One of my favourite things about New Year’s Eve is that it’s a good time to reflect on the past year, and maybe gather some ideas of things to do better going forward. The net result of this introspective process is one or more New Year’s Resolutions.
I like making resolutions because I like setting goals for myself. One of my resolutions for 2010, which longtime readers of this blog may recall, is that I would have a new post up every Monday (and I’ve only missed one so far). I made other resolutions this New Year’s as well, and (as ridiculous as this sounds) by March I was already planning resolutions for next year. That’s when it hit me:
Set goals more than once per year.
Why wait until some arbitrary holiday to set goals? You can set realistic, helpful, attainable goals for yourself right now. And they don’t have to be scoped to a full year, either. Mix it up and have some that are month- or week-based. I find that short-term goals are usually easier to keep, provide benefits right away, and can help build confidence to hit more lofty goals that take a bit longer to reach. For example, here are some goals that I’ve set for myself recently:
- (for 2010) Write a blog post every Monday.
- (for March) Cook breakfast every morning.
- (for this week) Get up every morning at 6:30am.
I learned something interesting from each of these goals. In particular, I’ve realized that writing blog posts gets easier the more you do it, cooking breakfast helps me sort out my day/is delicious, and (perhaps most of all) I am not meant to be up at the crack of dawn. Which brings me to my next point:
It’s ok to fail.
Many of my goals don’t play out exactly as planned, and sometimes they get flat-out canceled if they turn out to be terrible ideas (6:30 mornings, I’m looking at you). The point is to experiment and see what works for you. Instead of getting discouraged when you’re constantly not hitting a goal, pause and reconsider if this is a goal you should really be pursuing. Did you over-estimate how much you could do? Is there a better way to get the result you were after when setting this goal? Often it’s the goal that is the problem, not you.
How I Hit my Goals
I use a few simple tricks to help me keep up with whatever goals my optimistic past-self may have signed present-me up for. In particular, this is what I find works best for me:
First and foremost, I try to be realistic. It won’t do me any good to set a goal that I won’t be able to reach, so especially for goals that are more than a week long, I’ll run my idea by someone I can trust to give me honest feedback as a sort of sanity-check. This way if the goal is too ambitious, at least I’ll have a red flag going in that I can use to adjust my targets. Of course, ultimately I know best; if I really think I can do something, I’ll still try it even if the feedback I’m getting isn’t all that positive.
Second, I find it helps to tell people if it’s an interesting goal (like breakfast). Maybe they’ll want to do it too, which makes motivation easier, or maybe they’ll pressure me into remembering to do it, which is nice when needed. Especially with this goal, I’d like to remind you that you’re not me and this may not work for you; it seems my opinion on this subject is not very popular.
Lastly, I find it’s important to give myself visual reminders of my goals. The tool I use most for this is a web-based task-management application called HiTask. For my month-long breakfast experiment, for example, I added a task to HiTask with a flashy-coloured label and a star, so that it really stuck out and was always at the top of my to-do list. You can also go low-tech; in January I printed out a grid of every Monday in 2010 broken down by month so that I could check them off throughout the year after publishing each weekly post.
Have you set any goals lately?
I’d love to hear about anything you’re striving for right now. What tools do you use? What else works for you? If you haven’t set any goals for yourself lately, why not start now? What do you have to lose?