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Keep Your 2018 Resolutions: Make Them SMART.

My social media feeds are full of friends and family members sharing their goals for the new year, stories about how they did or didn't reach goals they set out to achieve in 2017, and articles debating whether or not resolutions are a good idea.

I've never been much of a resolution person -- I'm more interested in taking the moment to think back over successes and failures from the previous year and take stock of how my job, sidehustles, and projects are propelling me closer to my longterm goals of:

  • Continuing to gain skills in nonprofit management and communications through work, volunteer opportunities, classes, books, and learning from peers and mentors.

  • Building genuine friendships and putting family first.

  • Creating and maintaining strong structures in my home life (eating healthy, regular meals; regular self-care; maintaining healthy budget management; etc.).

  • Giving back through investments of dollars and time that are meaningful to me.

That said, when I look back at what worked and what didn't from the previous year, I like to add some new goals and dreams to the list. For example, since I quit my gym membership (it was just entirely too far of a commute and was a waste of money since I didn't go there more than once a month), I want to invest time and dollars in finding a studio and classes that bring me joy -- and make me sweat. This is where I put the SMART goal model to the test! The "SMART" model is one that I've used in goal setting for a few nonprofits I work with. It helps to translate vague "get more fit in 2018" or "read more in 2018" goals into Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based goals (see, it's an acronym!).

Specific

Your goal should be as specific as possible. That means your plan should include:

  • What you want to accomplish, in as much detail as possible.

  • What the end result will look like.

  • Who needs to be involved for you to reach your goal.

  • Why you want to accomplish this goal.

The more specific you make your goal, the more powerful your plan will be -- and the more likely you will actually succeed.

For example, instead of a vague "find a new fitness studio and class," I made the goal as specific as possible.

I’m going to try a new fitness studio once a week until I find one I like. Then, I'll go to classes once a week. It will cost me around $30 each week and will take some willpower and scheduling to find time in my schedule, but I'm invested in keeping healthy and happy so I can put my best self forward at work and at home. 

Measurable

Next, define exactly how you will measure your progress in reaching your goal. Make sure it is quantifiable so you can see if you're on track.

For example, I said I plan to go to a fitness studio once a week. I'm going to visually measure this by putting a gold sticker on my calendar every time I go to a fitness studio. 

Attainable

Is the resolution you’ve defined up to this point realistically attainable by you? Do you have the time, financial, and mental resources to achieve the goal?

I believe my goals are attainable. 40-50 minutes once a week is an achievable goal, and ~ $120 a month is a bit of an investment, but I'll be more apt to go to these classes than my distant gym.  

Relevant

You have to make sure the goal is connected to your overall values and personal priorities. 

Staying healthy and happy is central to achieve my other goals in 2018, so this is a relevant goal.

Time-based

Goals should be time-based. For example, for people who have a specific weight loss goal, it's too vague to just say "lose 15 pounds." In what, a week? A month? Five years? They should also include milestones to help you track your progress, make tweaks to your goal, if necessary, and keep your motivation high. 

I'm going to check in on my progress (am I really going to a class once a week?) every quarter.

What do you hope to achieve in 2018? 

Claire S. Gould