The New Year is almost here, and that means it’s time to start thinking about your New Year’s Resolutions. Eat healthier. Go to the gym. Lose weight. Spend more time with family. Be a better employee. They all sound like great ideas on January 1, but so often, it seems like they get lost in the daily hustle and bustle just a few weeks in. So the question becomes: How do I create a New Year’s Resolution that isn’t just going to fall by the wayside by the end of January? It’s easier than you might think: Be SMART when setting your goals.
SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-Bound.
Specific: The more specific your goal, the better your chances of achieving it. Think about what your resolution means. What does it mean to “Get in shape?” What does it mean to “Be a better employee” or “Be a better parent?” The answer is different for every person, so make these goals specific to your life.
Measurable: Part of being specific is having ways to measure your progress toward your goal. It’s easy to lose motivation if you’re not able to track your progress. Instead of just saying, “I’ll go to the gym more often,” think about saying, “I’ll go to the gym 4 days a week.” Instead of telling yourself you’ll eat better, say “I’m only going to eat fast food two meals per week.” Want to spend more time with your family? Make it a goal to eat dinner as a family three times a week, and set aside one weekend a month for family activities. Having measurable goals make it so you can hold yourself accountable.
Actionable: Make sure your resolution is actionable. That is, be able to form an action plan for your goal. If you want to lose weight, what actions will you take to achieve that goal? If you want to eat healthier, what actions will you take? If you want to spend more time with family or be a better employee, what steps will you take? Often times, people have ideas of what they want, but they don’t have a good idea of how to get what they want.
Realistic: Everyone has limitations, and you need to recognize your limitations when thinking about your resolutions. Maybe it’s not a realistic expectation that you can go to the gym for 2 hours 5 days a week. Then try for 1 hour, 3 days a week. Maybe schedules are hectic and you can’t sit down three nights a week to eat dinner as family. Then shoot for one or two nights a week. If you set a goal that you can’t realistically reach, then it will be much harder to stay motivated.
Time-Bound: Give yourself a deadline, and stick to it. Think about breaking your long-term resolution into shorter time periods. Instead of saying, “I will lose 15 pounds by bathing suit season,” say “I will lose one pound per week.” Stick to the one-pound per week plan, and you’ll be 20 pounds lighter by the time the end of May rolls around. Having shorter-term goals make the achievement of your long-term resolution a much less daunting task.
Still not sure what a SMART goal would look like? No worries; here’s an example: “To be healthier, I will lose 20 pounds by July 1 by exercising for at least 30 minutes a day, 3 days a week and eating fast food no more than two times a week.
The specific goal is to lose weight in order to be healthier, and it can be measured in terms of pounds lost. The actions you take to reach this goal include going to the gym (for a measurable amount of time) and eating less fast food. Studies show that healthy weight loss is 1-2 pounds per week, so it is realistic to lose 20 pounds over the course of 6 months. Finally, with the July 1 deadline, you have a reasonable time frame in which to reach this goal of losing 20 pounds.
The New Year is a great time to make positive changes in your life. Here’s to a happy, healthy and SMART new year!