New Year’s Resolutions Suck How About Setting Goals and Measuring Them?

Goal Setting


in General

Alright that’s a harsh statement but looking back on your previous “resolutions” how many of those would you say that you actually obtained? How do you know? That’s the problem a New Year’s resolution is typically something to the effect of “I’m going to lose weight in 2010” or maybe “I’m going to pay off debt in 2010!” You added the exclamation mark so everyone knows you are serious. Don’t get me wrong I’m all for setting a target and working towards it but the stuff of New Year’s resolutions more often than not are mere sentiments rather than marching orders. I want to look at my chart, or spreadsheet and know that I’m killing it. Yeah you bet I’m paying down debt and I only have $5635 to go! Being the task oriented person I am I require more and maybe this is you too.

Goal Mechanisms

I’m not going into a drawn out discussion of different goal mechanisms because I think in the end it depends on the type of person that you are but there certainly are characteristics of a goal which make it more meaningful and hence useful. Many use the idea of a SMART goal. SMART is a mnemonic for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. At my day job we set yearly commitments using SMART goals and we are measured against them. You can choose the components that work for you and for me that means that my goal needs to be Specific with an action plan and that I can Measure how I’m doing against that goal. Without some form of instrumentation for your goals it’s like you’re flying blind. “Pull up Cougar you’re too low!”

Goal Examples

So I’ll give you a couple of goals I’ve set for myself for 2010. These are specifically related to my personal finances.

  • GOAL: Pay off remaining car loan to be debt free by January 31st 2010. EXECUTION PLAN: Tighten budget for January, sell various items on Craigslist and eBay. Sell motorcycle. SUCCESS CRITERIA: Will have saved $8537 for final car payment.
  • GOAL: Build 6 Months Emergency Fund by September 2010. EXECUTION PLAN: Continue monthly budgeting of $XXXX dollars a month to online savings account. SUCCESS CRITERIA: Ally Bank savings balance will be $YYYYY by the end of September
  • GOAL: Fund a Coverdell Education Savings Account for each boy by the end of 2010. EXECUTION PLAN: Save $4000 once emergency fund is complete by utilizing stock awards and budgeting monthly. SUCCESS CRITERIA: $2000 for each boy will be invested in their Coverdell’s.
  • GOAL: Contribute 10% of my income to my Roth 401k by the end of 2010. EXECUTION PLAN: Once the emergency fund is fully funded begin contributing again to my Roth 401k. SUCCESS CRITERIA: Bi-weekly contributions will be pulled from my paycheck.
  • GOAL: Travel to Australia in 2010. EXECUTION PLAN: Once all financial goals are achieved begin saving for our family Australian Vacation. SUCCESS CRITERIA: Arrival in Melbourne!

Those are my goals for the year as it relates to my finances anyways. How about you, what are you working towards in 2010? Do you have a favorite mechanism for setting goals? I’d love to hear them.

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Paul Williams 2009/12/31 at 9:34 am

I’m with you on this one, Paul. I kind of feel like New Year’s resolutions are useless since most people never keep them. You’ve given some great guidelines for setting goals at any time of the year.

But I guess it doesn’t matter if you call them resolutions or goals. They have to fit the SMART criteria, and you have to keep reviewing them. If you don’t, you won’t meet your goals.
.-= Paul Williams´s last blog ..Not for Itching Ears =-.

paul 2009/12/31 at 11:05 am

So true Paul. I can’t mention how many to do lists I have laying around. You can’t write and forget.

FinanceDad 2009/12/31 at 10:48 am

We use SMART at work as well. It’s a great approach and works well for me and the employees I manage. It leaves little wiggle room for excuses.
.-= FinanceDad´s last blog ..Things that you shouldn’t buy cheap =-.

Bob Horn 2009/12/31 at 11:56 am

Nice post, Paul. And great goals! I’m inspired to write my specifics for 2010 a little more clearly now. Years ago I learned that a GOAL is a DREAM with a DEADLINE. As you know, about six years ago I set a goal (with a specific deadline) to bicycle across the United States. This past summer, I did just that. Now I’ve set a new goal for 2010 to run my first marathon. Neither happens without a plan. Too many people enter the year with a WISH. Write out an action plan to attain that goal, then as @paulwilliams wrote, keep that plan in front of you until you’ve accomplished it!

Here’s to a blessed 2010!
.-= Bob Horn´s last blog ..The Ride for Impact Recap =-.

Justin Mckeown 2009/12/31 at 2:04 pm

Great list – sounds like 2010 has the potential to big a big year. While I’m
not sure about the arbitary timelines that go along with most New Year Resolutions (if you want to change something why wait until Jan 1st to start…) I’ll be very much looking forward to hearing about your progress down the list. Happy New Year!

Rhonda Yates-Rogers 2009/12/31 at 6:15 pm

Great post! I decided last year that “resolutions” don’t work for me. I need goals. I also love your fifth goal! My husband and I are hoping to finally take our vacation to New Zealand next Christmas. I hope you do make it to Oz in ’10.

LeanLifeCoach 2010/01/01 at 5:42 pm

Great job on setting specific goals. I have no doubt that you will achieve them. Make sure you keep us up to date on how it’s going.

Plus, now that you have made page 1 on the Wisebread 100 you are free to concentrate on these! Congratulations!
.-= LeanLifeCoach´s last blog ..2010 A New Year and A New Plan =-.

paul 2010/01/03 at 10:00 pm

Thanks so much for your kind words, I’ll definitely keep you all posted on how we’re doing. Got to measure!

Ryan @ Planting Dollars 2010/01/06 at 8:19 pm

I agree with you… new years resolutions suck! Why is January a more important month to start on your goals than say… October?

Kind of like eating an elephant goals are easier in biteable chunks that can be done weekly or daily even. Writing them as if you’re going to do them no matter what or that you’re already succeeding towards them helps as every time you read them its in a positive, affirming way. Writing I will or I am, helps me rather than saying I hope or I think I should.

How did you end up choosing Australia? And what would you like to do when you’re in Melbourne? Fun city by the way!

My goals for 2010 are posted on my blog via this link…
.-= Ryan @ Planting Dollars´s last blog ..How to Win Through Quitting =-.

paul 2010/01/06 at 9:48 pm

Because our good friends moved back to Melbourne last year (Justin who posted above). They have a swank house that we are going to crash :-). Also have wanted to go to Australia for quite some time.

Dan 2010/01/24 at 5:59 am

If you’d like a tool for setting your goals, you can use this web application:

You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
A Vision Wall (inspiring images attached to yor goals) is available too.
Works also on mobile.

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