Boost your resolutions with a concise action plan

From the pages of In Business magazine.

Happy New Year and welcome to 2015! You have the incredible opportunity to make this your best and most successful year yet! Of course, since it’s January, the big buzzword is “resolutions,” and you might think a good way to start your year off on the right foot is to create some New Year’s resolutions of your own. But before you start telling your friends and family what you plan to do (or not do) this year, let’s take a look at the top four resolutions for 2014, according to the Journal of Clinical Psychology:

1.    Lose weight
2.    Get organized
3.    Spend less, save more
4.    Enjoy life to the fullest

Some other resolutions in the top 10 included quitting smoking, helping others achieve their dreams, and falling in love. These all seem noble enough, but when you dig a little deeper into the study, you find that only 8% of respondents were successful in achieving their annual resolution, 49% said they had infrequent success, and 24% said they have never been successful in completing any resolutions.

So although I appreciate the sentiment behind New Year’s resolutions, there are clearly a few more steps you need to take in order to seriously set yourself up for success in the new year. Here are three tips for sticking to your resolutions in 2015.

Make your resolutions SMART. Instead of making a vague resolution like “spend less, save more,” turn it into a tangible goal. A SMART goal is one that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Why not make your resolution SMART too? In this format, the “spend less, save more” resolution would look more like this: “By the end of 2015, I want to have saved $10,000 more than in 2014.”

Some resolutions might be a little trickier, like “enjoy life to the fullest.” But think outside the box. What does that resolution really mean to you? Maybe you translate that to, “In 2015, I will spend at least one weekend a month with family” or “I will take at least three vacations in 2015.” This way, at the end of the year you will be able to clearly determine whether you accomplished each goal.

Have a written plan. In the beginning of the year, December seems eons away, and it’s easy to procrastinate. Or maybe you start strong in the beginning but two weeks in you’re back to your old habits. Having a written plan greatly increases your chances of staying on track and consistently making progress toward your goal.

Break the larger goal down into smaller milestones and set deadlines for each one. The “written” part seems simple, but it’s also crucial to the success of the plan. Don’t just tell yourself you want to do something — actually get it on paper. Numerous studies have shown that if you write down your goals, you’re more likely to achieve them, and a written plan amplifies your chances for success even more.

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Find an accountability partner. If you have someone you can consistently check in with, you will be more likely to take action on your plan. You want to be able to report progress and show that you are sticking to what you said you would do. Find someone who can hold you accountable and do the same for him or her. This win-win partnership will help set you both up for success in 2015!

Fast Track Action Items for January:

■ If you are an emerging leader in Madison and one of your New Year’s goals is to grow your network of peers and mentors, participate in more professional development opportunities or get more involved in the community.

■ Create a personal action plan. Break your annual goals down into smaller pieces and set deadlines. What are the action steps and milestones you need to complete along the way?

■ Set up a consistent check-in time with an accountability partner to make sure you are both taking the necessary steps to get where you want to go.
Email me at jennaatkinson1@gmail.com to let me know one of your New Year’s goals and how you are going to take that extra step to make sure you are setting yourself up to achieve it!

Jenna Atkinson is the president of CONNECT Madison, a young professionals group offering development, community engagement, and relationship-building
opportunities to local business leaders.

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