Setting Goals for the New Year

It’s hard to believe that the new year begins in just a few days. Where does the time go?  It is important to take time to reflect on the past year and make plans for the year ahead. Establishing personal goals and business goals is an important process to stay focused on what really matters most to you. Think of goal setting as a road map, a charted course that guides you to your final destination. When you get off track or take a wrong turn, reviewing your goals can help you refocus on what really matters.

We are wise to consider the words of Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Begin with the end in mind.” Can you envision changes in your life that you cannot see today? Where would you or your business like to be one week, one month, or one year from now? How would your personal life or business look different? Would you have a new skill or hobby? Would you finally have your checkbook balanced or your business finances in order? What steps do you need to take to achieve these goals?

Successful goal setting involves not only determining your goals, but also working towards them and assessing whether they have been met. The acronym SMART is often used in the process of developing goals. Goals should be SMART, where the letters S-M-A-R-T represent various key words illustrated below:

  • S: specific, significant, strategic
  • M: measurable, meaningful, motivational
  • A: attainable, agreed upon, action-oriented, acceptable
  • R: realistic, relevant, results-based, rewarding
  • T: timely or time-based, task-oriented, trackable, tangible

Let’s walk through the process of setting a SMART goal:

  1. S: Specific. Is your goal specific? You have a much greater chance of reaching a goal when it is carefully detailed than when it is vague. Ask the 5 W’s: who, what, when, where, and why? to nail down the specific elements of your goal. For example, perhaps your goal is to “eat healthier”. If you specifically state that your goal is to “Eat a nutritious breakfast 3 mornings per week during the school year,” then you have provided sufficient detail to understand what the goal “eat healthier” means to you.
  2. M: Measurable. How will you know if you have reached your goal? Can you measure this is some way? Develop a method to measure progress toward your goal. In this example, you could keep a journal or mark on a calendar which days you ate a nutritious breakfast. If after a few weeks, you notice there are no checkmarks – then go back and review your goal and to get back on track.
  3. A: Attainable. Can your goal be reached? Do you have the right skills, attitude, and ability to attain this goal? Do you need to grow in certain areas or to work to obtain the necessary skills? For example, if someone else in the family does the grocery shopping and meal preparation, then you likely need to plan ahead and determine a weekly or monthly breakfast menu, including a grocery list of items needed.
  4. R: Realistic. Is your goal realistic? Perhaps your kids need to be at school early each day, and you struggle to get ready and out the door on time. Making a nutritious breakfast each morning might be difficult without properly planning ahead and preparing some items the night before. In this scenario, three nutritious breakfasts might be most realistically achieved on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and one other morning during the week.
  5. T: Time-based. Is there a timeframe attached to achieving your goal? “Someday” is vague and allows too much flexibility and ability to avoid your goal. Eating a nutritious breakfast 3 days per week during the school year indicates how often and how long this goal will be in place.

Goal setting is not only important – but essential for making changes in your personal life and business as well. If you would like to read addition Extension references on setting effective goals, please visit these links:

Best wishes for a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!