The end of the year doesn’t have to mean setting yourself up for failure. Sack off the resolutions and come up with some goals instead…
Let’s not talk about New Year’s resolutions. They really are the bane of the season. As soon as Christmas is over, everyone’s thoughts seem to turn to ‘new year, new you’, as if self-improvement and harmony in our lives can only come about when we’ve got a mince-pie hangover and have exhausted our last nerve entertaining family. No. New Year’s resolutions generally serve only to kick-start a prolonged period of self-flagellation when it becomes inevitably and painfully obvious that we’re never going to stick to them.
Why is that? Purely and simply, it’s because they’re rarely structured enough. No amount of effort and determination is going to propel us towards a resolution like ‘get healthy’ when we haven’t defined how or when we might go about doing it. A resolution without a plan is just a wish.
So this year, we’re not talking about resolutions. This year, we’re setting ourselves some SMART goals. This year, we’re going to have A PLAN.
Playing it SMART
Over the next couple of days, the Comma Chameleon team is going to be sitting down together with some mince pies, some mulled wine and a blank notebook, and we’re going to be mapping out our goals for 2020. What do we want to achieve? What do we need to do to get there?
As far as this blog is concerned, it really doesn’t matter what we come up with. What matters is that we set our hearts on a BIG GOAL in a way that makes it seem achievable, amplifies our chances of succeeding, and gives us plenty of opportunity to celebrate the milestones we hit on our way towards achieving it. This is the SMART way of setting goals.
What’s a SMART goal?
SMART is a handy little acronym to help you focus your vision and come up with targeted objectives. Let’s break it down.
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Attainable
R – Relevant
T – Time-bound
So how does this translate into you setting your own goals?
Many of us set goals that are too generalised and vague to be achievable. Like that ‘get healthy’ example above. You’re never going to manage that if you’re shooting in the dark and hoping something – anything – will hit the target. Your goals need to be clear and well defined, and you need to set out exactly what steps you need to take to achieve them. For example, ‘drink water instead of soft drinks’ and ‘go to the gym three times a week’ are much easier to aim for than ‘get healthy’. You could get more specific than that – ‘go to the gym for 45 minutes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays’ is an infinitely more measurable goal. Be as specific as possible so you know exactly what you need to focus on at any given time.
Get the measure of it
When setting your goals, it is important that you are able to track your progress as this is what’s going to keep you motivated. Setting small, regular goals that you can celebrate when you achieve them is what’s going to keep you focussed on and working towards your BIG GOAL. It will also afford you an opportunity to re-evaluate them if you don’t achieve them, and tweak your plan or revise your timeframe accordingly.
It’s a good idea to break any bigger goals into smaller objectives that you can keep track of. Instead of ‘get more Facebook page likes’, say ‘get 100 Facebook page likes’. And you can break it down further if the idea of being able to get 100 likes makes you panic. Say ‘get 10 new Facebook likes by the start of February’, then ‘get another 10 by the beginning of March’, etc. These are trackable, measurable goals that feel much more achievable. You’ll also get to celebrate every small win as and when it happens. You can even attach a meaningful celebration to each small goal to give you something tangible to look forward to and to make you work that little bit harder towards achieving it.
Setting small, regular goals that you can celebrate when you achieve them is what’s going to keep you focussed on and working towards your BIG GOAL.
Don’t be a dreamer
When setting your goal, it’s important to make it realistically attainable. Far too many people fall into the trap of setting impossible goals. There’s no harm in aiming for the stars, but you don’t want to burn out on your way up there. Your goals should be challenging yet achievable. Don’t say ‘I want to make a million quid by the end of the year’ if you’re currently struggling to pay the bills. Don’t set yourself up for failure by aiming for something that is beyond the bounds of possibility – that’s a sure-fire way to become disheartened, and that will make it more likely that you give up completely. Set smaller goals and add more as you tick each one off the ‘achieved’ list.
Your goals should be challenging yet achievable. Don’t say ‘I want to make a million quid by the end of the year’ if you’re currently struggling to pay the bills.
Make your goal relevant
There’s little point in setting a goal just because you have to. Unless you’re invested in your goal, you’re not going to give a monkey’s about whether or not you achieve it. Make your goal be something you care passionately about. Make it matter. Make it have value for you or your business.
Make your goal be something you care passionately about. Make it matter. Make it have value for you or your business.
A common issue we face while we’re trying to succeed is having too many goals at the same time. Narrow your goals down to one BIG GOAL that aligns with the direction you want your life or career to take. Unless your goal fits in with the overall plan for where you want your future to be, accomplishing it might not achieve anything. Learning to speak a new language might be a nice thing to do, but if you don’t know anyone else who speaks it and you have no opportunity to use your new skill, you’re basically devoting time that could be used more productively elsewhere to something that will bear no returns.
Timing is everything
This is one of the most important elements of goal setting. Without a timeframe for achieving your goals, they will be in danger of becoming a lifelong dream rather than a new path for you. Your plans MUST have a deadline if you are to put them into action. When you are working to a deadline, your sense of urgency increases and you are more likely to achieve your goal.
Without a timeframe for achieving your goals, they will be in danger of becoming a lifelong dream rather than a new path for you.
Think back to when you were at school. Hands up who generally ended up writing their assignments the night before they were due to be handed in, even if they’d been given a month to complete each one. That’s because you had no choice but to do it that night.
The same goes for your goals – you should always set yourself a deadline to ensure you’re working towards it. Breaking down your goals into smaller, more manageable tasks will mean you can assign tasks and set deadlines that are in the very near future, keeping your BIG GOAL at the forefront of your mind, and making you feel like you’re making steps towards achieving it.
So that’s the SMART way of goal-setting.
What else can we do to make our goals more achievable?
Visualise to realise
Make your goals physical and visible. Write your goals for this week on Post-It notes and stick them around the office. Have a picture of your BIG GOAL stuck on the fridge door. You want daily reminders of what you’re aiming for because this is what’s going to keep you motivated.
Stick with it
Most people make the mistake of setting a goal and then walking away as soon as they have achieved it. Goal-setting should be an ongoing process, whereby goals are set, deadlines are revised and a plan-of-action is continually refined. This will ensure continued growth, and will lead to bigger and better things, rather than the stagnation of your initial goal.
Now, go and set your goals!
We’ve put together a handy template for you to download, print and fill in with your own goals. There’s also a review sheet so you can keep track of your progress and tweak your steps and timelines. Let’s start the new decade on the right note!
Happy New Year
The Comma Chameleon team