There’s something about the phrase new-years-resolution that just feels like it’s set up for failure. The verb resolute just makes it feel like you’re bracing yourself for something that’s going to suck, but to hell with it, you’re doing it anyway.
And then the next day, you’re a little less resolute.
And next week, a little less resolute.
Then in February, you’re cursing yourself because you’ve locked in a year-long gym membership and you haven’t gone since the first day you joined and took that f-ing pilates class that had you sore for 8 days.
Which is really too bad, because a new year is a great time to think about resetting your mind and laying out a plan for what you want to accomplish in the next year. Partly, it’s psychological – new year feels like new start – you get to chronologically put the last year fully behind you, pick out a new wall calendar, and start crossing off the days with a different colored pen and decide, with confidence, that this year, it’s going to be different.
Partly it’s because you probably spent the last week of December actually being forced to rest and slow down because no one is getting any business done on the last week of December (and all those cookies you ate probably made you a little more winded going up those subway stairs).
I can’t remember the last time I made any new year’s resolutions, but every year since I was 19, I wrote down my goals for the coming year. As I sat down today to write this article though, trying to think of the best method for writing down goals, or recommending good websites or apps to keep track, I realized that each year, I wrote down my goals using different logic. Here are some of the different ways I’ve recorded my goals:
1. Paper vs. Electronic: One year, I bought an entire notebook I wanted to dedicate to goal-keeping. I wrote down my goals, kept the notebook in my purse, and forgot I had it. Other years, I’ve written down goals in existing notebooks or scraps of paper I had lying around. One year I even collaged my goals (see: dreamboard). This year, I recorded my goals in a Google doc. We’ll see how that goes.
2. Chronological vs. Categories: There are probably one two different ways I’ve used to organize my goals. The first is chronological, i.e. I want to have $1,000 saved by June or I want to go to a different country by September. The other way I’ve written down goals, and the way ended up doing it this year, is through categories. I had a number of different areas of my life I wanted to work on, like fitness, writing, professional, side businesses, etc.
3. Alone vs. with Other People: Most years, I’ve sat in my room by myself and written and rewritten my goals until I thought they were perfect, which they never were. There is something to be said about talking out a goal before you write it down. Getting feedback from friends and family you trust might be the thing you need to do to refine them without getting lost in them. It really helps to have a different perspective as well. I did a bit of a hybrid this year – I wrote them down without thinking (brain dump!) and then read them aloud to someone. Then we talked about how I felt about them and I updated from there. Also, of course, I went through my business goals with my Pockets Change business partner. One of other perks of having one of those.
4. Task Oriented vs. Results Oriented: I probably have a mix of each of these kinds of goals. Task oriented goals are things you would normally put on a to-do list or a calendar anyway, like running three times a week. Results oriented goals are things you can measure, like run a mile in under 8 minutes. You will end up having both on your list, but make sure to keep your results-oriented goals realistic.
5. Writing Them Down vs. Having Them in Your Head: I have to confess. Last year, I didn’t write down my goals. I had a bunch of them swimming around in my head and the beginning of the year took of like a flash. It was February by the time I acknowledged the fact that I didn’t write anything down and then I just never did. I could feel the difference by May. I was almost halfway through the year and had no idea what the rest of it was supposed to look like. It was very much an in-like-a-lion-out-like-a-lamb sort of year for me. This year, I made absolutely sure I took my day off to spend writing my goals. There’s a saying that circulates among the salespeople in my company: “You need to take the time to work ON your business as much as you take the time to work IN your business.” Writing down goals may seem like an unnecessary extra step, but it really does help you clearly define whatever is going on in your mind.
So really, at the end of the day, no matter how you do them, where you do them, or who you do them with, set some goals this year. It felt funny to me the first time I did it too, but now it feels like I don’t have a clear head unless I go into the new year with my list.
Maybe your first goal can be, no more new year’s resolutions.