Like clockwork, a new year always inspires the desire for change and self-improvement. But, if you’re like most of us, merely visualizing what you want to accomplish won’t be enough. Evolution has made human beings exceptionally good at procrastinating, ignoring the calendar, or just conveniently forgetting we made any resolutions in the first place.
The upside is, with a little planning, we’re just as capable of staying on track. If there are projects or goals you’re determined to complete, set yourself up for success by fostering a sense of accountability. Here are our tips for maintaining focus and following through on your goals for the new year.
1. Keep a visual reminder on display
Don’t give yourself the opportunity to push your resolutions to the back of your mind. Write them down or diagram them, and post the information in a spot where you’ll see it every day. In fact, if you’re the type of person who needs a lot of reminders, print out multiple copies to display around your home or office.
It’s completely normal to get sidetracked by everyday obligations and unexpected changes in your life. Having a smart action plan in place is beneficial when you’re feeling distracted. Not only do physical reminders help with focus, but they also help inspire new ways you can continue making progress even if you can’t stick to your intended schedule.
2. Create an environment that reinforces your goals
How often have you vowed to make a change and then immediately encountered things in your environment that reinforced your bad habit? Achieving your goals for the new year is challenging when nothing around you is conducive to your success. So, if you’ve given up on a goal in the past, ask yourself whether environmental triggers contributed to that decision.
Imagine if you made a resolution to sharpen your culinary skills and cook more at home. Yet, whenever you go to the grocery store, you skip the fresh food and load up on frozen and prepared foods. You’d never be able to achieve your goal until you created an environment that’s better suited to your needs.
The same holds true for any significant change — personal or professional. Consider your current behavior and how it may prevent you from producing the desired results. Then, make a list of actions you can take to overcome environmental obstacles.
3. Connect with an accountability buddy (or two)
Social accountability is one of the most effective tools for managing a goal. Once you express your intentions to other people, you feel more compelled to execute them. Not to mention, you now have multiple people reminding you to steer clear of bad habits while sharing their own practical experiences.
Chances are, you have co-workers working toward goals of their own. Connect with them using group chats and other communication tools. If your team uses Typetalk, for instance, create a topic for anyone who needs to vent, share stories, or get encouragement. Rallying their support will make you feel like you’re not alone while improving relationships across the entire team.
Accountability buddies bring added layers of reassurance and determination into the mix. You are helping someone else feel confident and empowered at the same time that they’re providing this support for you. Just be sure to choose buddies who are serious about their goals and committed to working together. If your goals are related to work, finances, or skill-building, consider looking for a mentor who can offer valuable advice.
4. Surround yourself with supportive people
Much like your environment, family, friends, and co-workers frequently play a role in your success. Although you don’t have complete control over who you interact with on a daily basis, you can try to avoid naysayers as much as possible.
Instead, spend more time with people who support your endeavors. Depending on your goals for the new year, you can find groups for people who share your interests and/or ambitions. Listening to the struggles and triumphs of your peers is a good way to maintain a high engagement level.
5. Create milestones to map your goals for the new year
Warning: the following advice will probably sound backward, but we promise, it’s not a mistake. Don’t look at the big picture too much.
While it’s essential to have a vision, you don’t want to concentrate on the difficulty of the task or how long it will take. The more you think about the obstacles in your path, the greater the chance that you’ll start to question your ability to achieve your goal.
Curb your doubts and fears by dividing an ambitious goal into shorter, more manageable tasks. Establish milestones, so you’ll feel refreshed by the small victories and keep going. When you do find yourself reflecting on a project, focus on how you want to feel when you achieve it. Don’t dwell on the challenges. If you did a thorough job planning your goals, trust that completing the tasks you’ve laid out will lead you to success.
6. Set up incentives for completing a milestone
You’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t love a reward, especially for completing a task you planned to do either way. So, as you map out your milestones, incorporate incentives at regular intervals. Just make sure the incentives don’t clash with your goals for the new year. Allowing yourself to splurge on things you don’t need, for example, is a bad way to reward yourself for improving your finances.
Incentives can be as simple as enjoying a dinner out, hosting a game night, or reserving an entire day for self-care without any chores, work, or errands. The important thing is to celebrate your wins, no matter how minor they seem. You have nothing to lose — and a great deal to gain — by staying positive and boosting your self-confidence.
7. Gamify your sub-tasks (especially the boring ones)
If there’s one thing you can learn from the TV show The Office, it’s that’s you can turn almost any task into a fun game. When your long-term goal is stressful or time-consuming, there are countless opportunities for burnout or boredom. Fortunately, you can combat this problem by making your project entertaining, competitive, rewarding, or all of the above.
Do you have accountability buddies who are working toward the same goal? Agree on reward tiers and a theme, create mini-challenges, and set up timeframes in which you must complete them. You can even track your stats or print out funny award certificates to acknowledge each person’s progress. Make the experience as motivational as possible to help you stay on track during less enjoyable tasks.
8. Strengthen your time-management skills
Whether you plan to volunteer, read 50 books, or learn graphic design, there’s a crucial skill you’ll need to master. You guessed it — time management. Conduct an honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses in this area.
- Do you have a hard time concentrating on a task for more than 20 minutes?
- Are you prone to procrastination or analysis paralysis?
- How often do you fall behind schedule on important tasks?
- What portion of your project depends on coordinating with other people?
- How many hours per week do you spend on time-wasting activities?
- Does it take you a long time to get into an active workflow?
Tips for dealing with time-management issues
Identify the time traps that are most relevant to you, and make a plan to address them. For instance, many people are great at focusing for long periods but only after they get ‘in the zone.’ Figure out what activities help you relax and prime your mind — or the opposite.
Let’s say your goal is to exercise more, but you only feel energized enough to work out in the morning. If you don’t currently have enough time to exercise before work, going to bed earlier will solve both problems.
Take advantage of any flexibility in your schedule, so you can free up time to pursue your goals for the new year. Are there errands, appointments, or meetings you can switch around to make your goals more achievable?
Stop wasting time doing things that aren’t beneficial to you. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with having hobbies or unstructured time to unwind. We’re referring to activities that drain your time, creativity, or energy while offering little to no value.
Case in point: most of us are guilty of occasionally doomscrolling through social media. But if you find yourself doing this several times a week (or day — yikes! ), think about how you can redirect this time to more productive pursuits.
9. Write constructive feedback about your progress
Quitting is a common reaction when you feel as though you’ve already failed at something. The danger of this mentality is that it dismisses all the effort you’ve put in and the lessons you’ve learned. Not all progress is linear. Instead of viewing your objective only in terms of the target, take into account your personal development throughout the journey.
Based on the goal you’re pursuing, make a list of ways that you hope to improve and how you’ll measure progress. For example, if your goal is to become a better public speaker, rate factors such as making eye contact, communicating without stumbling, and maintaining a high energy level.
In your constructive feedback, reflect on what you’re doing well and what you can do better. Over time, you’ll have a more accurate picture of your accomplishments, and your thoughts of quitting will be a distant memory.
10. Give yourself a break
We mean this literally and figuratively. Don’t push yourself to the point that you get overwhelmed and lose interest. If you commit to too many goals for the new year, you could overload your schedule and end up accomplishing very little. Taking a cool-off period between sprints is a smart way to stay mentally and physically energized.
At the same time, don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t follow your plans exactly as you envisioned them. Goal-planning is a strategy to bring structure and guidance to your efforts, but you’re accountable to yourself first and foremost. If your plans get derailed, make new ones and pick up where you left off.