New Year Resolutions. January Goal Planning. I’ve heard it all and I’ve tried it all. Unfortunately, I’ve also found year after year, that regardless of how well I plan out the 12 months ahead, I rarely make it past February in terms of continuing on the path to my goals. It’s frustrating, and makes me feel like I’ve failed before I’ve even started. Maybe you can relate. So why is that? What makes goal planning so difficult and how can you create realistic goals that lead to success? I’m going to break down some of the commonly used tactics for New Years planning and help create a practical plan that you can use instead.
First, do you know what a resolution actually is? According to the dictionary, it’s a firm decision to do or not to do something. When you set a New Years Resolution, you’re basically setting an intention for the year ahead. There’s nothing wrong with that. I love the idea of living with intention. It requires us to live in a way that is mindful of the present, while also considering the future. Resolutions themselves aren’t necessarily a bad thing. But I think there’s a better way.
The problem with resolutions is that they’re not specific, and they are typically set for one year at a time. In other words, if you set a resolution but stop there, you might be setting yourself up for failure. Furthermore, setting goals rather than resolutions still might not be enough. So if we know that resolutions aren’t bad, but goals aren’t enough, then what should we do? Combine both practices and then break it down even more.
RELY ON INTENTION
I get it, there’s just something about January that makes me feel as if it’s a chance to start new. I know for me in particular, December is always a crazy month. Between wrapping up my editing projects with clients, and preparing for Christmas, by the time January rolls around I’m ready for the chance to reset everything. A time to put away the old, and start something new. However, as I’ve learned and I’m sure you have too, that warm, fuzzy feeling eventually fades.
The “so fresh, so new” feeling that January brings and February (eventually) leaves behind is proof that you can’t rely on motivation to achieve your goals. Motivation is an incredible feeling that will help you launch you into something new, but it won’t help you finish it. Take the concept of setting a resolution one step further. Create an “intention” for the year. Creating an intention, or a vision for your life is a better foundation for any goals you set in the future. As you plan, it makes you consider the present and the future. What does your life look like right now, and how you can use what you have, to get you to where you want to be? What vision do you have for your future, and how do your plans align with that reality?
Planning with intention forces you to create goals that are meant for you and your life. We live in a noisy world, and it’s easy to lose focus on what really matters. Getting back to the basics and setting goals with clarity will help you to stay on track and prevent you from heading back to the drawing board when goals fail and life feels confusing.
When I first started setting goals, I knew from my career in Nursing that I needed to set SMART goals. Goals with a plan, that were measurable, actionable, and time-bound. However, I didn’t see an issue with planning for the year ahead. In fact, it was kind of exciting to plan out what I could potentially accomplish in a 12-month period. I just imagined how great it would feel getting to December 31, still checking life changing goals off the list.
The only problem was, I rarely made it to March before life itself changed and with it so did all of my goals and plans. It happened each and every year. It wasn’t long before I realized that planning for 12-months at a time is too far in advance. I find that monthly or quarterly planning is much more realistic and allows you to create achievable goals.
Before you start making plans though, take time to map out your life a bit. What does life typically look like for you in the first quarter? Do you find that you work best January-March when things in your business have slowed down a bit? Do you book more weddings from April-June? Do you take time off July-September? It’s important to know what works for you right now, before you dive first into planning what you want to change in the future.
Once you’ve decided on an intention for your year, and mapped out a quarterly plan, it’s time to schedule things in a way that allows you to stay consistent. Goals often fail because they require too much of your time that you’re either not able or willing to give to them. By using this method of planning with intention and breaking goals down into a quarterly schedule, you have a better idea of what you can achieve in a 3-month period. But it starts, with one day at a time.
Let’s say your goal is to grow your email list to 1,000 followers by March 30th. You’ve already broken that goal down into actionable steps, including a weekly blog post, email newsletter, and monthly content upgrade. From there you plan to market via Pinterest and focus on SEO with each blog post.
The plan is in place, but the magic is created in the routine. Schedule one day each week when you’ll sit down to write a blog post. Be consistent about how the post will be outlined, how many words you’d like to write, and when you’ll finalize the post with Pinterest graphics. Next, plan your marketing schedule, from writing the newsletter to posting on Pinterest. Do you have the time to create consistency with this routine? Is it realistic for this quarter of your life? Does it still meet your intentions for the year? If no, it’s back to the drawing board. If yes, it’s time to schedule it into your week and days.
The truth is, that big goals are built on small, everyday choices. Goals don’t even have to start big. They can be whatever size you need based on your season of life. The most important thing, is that it aligns with your intuition and your intentions, that it’s achievable and provides you with a quick win to keep moving forward, and that you have the opportunity to create routine in order to make it happen. Motivation of the New Year fades, but habits will keep you going in any situation. And what happens when something isn’t working out? Don’t force it. Life changes, intentions change, goals change. Consistently choose what feels right for you, and that will support your ability to keep moving forward and growing in your goals, one day at a time.