Like every other morning, this morning as well I groped for my phone with blurry eyes for a few seconds, found it under my pillow (as usual) and tapped on the Instagram icon.
Among beautiful faces, lovely sceneries, and sponsored content on my feed, what struck my eyes was a really well-shot lifestyle image of a book posted by one of my friends with the caption (with all possible hashtags! ) that her resolution for 2018 was to read a lot more. Now while that’s a really great way to kick-start the new year, from my experiences from the years gone by, I felt that the goal was incomplete in a number of aspects.
Until very recently, I too, would very happily and positively welcome the new year and set my goals. However, they would be set on the spur of the moment, remain in my head for a couple of days, and eventually be forgotten. However, at the start of 2018, I sat back and questioned my strange pattern of goal-setting and eventually realised that this would not work out!
As consultants working at Happy Marketer, our mentors have always advised us to swear by the S.M.A.R.T. rule, whether it is for creating marketing goals for clients or in our day-to-day tasks. And therefore, at the the start of the year, I decided to follow the S.M.A.R.T. rule, and a couple of other steps to set my goals for the next 364 days.
It’s been a month of the new year now, and my action plan has been going strong. So when I saw the (above-mentioned) post by my friend on Instagram, I thought I’d pen down my thoughts as a short guide on how to set your goals and make them happen this year.
Here are 5 steps to help you get started!
1. Write down your goals
In the hustle and bustle of daily life you often tend to forget what you have eaten for dinner the previous night. So isn’t it quite obvious that at the end of say a five month period, you’ll forget what promises you had made to yourself at the onset?
Therefore, writing down your goals on an excel sheet, an e-notebook or a diary that you can access easily on a daily basis is the first step.
Now at the beginning of the year, it might not be possible to foresee all potential opportunities and circumstances, so while charting out your plan, ensure that it not only takes into account all foreseeable situations but is also flexible enough to be amended in the future, if such a need arises.
2. Break down your goals
Create a list of what you want to achieve in 2018 by breaking them down into bite-sized goals (monthly goals, for instance) and put them under different headers such as professional, physical, financial, etc.
Ensure that while categorising the goals, you do it in the order of priority, meaning putting the most important goals on the top of the column, and the lesser important ones at the bottom.
3. Follow the S.M.A.R.T. principle of goal setting
While setting goals you might make the mistake of laying them down in a way that’s vague, open to a number of interpretations and susceptible to procrastination. When goals are lacking in aspects such as timeliness or measurability, we often tend to postpone them over to the next month.
In 1981, George T. Doran introduced the S.M.A.R.T. way of setting a management’s goals and objectives, which can be very well used in areas beyond our professional life.
So here’s how I interpret the S.M.A.R.T. goal setting principle:
Specific - pick a specific area for improvement
Measurable - put a quantifiable indicator of progress
Attainable - take into account all the resources and the circumstances (your Monday blues, Sunday laziness ;)) to understand what is achievable
Relevant - ensure that the completion of the goal will contribute to your larger objectives
Timely - specify when the result(s) can be achieved
This is the most crucial step, so spend the most amount of time here.
Now, here’s a quick exercise for you — Apply the S.M.A.R.T. principle and rephrase the following goal “reading a lot more books in 2018” into one that is complete in all aspects.
Take a minute.
Here’s my answer — ”Complete reading 1 fiction novel every month”.
The goal is specific (I’m going to complete reading a fiction novel), measurable (I’m going to complete reading 1 novel), attainable (given that I get an hour of me time before going to bed I can finish one book in a month), relevant (I want to inculcate the habit of reading everyday), and timely (I’ll complete reading one book per month)
4. Create interim milestones and check-ins to track the progress
When it comes to tracking your progress on excel sheets I think the legend key is the best possible visual method to tell you the progress in a glimpse.
Following is the legend key that I follow to track my progress, and a sample of how the goal sheet would probably look at the the middle of the month.
Create interim check-ins such as daily or weekly to track your progress. Interim check-ins have benefits more than one — first, they’ll remind you of the things that you’ve planned for yourself, and second they will help you to stay focussed and channelize your efforts/ resources towards goals that have not been started or are half way through.
I conduct interim check-ins at the start of every day (quite a forgetful person you see :P)
5. Reward yourself on completing every goal
Achieving your goals is not simple — it takes patience, focus, determination, and in many cases tears as well. So be good and treat yourself every time you achieve your goals, however small or of a low priority they might be on the list.
I am a food lover and every time a cell on my excel sheet turns green, I treat myself with the joys of little things — a huge scoop of vanilla ice cream covered with a generous pour of chocolate syrup or a choco mocha frappe from my favourite cafe. :P
If your goals are somewhat aligned with the above process, then I bet that you are good to go! If they aren’t, then take an hour out of your busy schedule, revisit your goals and make the tweaks.
Hoping that the year ahead brings more accomplishments and learnings! Cheers!