How to set SMART New Year’s Resolutions – A Checklist
When we set New Year’s resolutions, we often forget to take enough time to make sure we’re setting goals we can really meet. Sure, “lose weight” sounds like a good goal, but it’s actually too vague to be easy to fulfill. You need something more specific otherwise it is unlikely your resolution will be met.
What you should do instead is use this checklist to help you set SMART New Year’s resolutions, that is, goals that are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timely.
What is your goal?
☐ Start by setting one overall goal e.g. “to lose weight”
☐ Next, write down a more specific figure for this goal e.g. “to lose 20 lbs.”
☐ Become even more motivated by thinking about why you want to meet this goal – for example, to feel more confident, to have more energy to play with your kids etc.
When will you achieve your goal?
☐ Now it’s time to set a date by which you need to achieve your goal. Remember, this needs to be realistic e.g. “lose 10 lbs. by March”
☐ Next, divide your goal by how much time you have left e.g. “lose 1 lb. per week from now until the end of April”
This will give you healthy, attainable milestones. Tracking and celebrating each milestone like this will make it much more likely that you’ll see success. It will also give you more incentive to keep going toward your goal since you are automatically measuring your progress and can make adjustments if you are going too slowly.
How will you achieve your goal?
☐ Now is the time to consider if you need anything else to help you achieve your goal, for example new equipment, or if you need the help of anyone else, for example a workout buddy or an exercise class or any other incentive.
☐ You also need to figure out how you’re going to make time in your schedule. You need to be specific here – an example could be deciding to wake up 30 minutes earlier each day, or walking to work instead of driving to get more exercise.
☐ It might help to list out every single step here – for example you’ll start by signing up for the gym, then you’ll go to the gym 3 days per week, walk to work 2 days per week.
Keeping track of your progress
☐ Now that you’ve got a concrete goal written down, write down how things currently are. If you want to lose weight, weigh and measure yourself and take a photograph as evidence. If you want to stop smoking, note how many cigarettes you smoke per day now.
☐ Update your progress journal every week. This can be done in a simple notebook. It really does make a difference when you track your progress and see that things are improving, even if they are improving slowly!
☐ If it helps you, come up with a reward system. As an example after 4 weeks of working out according to your schedule, you buy yourself three gallons of ice cream and 2 dozen candy bars. That’s just a joke – I mean buy yourself some new clothes you’ve had your eye on or a gadget for your iPad, etc., something as a reward for your success in following your schedule.
All of this might seem like overkill for setting a simple New Year’s Resolution, but it really isn’t! It actually gives you a better chance of actually following it to a successful conclusion.
Unfortunately for most people, the majority of New Year’s Resolutions never last beyond a few days in January. By following this checklist you will have a much better chance to make sure your resolution(s) make it successfully all the way through to the finish line.
Although this checklist method is geared for New Year’s resolutions it can also be used other times of the year when you really want to meet some goal and you have certain quantifiable steps you can identify in order to meet that goal.
One word of caution – if you have several New Year’s resolutions it might be best to use this SMART Checklist on the most important resolution, or maybe two at the most. If you try to keep such tight accountability on several goals it might become too much of a chore and defeat the purpose of accountability.