How SMART Are Your New Year’s Resolutions?

If you’re like me, you're facing a New Year’s celebration (or hibernation) with a freshly penned set of resolutions. Congratulations. That’s a great first step.

I’d like to offer a simple process for improving the likelihood that you will actually meet your resolutions. The key is to make your goals smarter by applying “SMART goals” criteria.  Read on, and give these three steps a try.

Step 1: Understand what a “SMART” goal is.

We all know what a goal is:  It’s a desired result that we envision, plan and commit to achieving. But what is a SMART goal? It’s a set of five criteria that, when met, will greatly enhance a goal’s achievability. Here they are:

  • S is for Specific: Is your goal written clearly and unambiguously enough that you will know when it has been achieved?  If not, your goal needs to be refined.
  • M is for Measurable: Can you identify a measurable result for your goal? Without some form of measurability, you will have a much harder time realizing your goals.
  • A is for Achievable:  This criteria is about making sure your goals are realistic and attainable.  Your goal must not face any insurmountable barriers to achievement, and you should be able to identify a viable path to realizing your goal.
  • R is for Relevant: Is your goal important and meaningful to you? Does it matter?  If so, you’re off to a great start.
  • T is for Time-bound: Every goal should have a time component. Plain and simple. 

Step 2: Revisit your new set of resolutions and make them SMARTer.

Now that you know the basics of what makes a goal SMART, pull out your list of resolutions and refine them using these SMART criteria.  This will take some time.  If the task seems too daunting, start with your five most important resolutions, and make it work for them.  To help get you started, here are two examples of how to make a resolution SMARTer:

Example 1: Read more books.

SMART Version: Read a minimum of 6 books in the coming year, completing the first book by the end of January and then one new book during each successive two-month period

Example 2: Save more for retirement.

SMART Version:  Deposit $1,500 into my IRA on the 15th of every month, and check in with my financial advisor on March 1st and September 1st to review my retirement funds allocation within the IRA.

Step 3: Make one more resolution – Review them throughout the year!

Now that you’ve got a sharp list of SMART New Year’s resolutions, create a plan to periodically check in with your resolutions to see how you are doing.  In your calendar of choice you should schedule a “Resolution Review” at periodic intervals through the year.  I suggest scheduling a check-in on the same date of every month, but feel free to choose your own schedule.  You may need to tweak, change or re-prioritize your resolutions/goals, and that’s okay too. Life is full of twists and turns, and goals often need adjustment. The important thing is to make your goals SMART, and to have a plan to monitor your progress.

Here’s to a new year ... to realizing your resolutions ... and to keep on moving forward.

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