By Lauren M. Koch, RDN
How long did your last New Year’s Resolution stick? Two weeks? Two months? …5 days??
If you’re like the vast majority of people (we’re talking a whopping 97% of people), it didn’t last long. But don’t beat up on yourself! Perhaps you just weren’t going about it the best way.
Take a moment to consider this quote from the American philanthropist, Elbert Hubbard:
“Many people fail in life. Not for lack of ability or brains or even courage but simply because they have never organized their energies around a goal.”
So how to organize YOUR energy? Try using SMART goal setting this year.
What is a SMART goal?
SMART is an acronym and is a widely used method for effective goal setting in the business world. I’ll review what each letter stands for, then give you an example from my own life of how they can be applied to our personal goals.
S: Specific or Significant
Avoid setting very general goals, such as “lose weight”, “eat less sugar”, or “cook more”. Instead, think a bit about HOW you might achieve it, WHAT you’d need to do, WHO would help you to be successful, and WHY is this goal important to you? Once you’ve defined these answers, get more specific with your goals. Some examples of specific goals for the above statements would read more like this: “lose 10% of my body weight by electronically tracking my foods and adhering to a consistent calorie intake at least 5 days per week”, “Reduce my sugar intake by replacing instant oatmeal with old-fashioned oats for breakfast, and eliminating cookies from lunches on the weekdays”, or “Plan at least 2 suppers ahead of time and do the prep on Sunday evenings to make my week more manageable”.
M: Measurable, Meaningful, or Motivational
It’s important that you are able to track your progress when it comes to achieving a goal. To know exactly WHEN you’ve achieved it. When formulating your plan try asking yourself, “how will I know when I’ve met my goal?”. A good way to keep your answer clear cut is to add numbers to your goal. The above examples all include numbers in their statements, so it is very well-defined what you must do in order to meet this goal.
A: Attainable, or Achievable
We all have big dreams when we’re feeling motivated. But it’s easy for that motivation to falter when the rubber meets the road. So choose goals that will challenge you, without becoming discouraging. You’ll be much better off meeting a series of smaller goals, than quitting on a big goal.
R: Realistic, Relevant, and Rewarding
You will always be more likely to stay motivated towards a goal when it is something that is truly important to you. That internal motivation is what keeps us going in all areas of life. So make sure that your goal is relevant to your life RIGHT NOW, and that you would find success to be deeply rewarding.
T: Time-bound, or Time-based
I mean, I am sort of the queen of procrastination. But, you will NEVER see me more productive and energetic than during that 11th hour. Even if you happen to be better at spacing out your work (kudos to you!), it’s still important to set an end-point for yourself when it comes to achieving a goal. It is very difficult to stay motivated when the finish line is vague. If necessary, set a series of mini-goals for yourself, so that you always have an attainable end-point in range.
A Real-Life Example
We all know that it’s kinda hard to prioritize our own needs as parents. I mean, if I’m being honest, I haven’t had a real shower since Wednesday. But I’ve noticed recently that this lack of prioritizing my basic needs is really wearing on me (and therefore, on my family). So I want to create a goal revolving around this. It might go something like this:
I will take better care of my needs by doing the following:
- Make time to exercise at least 4 days per week for at least 30 minutes, using my treadmill or streaming exercise classes if I’m unable to get out of the house. Two of these days will be when my spouse is home to alleviate childcare concerns, and the other two will be Monday and Wednesdays at nap time.
- Start reading again before bed for at least 10-15 minutes instead of doing work on my phone.
- Read up on “time blocking” in an effort to better organize my work-life balance, and quit feeling like I’m working 24/7.
Regular exercise and reading are relaxing and meditative activities that help me manage my stress level and sleep better. I need to do this in order to be a better mother to my children, spouse to my husband, and a more creative and productive worker. I will reevaluate this plan in a month based on how successful it’s been, and once I have a better grasp of how time blocking might work in my life.
See how I actually went through and stated what exactly I want to try, in order to take better care of my needs? And after my action-oriented list, I finished up by stating WHY success is important to me, and an endpoint to reassess.
What areas would you like to work on? Think about it for a few days. There is no rule that you need to start a goal on January 1st. It’s much better to set yourself up for success, by taking the time to craft a goal & a plan that is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Share your goals below, if you wish. ‘Cause that’s the other thing about goals. We are MUCH more likely to meet them if we put them down on paper (or, electronically in a blog comment…that works too!).
Lastly, I want to wish you a very Happy New Year! The past four months have been some of the busiest, exciting, exhausting, and rewarding of my professional career. Thank you to all that take the time to read and comment here, and on my associated social media. I am eternally grateful for your ongoing support!!