Welcome to 2015, a new year full of wonderful potential!

I love that each January people everywhere look introspectively to reflect on changes and improvements they can make in their lives. I believe that each of us can make a new beginning or have a new birth and lay aside old habits and mistakes whenever we want, and the new year is the best time to focus on this.

However, I have found that the standard New Year’s Resolution doesn’t work. I believe this is in part because the term ‘New Year’s’ is most commonly associated with New Year’s Eve, which is a specific event on January 1st. As such, the term New Year’s Resolution also sounds like something you do in January, not something you should still be working on in July. So I prefer to set Annual Goals instead of New Year’s Resolutions.

In fact, I am a huge fan of setting annual goals. I have been setting annual goals for more than a decade and during this time I have learned a few tricks to make these goals successful and meaningful.

1) Set SMART Annual Goals

Most people already know the SMART goals acronym (except for the ‘A’ and ‘R’ because everyone always get confused on these. Is it ‘achievable’ or ‘attainable?’ And isn’t that redundant with ‘realistic’ or is the ‘R’ for something else?).  Setting SMART goals the first step, but I have found that if I just set some SMART goals alone, they won’t motivate me to action for a full year.

2)  Record your Annual Goals

After I nail down my Annual Goals, I write them by hand in a long-term journal I keep for this purpose. I then have officially set them and know what they are. By writing them by hand in ink they seem official and locked in, not subject to change.

3) Review them Weekly

I set aside time once a week to review my goals for 5-10 minutes. I read through them again and review how well I am accomplishing them. I do this Sunday afternoon, as it is the least busy time in my schedule. In order to get the goals ingrained in my psyche, I actually re-write them by hand each week when I review them.

4) Track them Daily

I track each of my annual goals every day and either rate myself with a binary Yes/No or a on a numerical scale as to whether or not I worked on and achieved the goal for the day. I keep record of this every day and at the end of the year am able to refer back to the start of the year to see my improvement.

5) Don’t Stress It

A year is a long time. There are goals I set that I don’t work on for months at a time. Some goals I never achieve because life changes and other goals become more important or time critical. I have learned that we shouldn’t stress it. If every day we do the things that are best for that day and do them well, and we do them with the long-term focus around our Annual Goals, then we will meet most of our annual goals and see great improvement in our lives year after year.