2022 had many of us reaching our breaking points after years of working hard and staying the course while disruption after disruption occurred––a pandemic, a war, worsening climate change, and a looming recession. Now, the feeling that we have to change and make it stick is more urgent than ever. But after all that has happened, how can professionals set goals in 2023 and have the resilience to achieve them?
Let’s be honest, most New Year’s Resolutions end up as another marked-up page at the back of a notepad in another corner of an overflowing desk drawer (maybe your resolution is to clean out your desk drawers). Then, as the year sprints forward, we wonder why we’re stuck in the same place we were at when we started. Then comes the question, “Why did I set resolutions in the first place?”
Don’t lose hope just yet! It can be both a new year AND a new you. It just takes commitment and a little clarity.
Why is setting new year’s resolutions important for professionals?
Setting goals and intentions can feel like a heavy lift, but it helps professionals adjust their focus and decide what their main priorities for the year are. Being goal-oriented provides clarity and a sense of purpose when done right. Not to mention, it can inspire your team too.
Having something to work toward that connects you to your values and your mission is also critical to preventing burnout; however, most resolutions fail and that has the exact opposite effect on our confidence and well-being.
Why do most new years’ resolutions fail? 4 Resolution Traps
A resolution is defined as a decision to do something or to behave in a certain manner, and it’s just that––a decision. A decision is nothing without action, without commitment. That’s why New Year’s Resolutions are so hard to complete.
In fact, 80% of people fail to achieve their new year’s resolutions (Inc study), and here are a few reasons why:
- Self-doubt: The voice in your head constantly questions your ability to get things done.
- Unclear and/or unrealistic goals: Pursuing goals that are not clear and relevant to your life and daily reality.
- Overthink: Too much thinking, not much doing, also often expressed as procrastination.
- Lack of self-accountability: Finding excuses to avoid doing the work and fulfilling responsibilities.
Driving change and achieving goals is all about being able to reflect on where you’ve been, where you are now, and where you want to go. It’s about setting a realistic plan of action and making progress one day at a time.
How to achieve your New Year’s Resolutions in 3 steps:
Reflecting helps you stay focused and motivated. It helps you identify any obstacles that may stand in your way and allows you to adjust your plans accordingly.
And it starts with a clear vision. You need to be able to describe the you that you’ll be when you achieve your goal down to the shoes you’re wearing. We know that sounds silly but it works. For example, a product manager might say…
I want to become a product leader. My colleagues will respect me as a forward-thinking subject matter expert. Our customers will feel confident that myself and the team know exactly what they want and that our product will solve their pain points. I will lead with empathy and confidence by ensuring I have breaks for myself, respecting the time of others, and advocating for the customers and my colleagues to my higher-ups. I’ll listen more than I talk. I will show up to 1:1s in more casual attire to better build relationships and I’ll go to important meetings dressed in suits with some nice dress shoes to show I’m serious.
After, you establish your clear, self vision, use these prompts to further reflect on your goals:
- What are your values? How do your goals tie to your values?
- What does success look like to you?
- How do you want you and your work to be described? What can you do to channel some of these qualities?
To make reflecting realistic, decide on a time frame for a check-in. How does your present live up to your future self-vision? For example…
- Monthly check-in: Focus on reflecting on what went well and what can be improved the next month
- 3 months, 6 months, 9 months: Create smaller milestones you’d like to hit to achieve your goals, use 3/6/9 months check-ins to keep yourself accountable to your big goal. Adjust tactics if necessary.
- End of year: The final push – reflect on what you need to do more and/or less to finish the year strong and achieve your goals.
Selecting your check-in time frame is part of the next step: planning.
2 – PLAN
Taking the time to develop a comprehensive plan with achievable goals and measurable outcomes is an important step to ensure that progress is made in the right direction.
A S.M.A.R.T. action plan incorporates 5 characteristics of a goal: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
- Specific – What am I trying to accomplish?
- Measurable – How will I measure progress?
- Attainable – How realistic is my goal based on my current skills and resources?
- Relevant – Is it worthwhile? Does it match the bigger picture?
- Time-Bound – When is it due?
General goals don’t help us. If we say “I want to be more productive” this gives no direction or clear action that we can hold ourselves accountable to.
A more actionable goal might be “I want to be more productive by improving my time management skills. To do this I’ll create a daily schedule each morning and try to stick to it for the next month, checking in each evening about what worked and what didn’t.”
This goal is specific (improve time management skills), measurable (by creating and following a daily schedule), achievable (by setting aside time each day to work on this goal), relevant (this goal will help me be more productive in my personal and professional life), and time-bound (I will work on this goal for the next month).
Create your SMART goal plan and regularly review it, so you can ensure that you are always on track.
3 – PROGRESS
Breaking and forming habits isn’t a one-and-done. Making progress requires focus, consistency, accountability, and persistence. You aren’t going to tackle chunks of your S.M.A.R.T. goals every day. It’s important to scale them down to milestones and then daily pieces.
For example, using our previous SMART goal of wanting to improve productivity through time management, a monthly task might be, “I will create a to-do list for each week and complete 75% of the list.” Breaking that down even further you could say, “Each day when I set up my schedule I will cross-check my meetings and time blocks with my weekly to-do list to see how my priorities align.”
It’s important to keep sight of the vision here (productivity), the specific action (creating a schedule each day) and then figure out what you can do to make progress on your milestones (weekly to-do list) and day (cross-reference to-do list).
How you live out your S.M.A.R.T. goals might not always be the action you described in your original goal draft because S.M.A.R.T. goals aren’t static. They grow and evolve as you progress and figure out what works, what doesn’t, and what aligns with your changing wants and needs. It’s ok to adapt. Expect change.
When looking for ways to make progress on a day to day basis, consider these questions:
- What is one thing can you do each day to chip away at your S.M.A.R.T. goals?
- How can your current routine support your goals? OR, what about your current routine gets in the way of your goals?
- What tradeoffs might you have to make in order to create space for your goals? (We can’t have it all!)
To help, we’ve developed a tracker that you can use to document your yearly progress. Click here to download.
Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Stick
We know we’ve been saying resolutions throughout this whole blog. Trust us, we’ve been rolling our eyes too. Resolutions are unreliable and destroy our self-esteem because they lack commitment. They lack discipline. And eventually, they become just another holiday cliché. So, in 2023 let’s swap resolutions for commitments.
With the tools above, you’ll make your 2023 commitments tangible. Lead each day as if your success was inevitable, and so it shall be.
Happy new year!