Goal setting is a common January ritual. Though this month feels like the right time to dive headlong into accomplishment-setting, in my experience it’s actually better suited for reflection and planning, leaving February for taking action. That means, even if you’ve yet to set a goal list for 2022, there’s still time to get started. If you’re like the millions of people setting goals for the new year and want to know how to stay on track and emerge successful by its end, here are a few tips to follow.
1. Be Smart
Making goals specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely (SMART), which helps whittle them down to manageable milestones, and also helps shape big ideas. For example, one BHAG (aka big hairy audacious goal) may be to make more money in the coming year. However, it’s good to make that more specific to your current situation and goals by putting a number and deadline on it, such as “I want to increase my income by $5,000 every quarter, and will accomplish this by adding two new clients/projects during this time.”
2. Choose a Check-In Method
An essential part of ensuring success is maintaining self-accountability. There are various ways people like to do this: Some prefer a spreadsheet with specific benchmarks and tasks laid out, while others might be slightly more flexible. In any case, a variety of check-in methods (including regular discussions with mentors) can be combined to keep you on track with the task(s) ahead. The solution is to find the method that works best for you. My advice is to keep it simple and grow from there.
3. Source Daily Motivation
Understanding the “why” behind goals gives them purpose, versus just checking a to-do on a list. What is going to motivate you when your days get busy, when you’re too tired or just feel like giving up? One way to stay motivated is to share your goals with others who can root you on when you need a boost. Another is to write them out and put them in a place that’s regularly visible. As you face delays or difficulties, these motivational tools will help keep you moving forward.
4. Get Organized
Decide which goals are personal and which are professional. Though some may overlap, organize and prioritize them in order of importance. Tackling several goals at the same time can feel overwhelming and cause you to run out of steam, so determine how aggressive you want to be for each.
To get started, use the SMART method above and stick to one or two goals per month. For long-term goals, spread out smaller milestones throughout the year instead of trying to achieve everything within the first quarter. The point is avoiding the “paralysis analysis” that comes with juggling too many things at once. Ambition can be a double-edged sword when there are no parameters or boundaries in place: Make sure to identify yours to help ensure balance, rather than burnout.
Related: 10 Quick Tips for Getting Organized
5. Implement Project Management
Regardless of the type of goals you have, treat them as any other project. Use management tools like Basecamp, Asana and Google Drive to assign yourself specific tasks and due dates. These types of tools also come with features like project automation and notifications to simplify the process and make tracking goals easier. By organizing in this way, you can visualize progress and keep information centralized.
6. Reassess Strategies
Review your progress and strategies on a regular basis (monthly or quarterly works best for me), and if you’re not as far along as you’d like, determine the factors holding you back and how you can shift schedules and priorities to get back in line. Also, if there are a few avenues that didn’t pan out as you thought, don’t be afraid to change direction: Some goals will follow a linear path, while others may require several wrong turns before getting where you want to go.
7. Reward Progress
It’s easy to focus on what’s next as you make your way to the finish line, but don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back and/or a small reward every time you make progress. Take time to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment in finishing an arduous task, and allow those good vibes to propel you. Schedule a lunch out, invest in a tool or program that will help your growth or simply take a day to relax in nature. It doesn’t have to be a monumental event. Celebrating wins, however small, makes work more pleasurable and recognizes the purpose behind it.
Slow and Steady for 2022
Use the momentum of this new year as a catalyst for hitting personal and professional goals, but be clear about what you want to achieve, break it down into manageable steps and focus on consistency and perseverance as create your own version of success. By being diligent in investing in yourself and setting aside time for growth, this time next year you’ll have a list of goals you can look back on and feel proud of achieving.