How many years have you made New Year’s resolutions? How many years have you accomplished your New Year’s resolutions? Over the years, I’ve identified three common mistakes people make when they resolve to change in the next year.
1. Failure to make a plan with clear steps
“Lose weight.” “Get organized.” “Travel more.” These are some of the most common resolutions people make. They’re also “amorphous blobs of undoability,” as David Allen would say. Every goal starts out with the desire to achieve something. But a goal without a plan is just a wish.
2. Failure to prioritize getting it done
To paraphrase Barbara Sher, “You can have it all, but you can’t have it all at once.” The year you write your first novel will not also be the year you’re planning your wedding, moving across the country to start a new job, and training for a triathlon. Yet all of those things and more can easily happen in one lifetime. The key is to focus on one thing at a time and follow through with your plan by making your goal your priority. Personally, I find it helpful to envision what my year is going to look like in terms of things like upcoming life events, what will be going on with my family, current finances, trips that have been booked, etc. before deciding what goal makes the most sense to prioritize.
3. Failure to check in periodically
New Year’s resolutions are notorious for being abandoned by February. Making a goal you don’t think about again is unlikely to be achieved. When was the last time you were assigned a huge project at work that no one ever asked you about again? In addition to making a plan with steps, and prioritizing doing those steps, evaluating your success periodically is essential.
There is a snowball effect with these three pitfalls. The first failure of not making a plan with clear steps leads to the other failures because it’s hard to take action when you don’t know exactly what that action looks like. The snowball effect works the other way around too – making a plan leads to following through and following up.
When it comes to goal-setting, I’m a big fan of S.M.A.R.T. goals. There are some variants for what S.M.A.R.T. stands for. My favorite is:
I recommend turning your New Year’s resolution into a S.M.A.R.T. goal by answering questions for each letter, but in a different order than the acronym.
1. What exactly do you want? (specific)
2. Is now the best time to work toward this? (relevant)
3. How will you know when you’ve attained it? (measurable)
4. What actions will you take achieve the goal? Is this plan something you can realistically do? (achievable)
5. When will you take the steps? What is a realistic deadline you can set to have accomplished the goal by? (time-bound)
What do you want to accomplish in 2018? Leave your New Year’s resolution challenges, successes, and questions in the comments. Happy New Year!
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