New Year resolutions almost seem mandatory nowadays, but who says you should only set goals on the first of every year? Starting today—and all throughout 2016—make a resolution you can achieve in a few days, weeks or months. You'll feel much more productive (not to mention you'll actually remember them).
Health and wellness expert Deepika Chopra, PsyD, who contributes to UCLA’s Healthy Campus Initiative, calls these goals “soon-term goals.” “For some reason, it is easier for me to remember that these are things I am trying to accomplish in the very near future, within a few hours or days or weeks,” she says. Chopra shares how you can turn your bucket list of lingering soon-term goals into satisfying successes.
Put your goals through the “SMART strainer.” Write down all the goals taking up valuable space in your head, Chopra suggests. Then, instead of focusing on every single goal, concentrate on just a few. “Having too many goals can be overwhelming, and can actually cause mental paralysis where we actually end up unable to do anything at all,” she explains. To narrow down your goals, Chopra recommends choosing no more than three goals, then determining if they fulfill the following criteria:
- Specific: Your goal should be clear, and as well defined and specific as possible. Vague goals are very difficult to work with.
- Measurable: There must be a clear way to tell when you have actually achieved your goal, or where you are on the continuum of achieving it.
- Attainable or Achievable: You must be able to sincerely believe your goal is achievable.
- Relevant: Your goal should be clearly consistent with your values and lead you closer to your big-picture desires and whom you strive to be.
- Time-bound: Your goal should be bound to a specific time frame in which you can be held accountable.
After filtering my goals with the above “SMART strainer,” I mention to Chopra that two of my personal soon-term goals are to organize my house and adopt a running regimen. The thing is, setting the goal of running 10 minutes twice a week is way easier than actually running 10 minutes twice a week. How can I turn that goal into a reality?
Set your intention for each soon-term goal. For my goal of establishing a running routine, my intention is to create a flexible, consistent and easily accessible exercise regimen that I can do anywhere, anytime. I’ve become too reliant on fitness classes that I have to drive to and I find myself skipping workouts when the timing isn’t perfect. With my erratic schedule, wouldn’t it make more sense to go outside and pound the pavement whenever I have some free time? Setting the intention makes a goal feasible so you can create a plan around it.
Let’s get technological. Chopra says that using smart devices to accomplish your goals can be, well, smart. “Technology and smart devices are not going anywhere, so instead of fighting them, I believe in intelligently using those smart devices for our own psychological benefit.” Chopra encourages using alarms and programming your soon-term goals into calendars, noting that she connects her Jawbone to help ensure she takes 10,000 steps every day. “I was not only reminded to work on my goal, but since it was a clear and measurable goal, once I achieved it, I was [also] able to celebrate and reward myself with a sense of mastery that I did indeed achieve what I was intending to,” she says.
Create a list of manageable tasks that move you toward accomplishing your goals. If we don’t have active steps we can take to accomplish our goals, our goals will remain just that... goals. For my goal of organization, Chopra suggests I come up with three ways to increase organization, and then make a specific plan. For example, this week on Monday and Wednesday mornings, I will set the alarm on my iPhone and spend 10 minutes clearing up my email inbox and cleaning off my work desk. “Now you have something to be accountable for and have a sort of check and balance,” says Chopra.
Become fluent in goal language. Instead of saying, “I don’t want to be a slow runner!” (which I may have said this morning), Chopra recommends setting your goals with positive language. This is especially true when it comes to goals that involve breaking a habit. “Instead of saying, ‘I want to quit smoking,’ you must word your goal as ‘I want to have healthy lungs,’” she explains.
Find fun ways to keep yourself motivated. My personal motto is “If it’s not something I look forward to, I’m not going to do it.” So to get me excited about running—or at least as excited as I can be—I made a series of playlists that get me motivated and revved up to run. To give me something to look forward to in terms of my soon-to-be organized life, I started pinning images of my dream office space on Pinterest. Then, I bought a few inexpensive desk accessories and put them on my current desk to remind me that my soon-term goals are in the process of being accomplished.
Soon-term goals are just that: goals that you can accomplish soon. All you need to do is define them, set your intentions (and your iPhone alarm), create a list of tasks, get your goal language on and find fun ways to keep you going. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion we’re all going to feel mighty accomplished in the very, very near future.