January 2, 2018

Your Tuesday Top 5: How to Stick to Your Goals

Posted by AGU Career Center

Every Tuesday, Patricia Yaya, AGU Vice President of Human Resources & Administrative Services, sends a message to the entire AGU staff featuring five short tips for getting by in the workplace.  On the Job publishes these tips in our weekly segment, Tuesday Top 5.

The significant increase in commercials about educational opportunities, nutritional options, and exercise equipment the past two weeks is no coincidence. At the beginning of the year, advertisers hone in on our newly established and/or dusted-off New Year’s resolutions. The question for them isn’t whether we have resolutions (or other personal/professional goals), but whether they can profit from these goals.

The question you likely are asking yourself when thinking about your New Year’s resolution is how long will you can stick to your resolution this time around. The better question, though, is how can you improve the likelihood that this time will be different—how can we increase the likelihood that this time we will successfully accomplish our New Year’s resolutions?

With that in mind, here are your Tuesday Top 5 tips for how to stick to your goals:

  1. Be realistic.

Be practical and honest with yourself in setting your goals. Don’t try to change everything at once. Ask yourself if it’s something you really want to do and are willing to make room for. Then, work on developing a plan to turn that intention into action.

Also, you can use this helpful mnemonic device to ask yourself if you are S.U.R.E. about the goal or goals you have chosen:

  • Is the goal Specific?
  • Do you Understand the work that it will take to achieve it?
  • Is the goal Realistic?
  • Are you Enthusiastic about it?
  1. Start small

Build up to your ultimate goal. For example, if you are thinking of returning to school, start with a single course or semester. Take the time to figure out how to make school and studying fit into your already busy schedule. Then, by taking that one course or semester at a time (i.e., establishing a short-term goals), your long-term goal will be more manageable.

  1. Write them down.

Writing your goals down makes them real. If you only think about your goal rather than making it concrete, it becomes easier to avoid, procrastinate and/or just not bother doing.

Additionally, as part of writing them down, be specific. What is it you want to do, by when, and how will you know you’ve met the goal? For example, is writing that novel completed when the last page is done or when you post the book to Amazon?

Hint: In writing your goals, avoid the word “should”. Make goals more definitive: “I will…”

  1. Talk about your goals with others to find support.

Announce your intentions to change (e.g., to get that degree, to stop [insert bad habit here], to lose weight, and to exercise more). Telling others will make it easier to keep yourself accountable. Share your goals with your friends and family, and tell them about the milestones you reach.

Don’t forget to allow yourself to be supported. Forgive yourself for “missteps” and not sticking exactly to your plan. One of the greatest mistakes we can make is to treat behavioral changes (e.g., eating better, exercising more, and drinking less) like simple step-by-step, one-size-fits-all processes. The path to a behavior change is never a straight line. Go easy on yourself, and keep “getting back on the horse” if you fall off.

  1. Measure factors beyond your final success.

In addition to setting specific end goals, find ways to measure the steps you are taking to get there, measuring the action instead of the progress. For example, if your goal is to play the piano, track practice hours; if your goal is to lose weight, track the hours of exercise per week; if your goal is to write your autobiography, use the number of pages written a week.  Breaking your success into smaller chunks can make it easier to fell your progress.

Think it. Write it. Work for it. Track it. Achieve it!  Good luck in the New Year!

Patricia Yaya is the Vice President of Human Resources and Administrative Services at the American Geophysical Union.  Additional AGU Staff contributed to this blog.