We are now well into the New Year and a whole bunch of people will have set New Year resolutions that they want to keep or get started on. However, according to research, in the next few days, many will have already given up or forgotten about them. On the other hand, a whole lot more people have simply stopped setting New Year’s resolutions altogether because they have found that they nearly always fail to keep them. So, what should you do when it comes to starting out the New Year with some habits you want to stop, and others you want to get started on.
Problems with New Year’s Resolutions
The real issue with most resolutions that people set is that they are far too vague in the first place. Here are some examples:
In 2020 I will
- Go to the gym and exercise more
- Lose weight
- Read more books
- Spend more time with the family
- Take more holiday
- Look for a new job that I enjoy more
- Give up chocolate/pizza/fried food/meat/wine – name your food or drink (though I doubt it will include brussel sprouts, other veg or indeed fruit or water (I hope!))
- Take up knitting/painting/golf/fishing – or another hobby/past-time
- Give up smoking
- Give up newspapers (this one everyone should consider – why on earth do so many people start their day by reading a whole lot of bad stuff, including columns & tabloid pieces, designed to make people angry, fearful or depressed!)
- See my friends more
- Use my new boat/holiday home/mountain bike/time-share (or another expensive thing you bought but have hardly used meaning now you feel guilty every time you think about it.)
And so on….
Be honest, these are the types of resolutions that people make, and they are also so easy to give up on because they are too vague, too general and NOT S.M.A.R.T.!
Set S.M.A.R.T. New Year Goals
Most people have heard of S.M.A.R.T. goals, but few fully understand what the acronym S.M.A.R.T really means. Basically, each of the resolutions above can be written in a S.M.A.R.T. way, which will make it much more likely for you to start and then hopefully continue towards achieving them.
So, what is meant by the acronym S.M.A.R.T.? When I was first a manager, my boss told me to set S.M.A.R.T. goals for my department. I had never heard of the term, so my first thoughts were that it meant ‘intelligent’ goals. Only later did it become clearer to me that it was an acronym. So what does each aspect mean? Using the goal of losing weight, here is a quick walkthrough on what each part of S.M.A.R.T. means.
Specific: If we state as a goal “I want to lose weight”, it is simply not specific. You need to have a target to be specific, meaning a number or a percentage – some kind of value. The goal is to lose weight, but the target is what makes a goal specific, meaning you need to say 5 kgs or 12 pounds (or one stone (14 pounds) if you are British).
Measurable: This is the one that most people on my training course are not really aware of. Measurable means you have a mechanism in place to measure whether you are achieving your goal and where you are at with it. Using the example, this simply means you need a set of weighing scales. For other types of goals, you may simply need to write things down and keep a record, but you must measure, as you will have no idea whether you are achieving, or have achieved your goal or not.
Achievable: A lot of people set unachievable goals. So it is better to be a little more cautious. Therefore keep it challenging but still achievable. Don’t set the bar too high first of all. Give yourself a chance, otherwise you will soon give up. I have often gone to the gym with an hour in mind, but ended up doing one and a half or two hours.
Relevant: This is probably not so important for personal goals, but all the same is what you are wanting to achieve relevant to your greater objectives, or your family or your life?
Time-bound: When do you want to achieve your goals by? Time is not infinite as you know well know so give yourself a time limit of when you want to achieve your goal by. This motivates you and avoids procrastination (the thief of time!)
SMART New Year Goal Examples
So, taking the New Year Resolutions here is how you can transform them into SMART New Year goals:
- To go to the gym 6 times a month for one hour for 12 months (you could say twice a week, but this allows for the odd once a week. As I mentioned about myself, you will probably find that you do more than one hour, but I would continue to stick to the goal of one hour for at least the first couple of months as it then feels good when you do more. After, increase it incrementally, say by 15 mins.)
- To lose 5 kgs by the end of October 2020 (this really depends on your weight now and how much excess fat you have. Only you know what is possibly achievable, but this goal allows for 1.1 pounds a month. You could equally say “To be 72 Kgs by October 2020”. For this one, you may want to consult your doctor, dietician or another expert to find out what you can safely lose, but write your goal in this way.)
- To have read 24 books by the end of 2020 (how fast do you read a book? From this choose an achievable number!)
- To take the family away, or go somewhere for the day, for two weekends a month (or, to be home by 6pm twice a week so we can have a family meal together. No electronics allowed!)
- Take 2 two-week holidays this year (or four one-week etc)
- To apply for two jobs a month until I get an offer
- To not eat any pizza/fried food between now and March 1st. (This is more difficult, but if you make it for two months and your health allows, change it to “To only have two pizzas or fried food a month”. Having said that, if you do make it through the two months, why not set another two months. Perhaps just cut down, so have a goal like this: “To only eat two pieces of chocolate every other day until the end of June 2020”. It’s your body and your health, but keep it specific, achievable and time-bound.)
- To drink only 2 glasses of wine on Fri/Sat and Sun until the end of March 2020
- To knit 2 jumpers/have 5 golf lessons/go fishing 6 times by the end of July 2020
- To have only 5 cigarettes a day until the end of February. Then none at all until the end of June 2020 (then you can quit for good!)
- To cancel the newspaper and only read the headlines in the afternoon until the end of March 2020 (by then it will be a habit.)
- To meet with a friend/friends for coffee/lunch/dinner twice a month throughout the year.
- To use my new boat/holiday home/mountain bike 12 times by the end of the year
That is how you should write your New Year resolutions as SMART goals. And I mean to write them down and putting them on the wall or mirror. All research shows people who write goals down have a better chance of sticking to them. Try also to keep a record of how you are doing – this keeps them measurable.
Of course, once you have written your goals you need to plan how you will achieve them. For example, schedule your gym times (of course, join a gym or an app like ‘hussle’, where you can go to different gyms.) You will need to plan your diet, your holidays, which books you want to read and so on. For a number of goals, you need to plan as well as set the goal.
Here are a few more tips when setting goals:
- Do not have too many New Year goals – 2-4 only
- Start them within two weeks of making them
- If it is something that a partner/friend/colleague or relative could join you in, enrol them also – two of you will always encourage each other
- Stop thinking about it and get going!
- Always measure and track your progress – have a chart on the wall or something on your phone
- Reward yourself each time at first if that helps (for example, after the gym, go for a healthy breakfast, one you will enjoy!)
- Keep telling yourself of the reason for your goal – keep self-motivated
- Get started (I have said it three times because many people just don’t)
- Plan a reward for yourself for each of the goals you achieve by the end of the year
Achieving goals will also make you feel good, as well as helping you become more confident.
So….forget setting New Year’s resolutions, and set SMART New Year goals instead. You will be far more likely to both start and achieve them.
Hope this helps, and if it has, I would appreciate it if you could share with others and post a comment below. Many thanks.