In this quiet time between Christmas and New Year’s, I make it a priority to sit down and review the year ahead. What do I want to achieve? What does success look like for myself, my family, my clients? Rather than sitting down and staring blankly at a pen and paper, here are a few tips for setting – and achieving – your New Year’s goals.
1. Reflect on the Past Year
Take a moment to review your achievements and challenges from the past year. First, identify the highlights, both personally and professionally. For me, I like to take a few minutes to scroll through my camera roll, drumming up memories and highlights from the past year. Next, I ask myself WHY were these highlights for me? Identifying the WHY will help you dig deeper into goals for the year ahead. For example, if the highlights you identified from the past year involve your family, maybe quality time spent with loved ones should be incorporated into your next year’s goals.
After you’ve identified the highlights, you’ll do the same with areas that need improvement. It’s OK to be a bit self-critical here: this is just a brainstorming step to help you identify goals for the year ahead.
2. Set SMART Goals
As you identify your goals for the year ahead, make sure they are SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Next, clearly define the steps needed to accomplish each goal. For example, one of my coworkers has a goal of “expanding her horizons” in 2024. That alone might seem unachievable, but her SMART goals include reading 1 non-fiction book per month. To help define the steps needed to accomplish this, she’s now working on her “reading list” for the year and choosing titles for each of the months ahead.
3. Prioritize & Break Down Your Goals
Not all goals are created equal. If your list of goals begins to feel a bit long, bucket them or prioritize them based on importance and potential impact. Focusing on a few key goals, rather than overwhelming yourself with a long list, will help keep you engaged. For me, I try to bucket my goals into three areas: family, self and work. By keeping my goals bucketed and prioritized, the list doesn’t seem as long or as daunting.
For some of those larger goals, it might help to divide them into smaller, more manageable tasks. Doing so makes progress more tangible and helps you stay motivated. Remember my coworker who wants to read 12 nonfiction books this year? She’s starting with January and the sole title for that month. It’s easier for her to focus her energies there, rather than looking at a more daunting list of 12 books.
4. Create a Timeline
Part of setting SMART goals is to make sure they’re time-bound, so set deadlines for each milestone to stay on track. It’s OK if you get off-track (life happens!), but make sure you’re setting time aside to regularly review and adjust your timeline as needed.
5. Establish Accountability
When I have finished identifying and planning my goals, I sit down and share them with my husband. Sharing your goals with a friend, family member or mentor not only allows you to create accountability, but also opens a dialogue to possibly edit, adjust or change goals based on new perspectives. Additionally, regular check-ins with your “accountability partner” provide opportunities to report back as well as encouragement to keep you on track.
6. Acknowledge the Inevitable ‘Bumps’ on the Journey
While goals are great to give your life purpose, there are times when goals might need to change. Be open to adjusting your goals based on changing circumstances. Staying flexible, in life and with your own goals, allows you to adapt and overcome unexpected challenges.
Additionally, understand (and anticipate) that setbacks are a normal part of the journey. If a listing I have falls out of contract, I can feel devastated for my clients and myself, or I can use the challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow. Why did this listing fall out of contract? What must I do to adapt the listing to help it sell? Use challenges as opportunities and remember to be kind to yourself!
Finally, embrace the idea of continuous learning. Seek out new knowledge and skills relevant to your goals. One of my 2024 goals is to learn a new sport – golf! In addition to taking lessons, I’m looking to immerse myself into other growth opportunities as well; listening to podcasts, reading magazines, watching the Golf Channel and observing fellow enthusiasts at the driving range. Constantly seeking new ways to build on our goals will only help us accelerate the pace at which we learn (and achieve) them!
7. Celebrate Milestones
A year is a long time. Waiting until December 31, 2024 to reflect and celebrate the year’s achievements might make those achievements seem less than, or even moot. Therefore, it’s important to acknowledge and celebrate your achievements along the way. Finding ways to reward yourself not only boosts motivation but reinforces the positive habits you’re building through your goals!
As Dwight Eisenhower said, “Plans are nothing, but planning is everything.”
Happy Goal Setting…and Happy New Year!