Around this time of year, nearly everyone is talking about a “new year, new start!” Especially after the absolute disaster that was 2016, a lot of people want to actively affect their chances of having a good 2017. But are New Year’s Resolutions really the way to do that? Well, that’s hard to decide.
According to Statistic Brain, 45% of Americans typically make resolutions for after the ball drops. That’s pretty close to a coin flip. However, the percentage of Americans who actually succeed in their resolutions is the same as the Americans opting out of Christmas celebrations-only 8%. With the numbers stacked against you, is it really worth it? Many people say no. Personally, I rarely make resolutions. Why? Well, they aren’t SMART.
It would be easy to say, along with literally thousands of other people, that I want to be more organized, eat healthier, and build up my savings account for the new year. Without a plan, though, success is unlikely, as is proven by the 92% (remember-that’s the same number of people who celebrate Christmas Day in the United States) of people who do not reach the goals they set on New Year’s Eve. By calling them New Year’s Resolutions, we separate ourselves from the reality that these are possibly life-changing goals we are trying to make, and these require a certain level of commitment and, above all else, effort.
Transforming resolutions into SMART goals is one way to increase the chances of success. Each letter stands for another facet of the goal. They’re easier to reach when there is a plan, and following the SMART format forces a plan. So how does this work? Well, for example purposes, let’s examine one of my biggest goals this year: spend more time writing.
It’s not enough to say I want to just “spend more time writing.” Is that days of the week I want to write something? Does journaling count? Do I have to blog, or just novel? This goal isn’t specific enough and allows for too many loopholes.
“I want to try to write at least 30 minutes a day.”
This still isn’t acceptable. The word “try” here makes it easy to have an out. If I planned to write, but then got distracted and didn’t actually do it, I still technically tried. I also didn’t specify what I should be writing. In order to close my loopholes, I got very specific.
“I will write regular blog posts each week, and I will work on my novel daily.”
That’s a start, but it needs to be
I’ve decided what I’m going to write, but a couple sentences would count for a goal that simple. I know fully that I would feel cheated if I allowed myself to get away with that. In order to make this goal measurable, I added in some numbers.
“I will write blog posts daily and write at least 500 words of my novel daily.”
That’s a lofty goal, so it would help if it was made
Goals aren’t going to be successful unless they are acted upon, but sometimes it’s difficult to know what action would make them happen. Word counts and daily “to-do’s” is a start for me, but it isn’t very specific in what sorts of actions would help make this a reality. Instead of leaving it like this, I added in some prep work.
“I will plan out my blog posts for the week every Sunday. I will write them as they come up on my calendar. I will write at least 500 words of my novel every day by sitting down after dinner and writing.”
Perfect! Except…This is where life kicks in. I am currently struggling with some serious health issues. I have a job. A fiance and a dog who both need my attention. I’m not a robot who can drop everything down to a routine all the time. This may not be exactly
This isn’t the place for doubt, but it is the place to consider if this is something that could actually happen. Writing a set word count isn’t realistic for me. Sometimes, my wrists complain about typing too much and I need a break. Sometimes, I come home from a tough shift and immediately go to bed without eating dinner. A daily goal isn’t going to work well for me. The way I adjusted for that was to shift my focus from a daily goal to a weekly one.
“At the beginning of each week, I will plan out blog posts. On days I feel I have the most spoons, I will prep posts for the upcoming days and queue them up, allowing for days off. I will write at least 2-3 chapters of my novels each week. I will not allow myself to get hung up on editing previous chapters unless writer’s block demands a brief reworking.”
Perfect. But there’s something at the very beginning that is missing.
How long does this go on for? Does it last all year? Until my novel is done? What do I do after that? By placing a timeline, I allow for reevaluation and change to happen.
“Between now and February 1, I will plan out blog posts at the beginning of the week. On days I feel I have the most spoons, I will prep posts for the upcoming days and queue them up, allowing for days off. I will write at least 2-3 chapters of my novels each week. I will not allow myself to get hung up on editing previous chapters unless writer’s block demands a brief reworking. I will have a completed first draft by March 1, 2017.”
By adding in the time restrictions, this isn’t going to go on indefinitely. I can revisit this at any time, but specifically on the first of February and March, I will be able to look at my goals and see if they’re still working for me or if they need to be changed.
By following the outline of SMART goals, I have gone from a very simplistic “write more” to a detailed plan to which I can hold myself accountable. Is this my New Year’s Resolution? I don’t consider it so. New Year’s Resolutions are the bare minimum. SMART goals are the way to go.