Wait, New Year’s Resolutions now? It’s a month and a half into the new year. That’s an eighth of the year already in the books. If I still wrote paper checks, I’d still be putting 2020 as the date. Stick with me on this one.
New Year’s Resolutions are always optional, but if it’s possible, they’re more optional in 2021. Many people have legitimate goals of “keep breathing.” There’s nothing wrong with that.
However, if you made New Year’s Resolutions, this may be a good time to renew them and give them a second look. I did well focusing on losing weight for the first two or three weeks, but then I got busy and started to lose focus. Since there’s nothing magical about New Year’s, I can use this checkpoint in the year to start again.
Without those check-ins, the whole year would slip away and I wouldn’t make much progress on my goals. Last year, I didn’t get very far. Doing distance learning tripped me up and I never recovered – even after the kids went to summer camp and school.
I’ve been thinking about how to stop that from happening this year, and I’ve got three ideas:
- Make my goals visual – My goals usually live as digital bits in my computer – often in a spreadsheet. I have a lot of these spreadsheet bits. I also have email bits, document bits, well, you know all the digital bits – you have them too. However, by printing them out and putting them in a prominent place, I’ll see them. I have a goal to make a vision or dream board of goals. (My spreadsheet digital bits would be upset at me for that circular reference.)
- Making goal progress a habit – I need to put time aside every day to move forward with something. Otherwise, I’ll just continue to stuck in the loop of laundry, dishes, cooking, cleaning, social media scrolling, and news reading.
- Making SMART goals – (This is what I’m writing about today.)
[This article was originally written in 2009 and last updated in 2014 – days after my 7-year-old was born. Now that I’m not spending time wiping baby butts, I’m able to refresh it for 2021. I’m leaving all the Office Space references in here.]
Many of you have heard about SMART goals in the past. It’s common in the realm of project management. SMART is simply a mnemonic device to help you remember the steps necessary to achieve your goals. Though some of the specific terms are debated (more on that later), one popular interpretation is that stands for:
- Specific – What is the goal that I want to accomplish? Do I want to get my TPS reports submitted with cover sheets? Do I want to get that
T.G.I. Friday’sChotchkie’s waitress to go out with me? Or do you want to just want to get your red stapler back? (Note: Those goals won’t make sense unless you’ve seen Office Space)
- Measurable – How do I measure the goal? Am I successful if I submit my TPS reports with cover sheets 80% of the time? Sounds like a good start. Having I gotten to know what the Chotchkie’s waitress likes? Am I successful if I find that she likes kung-fu? Yep.
- Attainable – Is my goal reasonable? If my goal is to learn to fly by flapping my arms, I need to go back to the drawing board. In this case, it is possible to achieve the TPS report/coversheet goal. It may not be possible to find Jennifer Aniston working at Chotchkie’s… and I’m not sure how acceptable it is to try to pick-up a waiter or waitress just trying to do their job. And with COVID, restaurants, and dating have been pushed down the “attainable” list. (So many things have changed since Office Space came out.)
- Relevant – Does the goal matter to you and your life? Do you really care about achieving the 80% TPS report/coversheet goal? No, you don’t. Does getting a date with Chotchkie’s waitress matter? I think most of the men I know would say that it’s something worth caring about. (Well, most of the men I know now are married, so that would be a big problem.)
- Time-bound – When do expect to reach this goal? Maybe you want to start out with getting your TPS Reports up to par for just a month… then raise it to a fiscal quarter… then go for the full year… Maybe you want to find out three things that the Chotchkie’s waitress likes in the next week. Maybe you set a firm plan that you’ll ask her out in two weeks.
I mentioned earlier that there are some variations to SMART goals. Some use Appropriate and Realistic instead of Attainable and Relevant. If you think about it, “appropriate” is similar enough to “relevant”, and “realistic” is similar enough to “attainable” that it doesn’t really matter. As long as you cover the main five concepts you are ready to tackle any goal… or are you?
I’ve noticed some people are getting a little clever with SMART Goals and trying to make them even SMARTER Goals. They do this by adding a couple more steps such as
- Exciting – Your goals should exciting you. I think this is captured in “Relevant” step mentioned above. This could be debated, but in the example above, I think it’s safe to say that Peter should be excited about the idea of taking Jennifer Aniston’s character on a date.
- Recorded – You should record your progress at set intervals. I like this one. It’s a little like Measurable, but reminds you to go back and look at how you are doing.
Another variation is:
- Evaluate – Same concept as the recorded above – evaluate your goal progress on an on-going basis.
- Re-do – After evaluating your goal’s progress, go back and adjust your goal accordingly. Now that you know some things that the waitress likes, ask her to come over and watch the Kung-Fu marathon on channel 39.
I’m not going to revise the acronym again. Instead, I’d like to add a few more important tips for achieving your goals that I believe get lost in all the steps above:
- Assess Where You Start – Before you create a goal, you should assess where you stand currently. It will help you with various steps in the process. Maya Angelou once said, “If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going.”
- Break them Down – You may need to break big goals into smaller ones. Some goals may seem to break the “Attainable” guideline, but in smaller chunks, it becomes easier. Paying off $100,000 of debt in a year may not be attainable for most people, but for some people paying off $20,000 may be possible.
- Get Some Motivating Help – How do I keep up with my goals? Here are some things that I’ve found helpful:
- StickK to Your Goals – This website can help make you accountable for not achieving your goals.
- Buddy System – If your goal is to go to the gym, get a buddy to hold yourself accountable. On days when you don’t feel like going, you will be less likely to give up because you don’t want to let your buddy down. I’ve personally been struggling to find an accountability group for my blogging goals. There are a lot of bloggers who decided to sell entrance into their group, but that doesn’t sit well with me.
- Reminders – It can be easy to forget your goals. Hopefully my dream board will help. I may also set up regular reminders on Google Calendar.
When I put together my goals article for 2021, I was too busy to make my goals SMART, SMARTER, or SMARTEST. One kid had a cold, so we had to get tested and miss school while we waited for the results. My plan (dare I say goal?) for the next week is to revisit those goals and make them SMART.
Finally, if you take just one thing away from this article, I hope it’s this: “Lazy Man has seen Office Space far too many times.”
This is a great method for planning goals that you can actually keep. And I like your Office Space goals :D
Great minds think alike!
Goal Hunter says
I’m just putting together another good motivational resource at http://www.goalhunter.com to set up group challenges. It fulfills your buddy system point with public accountability and measures, along with coaching.
It’s Alpha right now but it’s up. Give me any comments you have!
I see this is your first “Jennifer Aniston” related content :)
Goal Hunter says
Not sure what financial goal I should go for. Since the catastrophe I’ve been going with the flow on that side. Last year I had the goal of earning more from side endeavours than my paycheck. I was at 60% of my paycheck by Sept but that dropped like a stone due to market losses.
I suppose I might like to try that goal again, but in some sense it almost seems too easy as I expect to recoup most of the losses this year as the market stabilizes and I crystalize profit opportunities.
I’m on a “Lose a Pound A Week Challenge” as my current goal out of the gates. I have a few more challenging goals by year end including a Qualifying for the Boston Marathon, which is very scary as I tried and failed that one last year.
Miss M says
I’m not so bad with New Year’s resolutions but I’m really struggling to set work goals right now. I have my annual review on Monday and I need to get their stupid worksheet filled out this weekend with my goals. This will hopefully help.
But what about flair?????? :)
David Wilson says
Very good advice. A lot of people still don’t realize that by making small, simple changes in their habits, it will affect their financial status in the end.
A word of advice regarding bulk purchases though. There are times where bulk purchases are not always cheaper, so price comparisons need to be done.
Good ol’ SMART goals … always good to get a refresher on those.
Shaina Western says
I love your blog and the advice. Too often we get caught up in so many ventures we dont focus on the most important ones. Your advice has reminded me to keep that in check.
As a single mother of 7 children (only 2 teenagers left at home) I have put my goals and dreams to the way side.
Two years ago I lost my job teaching ESL. I have had a drastic life change and am trying to get backon track,searching to find information on writing, publishing some of my stories and my personal ideas. After all, raising seven children primarly alone was a challange in its self, yet I have some how made it through, not unscaved…yet with ideas and information that might help another single parent through the rough spots.
I have thought of starting a blog, taking more writing classes and getting a ghost writer. Any ideas on where to begin…
Lazy Man says
A few years back, I’ve written about some good resources on starting a blog: http://www.lazymanandmoney.com/advice-for-new-personal-finance-bloggers/. I’m betting at least 95% of that information is still relevant though blogging has changed quite a bit.
As for making some money as a ghostwriter… there’s a website TextBroker.com that you can sign up for and make some money. I’ve found that nothing substitutes for practice when it comes to writing. That’s a place to get some while getting paid.
Perfecting Parenthood says
Shaina: Can you drop me a note via contact form at http://www.perfectingparenthood.com? I’ve been thinking the same thing (only 4 kids, not 7). Maybe we can talk.
Michelle @fitisthenewpoor says
The exciting part is big for me. If I’m not excited, I wont remember it in times of frustration or temptation!
Congratulations on the addition to your family! Did he make it before the end of 2013 for the tax deduction? Given your blog I surely hope he did, it would not have been good planning on your part if you missed it by days. LOL
Lazy Man says
No, we missed the tax deduction for 2013. I’m looking at the bright side… we’ll get that tax deduction in 18 years (I think).