Goals on Track for goal tracking and time management (you can include details, photos, categories – perfect for the organized among us!) and ToodleDo.
You’ll be a fierce achiever by this time next year with dozens of accomplishments under your belt. What are you waiting for? Make some goals and make ‘em proud!
Image via bogenfreund's Flickr