It’s been a little more than a month since the start of 2012. How are you doing on your New Year’s Resolutions? Studies show that 40-45% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions and that one month later, 64% are still maintaining them. And while that means that a lot of people who make resolutions later break them, research also shows that making resolutions is useful. People who explicitly make New Year’s resolutions are ten times more likely to achieve their goals than those who don’t make them. Making resolutions is typically about setting goals and using SMART goal setting techniques can greatly increase your likelihood of success. If SMART goals are new to you, here’s a rundown:
S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Attainable
R = Realistic
T = Timely
Being specific in establishing your goals helps to ensure that they’re clearly defined and that you know what’s needed to achieve success. Specific goals address the What, Why and How of your goal: WHAT are you going to do? WHY is this important to you? HOW are you going to do it?
Example: I will finish each work day with a clean desk – papers filed, files returned to cabinets and mail opened and sorted – so that I can start each morning without yesterday’s tasks hanging over me.
Determine the criteria for measuring your progress. You can set targets along the way to your ultimate goal. Perhaps you’ve set a goal to retain six new clients by the end of the year. A measurable goal along the way might be: Attend two networking events each month to meet new prospective clients. Schedule one-on-one meetings each month with two individuals that you met at that month’s networking events.
You want to set goals that will make you stretch – you’ll find the determination, skills, and abilities to reach them. In the process you may learn a lot about yourself and your capabilities, finding more strength and drive than you knew you had in you. It’s important, however, to establish goals that are attainable and to work time into your daily schedule to focus on them. Running the New York Marathon is an impressive goal, but whether it’s attainable depends on whether you’re currently a runner and when you plan to begin training for the event. If you’re not running now, a goal of running a 5K race may initially be more in reach. As you develop endurance and stamina through training in the months ahead, the marathon goal becomes attainable.
A goal must be relevant making it something you are willing and able to work toward, though this doesn’t mean it has to be easily reached. Setting the bar high means it will require effort to reach it, with opportunities for growth and learning along the way. And aiming for big goal is a great motivator! Just be sure to set goals that you can reach, or you’re setting yourself up for failure and frustration.
It’s important to set time frames for achieving your goals, or you have little motivation to get started – there’s always tomorrow. Your time frame should meet the other SMART requirements – specific, measurable, attainable and realistic. For example: By March 1, I will have all paperwork organized for my accountant to start preparing tax returns.
Be SMART in setting and working toward your goals. I wish you great success!