For me, New Year’s Day tends to be a time for reflection. While rounding up the straggling holiday decorations, and maybe regretting the last glass of champagne that seemed like such a good idea the night before, there’s a quiet to the day after all the holiday frenzy leading up to it.
Inevitably, part of this reflection involves the subject of goals. Chatter about goals and the resolutions to achieve them is in the air this time of year and it’s pretty hard to escape it. Being a late bloomer when it came to my own successful goal management, I spent many a New Year’s Day in the past bemoaning the goals I hadn’t met from the previous year and feeling discouraged and overwhelmed about setting new ones for the next.
Because of this, there was a time during my college years when I tried to rebel against new year’s goals. “Setting goals on New Year’s Day is so cliche, right?” I snarkily told myself. What I was missing though is that using the new year as a check-in point for goals wasn’t the cliche, the cliche was not finding ways to meet those goals and make the story a happier, more positive one a year later.
Before you can achieve a goal, you have to find a concrete time to set it in stone, so a landmark starting date (in this case New Year’s Day) is essential. It seems like half the time on my own rocky road toward successful goal management I let the very situations I wanted to improve derail me before I got started. “Well, I’d like to learn how to code in order to improve my personal skill set and find a job I love, but I guess I’ll get to it after next week at work.”
And then another year passes. Now’s the time to start making your life situation what you want it to be, not next week, so let’s do it!
In addition to picking right now as the time to establish this year’s goals, you’ll need a solid plan and a consistent approach on your path toward achieving them. Here’s a list of 10 tips to send you on your way.
1. Start simple
But simple doesn’t mean insignificant or unimpressive. It means focused and concise. Don’t tell yourself, “I’ll learn some nebulous tech skills.” Determine to learn HTML and CSS. When your goals are precise and manageable, you’ve already put yourself on a realistic path toward accomplishing them.
2. Mark it down
Don’t let your goals become daydreams that wither in the mind! Create a paper trail of your goals and your progress along the way. Keep a worksheet or flowchart that shows exactly where you are and where you’re going. A mapped out goal is one you can find your way toward, rather than getting lost in the uncharted territory of second guessing.
3. Tell somebody
Nothing makes a goal more real and harder to elude than putting it out there in the world. If your friends or family know what you’re up to, you’ll feel motivated to show them your progress, and they’ll feel motivated to support you along the way. Goals don’t do well alone and in a vacuum. Open them up to others so they can thrive!
4. Keep the end in sight, but don’t forget where you are and how you’re getting there
You’ve made your goals in order to reach them, so it seems natural to have one eye on the finish line, visualizing where you’re headed. At the same time, keep in mind where you are now, how far you’ve already come, what you’ve done to get here, and what you need to do in order to keep moving forward. Visualize the process of reaching your goal, not just the happy ending in the distance.
5. You have the time, you just need to claim it
Sometimes it feels like you’d love to meet your goals but you just don’t have the time. The truth is, you often have more time than you think, and focusing on a goal can even help you use your time more efficiently on other things in life.
Find the spots in your schedule that you can spend less time on, and devote that time to your goals. Also make sure to take the time you set aside for your goals as seriously as anything else on your appointment calendar.
6. Introduce “what” to “why”
It’s easy to come up with “what” your goals are, but where you might be stumbling is with the “why.” Take some time to really explore “why” you’re setting out to accomplish “what.” Getting deeply familiar with why you want to make a life change will help set out a clearer path better than if you only focus on what the goal is. Use your motives as motivation.
7. Look back to move ahead
Goals are all about moving forward, right? So why look back? Often when approaching a goal, especially at the start of a new year, it’s a goal you’ve tried to get to before, but haven’t quite hit the mark.
Looking back at why and how you haven’t gotten where you’ve wanted to in the past can help inform how to get there more effectively in the present. What internal obstacles can you correct, remove, or redirect so that they don’t trip you up before you get started?
8. Check in with how you’re feeling
Sometimes when pursuing a goal, you lose yourself in the pursuit. How you’re feeling and how you’re doing along the way is important. Make a point of checking in with yourself as you go, whether it’s journaling, or reflecting, or talking with friends. Keep tabs on how you’re feeling, what’s working, what isn’t, what you want to stick with and what you might want to change as you move closer to your accomplishment.
Goals should be concrete so you have something to work toward, but the process of getting there should be as fluid as it needs to be for you to be successful.
9. Look at your goals from the positive side
Goals, especially around the New Year, are often cast in a negative light. It’s not, “I want to learn new skills and land that new job I love,” it’s more, “I don’t like my job and I need to find a new one.”
When goals are negative and centered around self-criticism instead of self-improvement, they’re more likely to fall by the wayside. Sure meeting goals can be hard work, but remember that the hard work is to build yourself up, not tear yourself down.
10. Build in breaks/don’t go crazy
You need to take your goals seriously if you’re going to get to the finish line. That’s true. But you won’t make it to the finish line if you can’t move toward it. Sometimes your inclination in taking on a goal is to power through relentless.