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It's the start of a new year, and as always I've come up with a few grandiose goals I'd like to achieve across the year. What advice or tips should I bear in mind to give me the greatest chance of succeeding?

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13 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

From everything I've read if your resolution or goal is one that you struggle with there can be a number of issues at hand:

  1. Too many goals : Too many goals indicates a lack of priorities, choose wisely the most important thing to do with your day, year, life. source Tim Ferriss' 4 hour work week.
  2. Dont just "Try Harder": If its a deeply rooted thing your best bet is to automate it. Trying to lose weight? Signup for news letters that email you your workouts and food daily, they will remind you everyday of what you're supposed to do. Trying to save money? Use automated systems to put that money aside before you see it. See: Ramit Sethi's I will teach you to be rich book and blog.
  3. Deeply understand your motivation and hesitations. Reward yourself for good behavior (this YouTube video has some cool insight into motivation and work performance.
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Great tips - thanks for the info. –  Ciaocibai Jan 3 '12 at 20:39
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The best resolution is to clean house. And by house I don't just mean house, but everything. Clean up your todo-lists, your project lists, your objectives, and so on. Be clear on what you don't want to spend time on. Get everything off your mind. Then think about how and why you want to achieve your resolution. Figure out what the next actions for them are, and work them into your mix, as it were. You might also want to reward yourself when you have completed a small step or segment of your resolution. Best of luck!

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Make sure that your goals are manageable, specific and measurable. If they are too grandiose then you are setting yourself up for failure. If they are not specific enough and measurable then you won't know when you have succeeded. Both of these things can be detrimental factors.

If possible break your goal up into measurable chunks and spread out deadlines throughout the year. If you want to lose 50 pounds for instance you can have a measurable check-in goal of 1 pound a week. (With a couple extra just in case.)

Make a plan. It is one thing to measure the outcome but you need to know how you are going to get there. A teacher-friend always tells her students "Try Harder is not a plan. Review my flashcards before bed, now that's a plan."

Once you have a plan there are a bunch of resources that can help you. You can look at advice on creating habits, time management, accountability and motivation. These are all good topics to familiarize yourself with more in general if you want tools to help you succeed. One tool I would highly recommend is an accountability partner. This is a person that you tell your plan to and they then ask you whether you are on track at the measurable intervals that you state. If you want to work out 3 times a week, they may ask you each week what you did for exercise the past week. Even better you can try to find someone who is working on the same goal as you.

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Thanks very much for all that information - love your friends advice. Breaking things into manageable chunks does seem to be the key, but something I'm often guilty of not doing! Guess I'll have to work on this! –  Ciaocibai Jan 3 '12 at 20:41
    
Agreed. The best way is to measure everything. Want to lose weight? Have a notepad measuring how much you weigh. Want to help people? Have a notepad on how much time and money you've donated to charity. You can have a vague goal. You can have grandiose ones that will never be accomplished. But you have to measure how you're doing. –  Muz Dec 24 '13 at 6:03
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I recommend StickK or Beeminder. (Disclosure: I'm part of Beeminder.)

These are commitment device apps for forcing yourself to follow through on your own intentions. StickK lets you set up a contract, specify the stakes, the beneficiary, and a referee to keep you honest. Beeminder is like StickK for data nerds, having the commitment contract center on a graph of your progress.

Here's a list of all such services that I know of: blog.beeminder.com/competitors

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Looks interesting - I'll have to check it out! –  Ciaocibai Jan 3 '12 at 20:42
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Beeminder is great. I am not sure how it would be realized on this question-answer board but it deserves more visibility, not just in this obscure comment. –  multipole Jan 7 '12 at 14:39
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I have to add, I've recently become a user of Beeminder and I absolutely love it - really a fantastic tool for anyone who enjoys data. –  Ciaocibai Apr 18 '12 at 14:01
    
I'm deleting this answer because it only provides a quick link but no explanation of how this answers the question, why it's valuable, etc. –  Adam Wuerl Dec 5 '13 at 4:27
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Another site that helps you track goals is 21habit

As well as a plain tracking system, this site also has the option of buying into an incentive model whereby you put money into a pool and pay back yourself when you make progress with your goal, or pay a charity if you don't.

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One great technique is to write down your goals and read them twice every day. Keep in mind you want to write down why you want to achieve these goals, not necessarily the steps you plan on taking to achieve them. This way it becomes a goal to strive towards, not a burden you have to deal with :)

I read about a study where they had two groups of people who wanted to loose some weight. Group A wrote down their goals and read them twice a day, and Group B where lectured daily on the benefits of weight-loss. Group A ended up losing much more weight.

EDIT:

Here are some links that are worth checking up on:

1953 Harvard Study on Goals

Self-motivation

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Interesting - would you be able to find a link for that research? –  Ciaocibai Jan 3 '12 at 20:51
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I am not sure where I found the study originally, but I found a couple links that are in the same vein: I'll post them above :) –  silvermaple Jan 3 '12 at 21:41
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I am sharing some points on how to succeed in achieving resolutions and I hope it would be helpful to you

1. Management

Most of the people fail to accomplish their goals as they try to work on many goals at a time and so they are unable to achieve any of their goals...To save yourself from this, you need management of your goals.

So Make a list of your goals..Set priorities to them.. Assign No.1 to the goal with the highest priority,No.2 to the 2nd highest priority goal and so on.. Concentrate fully on the goal with the highest priorities first..When you have achieved the highest priority goals then Move to the next goal.

2. Self-motivation

Imagine how happy you would be when your goals would be accomplished...

For eg: You want to achieve good grades..Just imagine,how happy and proud your parents will feel when they will see your grades...how happy you will feel about it.. Likewise imagine what output you will get when your goals will be accomplished..Even you can motivate yourself by imagining what you will lose if you fail to accomplish your goals.

3. Determination

Have a strong determination that no matter what,i will achieve my goal.

4. Time-limit

Though you have determination but no time limit, then it might take years to accomplish your goals...So dont forget to set a time limit..And also strictly follow those time-limits you set.

5. Dedication

Full dedication is the most important factor you need to accomplish your goal...Make sure that you spend some hours of your day working for your goal... for eg: you wanna learn guitar..So You definately have to spend some time daily to practice guitar.. Likewise spare some time daily for your goal from your hectic schedule And I am sure no power of this world can stop you from achieving your goal.

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That is helpful - thanks very much for your input :-) –  Ciaocibai Jan 18 '12 at 9:54
    
Honestly, self-motivation and determination don't work very well. Both are limited, and any plans that rely on them go away when you're busy with other more intensive things in life. –  Muz Dec 16 '13 at 5:55
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By staying motivated. I know it's hard sometimes but just think of the end result! You obviously chose your resolution for a reason, so if it is something that is really important to you then I recommend sticking to it as best you can! Good luck!

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Thats why they say

"New Year resolutions are nothing but a to do list for the first week of january" lol

but jokes aside..

The reason why we arent able to accomplish our resolutions or goals is that we get distracted and start thinking about other less relevant things.

The best and PERMANENT solution to this is having control of your thoughts and having them focussed on your goals for as long as possible,

this can be archieved by practicing the noble act of meditation daily.

best of luck...

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Consider the infrastructure of your resolution. A lot of great things have already been said, but the none has mentioned that, for example, if you want to start running, you've got to get shoes, clothing and time in place before you can actually reach your goal.

In this sense infrastructure (and resources) refers to all of the things you need to think about before you can actually do your resolution and keep it.

Some examples would be:

  • What should the newly available time be spend on when stopping smoking?
  • Do you have the time allocated to run every day?
  • Do you have the ingredients to cook better? The cookbook?
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I'm not so pro resolutions because I think often (if not most of the time), people's resolutions aren't realistic. They are lofty. I used to work as a dietitian and so I know what kinds of goals people can come up with (for example: "This year I will not eat anything"... you know:).

Anyway, the best way to accomplish a goal is to create a realistic one to begin with. And that, of course, means being honest with yourself.

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New Year's resolutions stink of procrastination.

If you need the New Year to trigger you into thinking what you'd like to achieve, then I'd suggest you don't want to achieve those goals strongly enough.

If you want something strongly enough, you would have already started working towards achieving it before the New Year starts.

If you don't want something strongly enough, there is little chance of success.

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One component I'm missing so far in the answers (Henriks' comes close):

Inform your environment; both physical and in relations.

By setting up physical reminders (like running shoes visible in the hallway; enrollment in running contests) you can't 'forget' your goals.

By telling your relations they will act as reminders, but will also hold you to account or support you: "Hey, how's the running plan going?"

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