I love setting goals. Why? Because I love achieving my goals! It gives you a sense of accomplishment and keeps you focused on your mission.
Whether that focus is on your career, your business or your investments, setting and measuring goals is vital.
Goal setting also keeps you motivated and encourages you to overcome barriers and learn new things.
Have you thought about the goals you want to hit in 2023? I have, and around this time of year many others are probably thinking about new year’s resolutions too.
Unfortunately, however, many people will never follow through on their new year’s resolutions. Maybe they get to March and work gets in the way or the goals they’ve set turn out to be harder to achieve than expected.
Or maybe when it gets to February, it’s cold and watching TV all evening under a blanket seems more appealing. I understand the temptation, which is why you must make achieving your goals even more appealing.
In fact, only 8% of people ever achieve their New Year goals. And 20% of people don’t stick to their New Year resolutions beyond the first week of January!
So why do so many people find it hard to achieve their new year resolutions? Well, life often has a habit of getting in the way.
But for many people it’s how and why they set their new year goals that stops them from achieving them.
It’s the season for new year’s resolutions as 2023 approaches but the current year, for many people, has been a highly unusual one.
With the effects of a global pandemic and a rapid change in the way in which many people work, it’s no surprise that a lot of people may not have achieved what they wanted to in 2022.
In my view, goal setting is a positive exercise. Deciding on your new year’s resolutions and making a plan on how you’ll achieve them can set you up for success in the new year.
So, with that positivity in mind, I’m writing this to share how I set my goals and how I make sure I stick to them throughout the year. This applies just as much to new year’s resolutions too.
What should my goals be about?
When setting your goals, it’s important to take some time to think about your mission. What I mean by this is your overall desire of where you want to get to. Think of this as your main goal for the year ahead – the bigger picture.
To begin generating ideas for your 2023 goals you can come up with bold statements, big or small, that help define where you want to be.
It can even be something as seemingly vague as “my 2023 goal is to do something new”. What that new thing is then depends on your priorities and interests.
Is it to start a new business to increase your income? Is it to learn a new skill that you can monetise? Here are some 2021 goal ideas to begin with:
- Get ahead in your career
- Pay off debt
- Get fitter and stronger
- Lose weight
- Learn a new language
- Create a new income stream
- Develop better routines
- Spend less time watching TV
- Grow your wealth
- Learn more about finance
You don’t have to have just one goal, but it helps to have an overall mission that you’re on. You can then have many goals that stem from it.
At this stage it’s good to brainstorm some high-level ideas. Writing down your goal ideas will really help to focus your mind on the goals that are most important to you.
If your goal is to learn more, you may want to start with learning more about money and the financial system! If so, check out these articles:
Setting your goals for 2023
Once you have a clearer idea of what’s important to you and your priorities it’s time to set your goals.
Goal setting is about translating a goal idea into something that’s SMART:
- Specific: is your goal too broad? Is it clear exactly what you’re trying to achieve? Why is that goal your new year resolution? Narrowing it down is key
- Measurable: your goal needs to be able to be tracked, ideally based on a metric. How will you know when your new year resolution is achieved?
- Attainable: you must be able to actually achieve your goal. Think carefully about whether it’s feasible. It also shouldn’t be too easy to achieve!
- Time-oriented: there must be a clear timeframe in which you will try to achieve your goal.
I’m going to go through an example of how I set one of my new year resolutions for 2023 using the SMART framework.
To decide on my goals, I started with thinking about my current desires and interests. Clearly, one of my major interests is finance and achieving financial independence.
So, I started with a broader, bigger picture goal: to make more money. But what does this really mean?
Well, I break down money between income and net assets (you can tell I’m an accountant!). Or you can think of this as your income and your wealth – they are two different, but related, things.
By breaking down what money is, my goal immediately becomes more specific. It involves increasing both my income and my net assets.
Both income and assets are easily measured. This means I can set specific metrics to track my progress in pounds sterling.
I also need to make sure my goals are attainable. Deciding I want to make £10m in cash by April 2023 may be specific, measurable and time-based but it’s not necessarily achievable!
Not only does it need to be achievable, but my goals need to be realistic and relevant. This can be similar in nature to making a goal attainable.
Making a goal realistic means you need to ask yourself that, given your available time and resources, is it realistically achievable? And is it relevant to what you’re trying to achieve?
To make sure these goals are achieved they must be time-oriented. Attaching a timeline to your goals will give you a sense of urgency and therefore motivation to achieve them. Without setting a target date for a goal it could become quite easy to simply keep putting it off.
Bringing this all together then, here’s how I set my SMART goals for 2023 for my desire to “make more money”:
- Achieve £1,000 per month in additional income by June 2023
- Grow my net assets by 20% by the end of 2023
Focusing on the first of these, making £1,000 of additional income is a realistic and achievable goal for my current situation and is also clearly measurable (in pounds). Whether a goal is realistic or not will depend on your own situation.
It’s also a time-based goal for 2023 which will keep me motivated. I can then review it again in June next year.
Finally, it’s specific. It has been narrowed down from a broad 2023 goal of “making more money” to a specific type and means of doing so.
Breaking down your resolutions into smaller sub-goals
After writing down my SMART goals I start to think about how I’ll set about achieving them.
To do so, my goals for the new year are then further broken down. This helps to turn them into manageable chunks that can be achieved consistently as the new year goes on.
For example, with my additional income goal I have specific monthly targets for 2023 that increase throughout the year. E.g., January: £150 in additional income, February £350 in additional income, and so on.
This gives me 6 smaller goals to achieve which allows me to track them by month. Achieving these smaller goals throughout the year will lead up to finally achieving £1,000 a month in additional income by June 2023.
The way in which I will achieve these income goals is also further broken down by, for example by income source:
- Side hustles
Each of these also have their own specific goals. This may seem like a lot of detail but breaking down your goals like this will help to achieve them.
You’ll also got a strong sense of personal satisfaction as you achieve each sub-goal. This builds over time as achieving your main goal becomes within sight.
Commit to your goals – how to stay on top of them
Once you’ve set your goals and broken them down into sub-goals if necessary, it’s time to think about how to make sure you’re committed to them.
As we saw at the beginning of this post, a huge number don’t achieve their goals for various reasons. It may be that they feel overwhelming, or an early setback may hit your confidence.
Whatever the case may be, taking action is important to staying committed. It may sound obvious but writing your goals down is a crucial step, if you haven’t already done so.
This will make your goals feel more real. Once you’ve written them down, you’ll also be making sure they stick in your memory.
Writing your resolutions or goals down doesn’t necessarily mean using pen and paper. My love of spreadsheets will become obvious to regular readers but they are a key part in helping me achieve my goals.
Using a spreadsheet is very effective for many things. I use them for investing, trading, budgeting, and financial decision making as well for goals and planning.
They’re flexible in layout and format, easy to update, allow you to present things clearly and give you so many options to view and track things.
Another great way of staying committed to your goals is to talk about them. Tell your friends and family what your new year’s resolutions. You may find that the support and encouragement they give you to be extra motivation for achieving your goals.
You could also consider keeping a diary or a blog, much like this one, to commit to your goals and track your progress over time.
Tracking your success
Keeping track of your goals over time is crucial. I talked about the SMART framework above but sometimes you may not realise how easy or not to achieve a goal may be.
This is why regularly measuring your progress and checking it against your goals is a good idea. It’s a great feeling when it comes to the end of a month and you compare your objectives to what you wanted to achieve and realise you smashed it.
Success is often a consistent series of small wins. Over time these build up to very big wins. Investing and compounding is a good example of this, but it applies to so many other areas too.
For example, if your 2023 new year’s resolution is to lose 6kg in weight it’s a lot easier to break this down into a smaller goal of losing 0.5kg per month.
You can then track this month by month (in a spreadsheet!). Each time you achieve the monthly goal your motivation will build along with your sense of personal satisfaction.
In sports and business, this is similar to the aggregation of marginal gains which is such a powerful success factor.
When tracking your goals, you also might find that some are harder or easier to achieve than expected. You can then tweak them as you need to make them more realistic.
Embed your goals into your routines
One of the most effective methods of sticking to your goals is to make them a part of your existing routines.
Integrating them into things you already do all the time makes achieving your goals that bit easier. It’s also efficient as it could mean you’re hitting your goals while also getting other things done.
Every Sunday evening I’ve made it a routine to check my longer-term investments in my investments spreadsheet. I make sure all of my relevant wealth goals are built in to this spreadsheet so that I can easily track them over time.
Think carefully about any of the habits or routines you have where you could work in some goals.
Here are some ideas for working goals into your routines:
- If you use reminders on your phone already, add specific reminders for your goals
- Put up post-it notes where you spent a lot of time during the week, for example in front of a laptop
- If it’s exercise related, can you make a regular walk slightly longer than your usual route? Can you run instead?
Think about including your friends or family into your routines too. If you have a sports or exercise related routine, can you find a gym buddy? Or can you organise a running group?
Eventually you may turn achieving your goals into routines themselves. Once success becomes a habit, you’ll be well on your way to smashing your goals.
Achieving your objectives
Finally, remember to reward yourself. Achieving a goal may be a reward in itself, such as getting healthier or wealthier. But along the way, it’s important to reward yourself as you progress.
Don’t be surprised if you have moments of doubt. Sometimes things will simply be outside of your control and you have to accept that.
Adjust your goals or your routines if that happens and don’t be too hard on yourself. If you make it past the first week of January you’ve already achieved more than most people who make new year resolutions!
And remember to have fun! You’ve set your goals for a reason but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with them.
What are your goals for 2023? How will you achieve them?