If you’ve have already regressed back into old habits since making your New Year’s resolutions, you are not alone. A study from researchers in the UK found that two-thirds of people who make New Year’s resolutions will also abandon them within a month. Not exactly the motivation you were hoping for, huh? No need to stress about it though. Just because this collective track-record isn’t stellar does not mean staying on top of goals has to feel impossible.
How to Manage Your Goals
The key for success is to create a strategic plan on the frontend with practical, realistic, attainable action steps. This will fuel your persistence and motivation to focus on goals and ultimately achieve them—no matter which obstacles might stand in your path. So on that note, here are five hacks for staying on top of the goals you’ve set for 2022.
1. Break goals down into small, manageable tasks.
It’s overwhelming to look ahead into the future and see an enormous goal with tons of moving parts that you have no idea how to accomplish. When you focus on goals in the macro sense, this can intimidate you enough to quit before you have a chance to even begin. But if you break a goal down into smaller micro pieces, it feels more accessible.
For instance, let’s assume my goal is to hike a portion of the Himalayan Mountains next year. It would be seriously daunting—not to mention, unrealistic—if I expected myself to be able to hike for several hours at a time in high elevation just a couple months from now.
Stamina is built gradually, which means I need to start with a manageable benchmark, such as doing 20 minutes of stair climber exercises each day for three weeks. Then, once I acclimate to this routine, I can move on to another incremental goal, such as to successfully complete a five-mile hiking trail with steep, difficult inclines. The same blueprint holds true for any goal, whether it’s to earn a promotion, run a marathon, or launch a business.
2. Set deadlines that you can reasonably meet.
Once you determine the incremental steps you need to take to reach your overall goal, establish a time frame for achieving each task. Deadlines are essential for staying on top of goals. When you’re on the clock, this creates a sense of urgency to dial in your focus and push towards that next milestone, instead of falling into procrastination.
Of course, it’s not constructive to heap too much stress and pressure on yourself with deadlines that feel rigid or unrealistic. But when you allocate a reasonable amount of time to accomplish those micro goals, it will be so much easier to remain on track in the long-term.
Even if you’re the kind of person who would rather just wing it, trust me on this—you need at least some clear, definitive structure in order to focus on the goals in front of you. Deadlines help you maintain a consistent schedule, so these tasks become part of your normal routine. Then before you even realize it, they’ll feel like second nature.
3. Use a mobile goal tracker to stay organized.
Speaking of routine and structure, we live in an era when our smartphones can quite literally place goal orientation at our fingertips. Let’s face it…life is busy, even chaotic at times. So if you just don’t have the mental energy to create action steps, monitor deadlines, or track progress manually, there’s (you know the expression, right?) an app for that.
A mobile goal tracker app will automate and organize those administrative tasks, so your time and effort can be spent actually doing the work to achieve your goal. With an intuitive dashboard that features built-in reminders, checklists, scheduling tools, and weekly scorecards, this goal tracker app is sure to become your secret motivational weapon.
Staying on top of goals does require logistical savviness, but there’s no need to worry about all the meticulous organization details when technology has it covered. We only have 24 hours in a day—might I advise we all use this time to work smarter, not harder.
4. Enlist an accountability partner to check in.
No matter how driven you are or how strategic your plan is, sometimes an extra boost of accountability is in order. When you inform a trusted relative, partner, friend, coworker, or even therapist of your main goals for 2022, it will suddenly feel instinctive to meet the challenge and show that you’re capable. Human nature refuses to fall short or disappoint.
When looking for an accountability person, there’s some basic criteria to keep in mind. Choose someone whose opinion you value, who will consistently check on your progress, and who can be counted on to offer both encouragement and honest feedback.
The impulse and ambition to focus on goals becomes a more urgent priority when someone else holds you accountable. There’s no room for excuses or justifications—I guarantee the other person does not care about your list of reasons. Their concern is whether you’re taking the actions you committed to when you shared this goal with them in the first place.
5. Reward yourself for each milestone you hit.
Your brain is wired to react positively to both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. It’s just basic neuroscience—when you reach a milestone or perform a task the brain knows is right, it will release a surge of dopamine (a.k.a. the pleasure chemical). This dopamine hit then notifies the brain to continually reinforce the positive behavior until it becomes a habit.
Moreover, you can hack the brain’s own reward system each time you celebrate those individual milestones on the path to your ultimate goal. When there’s a specific reward on the horizon, this tells the brain to summon all of its motivation in order to claim the prize.
As for the actual reward, it can be anything that excites and incentivizes you—from takeout at your favorite restaurant, to an hour on the massage table, to a weekend Netflix binge in your pajamas. The idea is to give yourself a treat to look forward to. We all need to dangle a shiny carrot in front of our own faces occasionally. The internal pride that comes from knowing you earned the fruits of your success doesn’t hurt either.
Staying on top of your goals is simple when you plan ahead.
Submit the job application. Enroll in the Russian language course. Save for the dream vacation. Take the acoustic guitar lessons. Build the non-profit foundation. Train for the New York City marathon. Write the memoir. Launch the podcast. Staying on top of goals is easier than you think—with some strategy and elbow grease, you will be unstoppable.