Each year, like clockwork, on January 1st millions of people take a long, hard (or maybe not-so long and hard) look at their lives and plan out their goals. I’m a list-maker and planner by nature, but I had never been into making New Year’s resolutions before I began working at Golden Software. All the statistics point to a system that is designed to fail. I heard on the radio recently that 75% of New Year’s resolutions are broken within the first 24 hours. Now, I don’t know about that, but it did get me thinking about the numbers behind New Year’s resolutions, and why the success rate was so low.
New Year’s resolutions by the numbers. These Grapher 11 graphs show the types and specific resolutions people make, what percentage of Americans make and keep their resolutions, and the percentage of resolutions that are kept over the first six months of the year. Data from http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2015/2015s-top-new-years-resolution-fitness.html and http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/ using our unique graphing software.
You may have noticed that I said I had never been into making New Year’s resolutions before I began working at Golden Software. This is an important distinction, because we at Golden Software do make resolutions, to a certain extent, and we have been successful in doing so. We call these SMART goals, and we present them to the entire group at the beginning of each year. Doing so gives us the opportunity to know what each of our coworkers is striving to accomplish, and keeps us accountable to one another. You may be wondering “What is a SMART goal?” SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Time-related. It is a modus operandi for setting goals that you can actually achieve.
- Specific – target a specific area for improvement
- Measurable – quantify (or at least suggest) an indicator of progress
- Assignable – specify who will do it
- Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources
- Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved
Keeping these in mind, if your goal is to lose 20 pounds this year, you can break that down into specific goals to eat better and exercise more. You can measure your progress by keeping food and exercise logs, and have weekly weigh-ins to see how you’re doing. Here’s an example of one of my SMART goals for 2016: Increase training video content.
- Specific – Create training videos to document both bigger, more generic topics and smaller details for each product.
- Measurable – I've got a list of topics created by the product managers that I will cross off as I go.
- Assignable – Leslie
- Realistic – I think I can write one script per week, but it would be prudent to add in a little extra time for interaction with our product managers and our video creator, so I'll aim for three videos per month.
- Time-related – At the end of each month, have three new videos uploaded.
So, if you’re one of those people who puts together New Year’s resolutions each year, or if you just want a better way to do long-term planning for work, here are my takeaways:
- Make your goals SMART. If they’re vague or too large in scope, it will be easy to break them or get too overwhelmed to even try them in the first place.
- Share your goals. If someone you’re close with knows what you’re trying to accomplish, you are accountable to them in addition to yourself, and they can help keep you motivated when you feel like giving up.
- Be flexible. If you modify your goals as circumstances change, you’ll be less likely to break them altogether.
- Go big or go home, and don’t be afraid of failure. If you aim to work out 5 times a week and only make 3 of those, that’s still better than not working out at all. If you don’t push yourself, you’ll never know what you can accomplish.