5 Steps to Make the Most of New Year's Resolutions and Goals
As we’re closing out on 2019, many of us are taking the time to look back and see what has transpired for the past year. If you’re eager, maybe you’re already thinking about what you hope to achieve in 2020.
Perhaps you’re excited because you’ve accomplished everything you’ve set out to do–congrats! Or you’re feeling a little dejected because you didn’t cross off everything on your list and you’re left wondering why you didn’t achieve them all.
Even if you consider yourself ambitious, we tend to give up on our goals if we don’t put systems in place to help us succeed. That’s why this year it’s a good idea to go through the following process so that you can make the most of our New Year’s resolutions and goals.
1. Review The Last 12 Months
Go back and look at what your resolutions were for earlier in the year and then at what you’ve accomplished. It’s natural to feel proud in some areas and disappointment in others. The point of this first step is to help you figure out where things went wrong, whether what you set out to do was a goal you even wanted to accomplish and what you can tweak for next year.
To start, divide a piece of paper in three columns and write down things that went well, things that didn’t and things that were ok. That way, you can see specifically what you’ve done or haven’t done.
Perhaps you failed to save 15% of your paycheck each month towards retirement, or you were really good with meal planning each week. For each one, take some time to figure out what worked and what didn’t.
Maybe you failed in your savings goal because you thought you had to save all that money at once instead of gradually increasing your contributions. Or your meal planning worked because you found a great resource that walks you step-by-step throughout the whole process. These reasons will help you move forward to find ways to achieve your 2020 goals.
2. Write Down What is Most Important to You
Before coming up with new goals, it’s crucial you take a look at what you value the most. If you’re writing down goals you think you’re supposed to achieve but it doesn’t line up with what you really want, what’s the point?
Here’s where you can set aside as much time as you need to map this all out. Write down what you value the most and what you’re already doing that aligns with these values. Then you can look at how to use these values and what you’ve got going on in your life to guide you to your New Year’s resolutions.
If you’re unsure, think about the things you’re most passionate about, your religious values (if any), your relationships with friends and family, and even your career.
Then, create a document where you can refer to your values and what’s most important to you–this will ensure you’re focusing on goals that align with them and that you’ll stick them even through the tough times.
3. Come Up With Areas You Want to Improve In
Once you’ve reflected on what didn’t go well and whether it’s a goal you want to pursue, then it’s time to come up with areas you want to improve in.
Here are a few examples:
- Increase retirement savings
- Save money for a family vacation
- Find a new job closer to home
- Learn how to cook meals at home
- Start a side hustle
It’s ok to leave these vague for now, since we’ll be breaking these down in the next step.
4. Create a SMART Goal
One of the main reasons people don’t achieve their goals is because they’re not specific and there isn’t a sense of urgency. That’s why SMART financial resolutions can be really effective. SMART stands for goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound.
Taking one of the examples mentioned in the last step, saving money for a family vacation is too vague to be a SMART goal. Instead, here’s how you can break it down:
- S – Save money towards a week-long family vacation to Disney in Orlando
- M – You’ll save up enough money by October 2020
- A – It’s attainable because you’re able to save $200 each month to do so
- R – October 2020 is the best time to take off work for both you and your spouse
- T – It’s 10 months away
Break down each goal this way and be honest about whether they’re realistic or attainable. If they’re not, is there a way you can break it down even further?
5. Find a Way to Keep Accountable
Receiving some accountability can make or break your efforts. That’s why as soon as you determine what your financial resolutions are, you should find a way to ensure you’ll keep at it.
For some, finding a group or an accountability partner can provide much-needed support. That way you’re helping another person work towards their goals while they help you do the same. You can start by asking your friends, fellow gym patrons or consider paying for a monthly accountability group if you’re really serious about staying accountable.
If you prefer to go at it alone, using apps can help. Many of these apps offer features like phone notifications, a calendar to check off when you’ve completed certain tasks and more. There are even budgeting apps that help you automate much of your budgeting goals so you can see what’s going on at a glance. Even something as simple as scheduling time to work towards your New Year’s resolutions can work.
Reflect and Refine
Life happens and so can your goals. Maybe you’ve experienced a bit of a financial set back like depleting your emergency fund, so you hold off on putting money towards your family vacation fund.
Whatever it is, feel free to modify and refine your goals as you go along. They should be a static entity where you set it and forget it. If you find that after some introspection one of the goals you set becomes unrealistic, then adjust it to where it is.
The more you get to analyzing your goals and your progress throughout the year, the more likely you’ll be able to achieve them by the end of 2020.