I have always embraced the start of a new year as an opportunity to reflect and refocus on my life and goals. The holidays are over and things seem to slow for those few days afterwards as we all take a moment to breathe before the new year comes in and we’re all off and out of the gates again.
These last few days in the year are the perfect time to start planning out our goals for 2019. But it’s all too easy for our good intentions to fade away as the new year becomes old hat. Here are some of our favorite tips to help guide you through setting goals that stick for 2019.
Problem #1: Goals You Don’t Really Care About
Life has this way of getting away from us. Our attention gets focused on the things that are right in front of us. The things that demand our attention every single day, like being good parents, doing a good job on that big project at work, or even tackling the ever-growing pileup of laundry, have this way of dominating our attention.
When the time comes to set goals we set them on autopilot. Perhaps it’s the same goals we’ve set over and over and are hoping to make more headway this year. Or they’re the goals that you see others in your circle doing or hear that other are doing in the news or on social media so why not?
But taking that approach isn’t likely to lead you to creating a life that is authentically you. One that aligns with your values and true vision for your life.
This year, as you are planning your goals, take time to reflect on your past year and how it went. What things brought you joy? What are the nagging things that you want to change? Reflecting in this way will help you create goals that are more targeted to your ideal life.
Another great exercise is to imagine that you are on your deathbed looking back on your life. What accomplishments do you want to be able to see? Where do you want to have lived? What relationships do you want to have in place? If you’ve never done this exercise, I highly recommend grabbing a sheet of paper and doing it now.
Solution: Create goals that reflect the life you really want.
Problem #2: Goal Overload
Most people rarely have the issue where they can’t think of enough goals to focus on in a single year. Most of us have long lists that we couldn’t possibly accomplish in a single year. So we pick five to ten of them as our resolutions for the year. This is leads to the inevitable goal burnout.
Change is hard. Even small changes like drinking more water every day or making coffee at home takes some effort and planning to accomplish consistently. We’re trying to rewire our ingrained, habitual behavior into doing something we’ve never done before. That’s tough!
Tackling too many of these changes at once can feel empowering at first but then it can quickly lead to overwhelm and burnout. The solution is to choose only two or three goals to focus on at a time and go deep on those goals. Once you have the right systems in place and you’re making consistent progress, then consider doing the work to add more goals to your list.
Solution: Brainstorm as many goals as you can think of then choose 2-3 to focus on.
Problem #3: Blurry Goals
Another major issue that often stops people from making progress on their goals is because they have blurry goals–goals that are so unfocused that you can barely even tell what they are much less how to accomplish them.
Now, many recommendations for this issue focus on creating SMART goals. Goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time bound. If that framework resonates with you, definitely use it, just make sure it doesn’t cause you to unconsciously limit yourself.
You want to make sure that you are creating goals that are focused. That does not mean that you need to create rigid goals. It also doesn’t mean that you can’t reevaluate those goals as you goal along.
What it does mean is that you need to have a clear direction on what actions you need to take to get you on the path, some idea of what success looks like for you, and a due date for your goal. These three things will give you a beginning, an end, and a path to get from one to the other.
Solution: Decide on what success is for that goal, break the goal up into smaller action steps, and set due dates.
Problem #4: Lost and Forgotten Goals
We all mean well at the beginning of the year. But as the weeks pass our goals start to slip from our minds. It’s not that we want them any less. It’s that we forget we wanted them in the first place because laundry, kids, work. So how do we keep our goals in the forefront even when life happens?
One solution is to write your goals down (which you should be doing anyway) and post them all over the place as reminders. Save them as your computer screensaver or your phone’s wallpaper. Tape them up on the bathroom mirror or on the refrigerator. Set alerts on your calendar to remind you every week about your goals.
And speaking of your calendar, it is the most powerful tool to guard against lost and forgotten goals. Use your calendar to block out time to tackle those action steps you laid out in the previous step. Scheduling time for your goals as part of your daily life will make it more likely that you will keep working on your goals deep into the year.
Solution: Place your goals in conspicuous places. Block out time in your calendar to focus on your goals and reflect on your progress every week.