How to write meaningful New Year Resolutions

We’re slowly moving towards the New Year, and with the holiday season almost upon us, time for reflection and reevaluating becomes a hot topic for many of us. And for good reason. Thinking through what you want to achieve next year and noting down your commitments is a great way to challenge yourself. But let’s be honest; how many of us dedicate the proper time to write meaningful objectives?

Often I see sentences looking something along the following lines;

Next year:

  • I am going to build a business. 
  • I am going to dedicate more time to my family. 
  • etc.

While these are wonderful ideas with the best intentions, I find them too vague. It’s hard to execute on something when you only have a rough idea.

What business? 

What do you define as a business? 

If I sold 20 fruit baskets and donated money to the artists, is it a business or not? 

What is more time with family means? 10 minutes extra each day?

Writing meaningful New Year’s resolutions shouldn’t be a quick exercise. Dedicate your time to do it properly.

Developing great New Year’s resolutions requires time and dedication. But you can be certain that if you do dedicate this time, chances of obtaining your desired results will be considerably higher. If this sounds interesting to you, read the steps I laid out below. I assure you that instead of your New Year’s resolutions ending up as long forgotten note stuffed somewhere in your Dropbox or Google Drive, you will book the progress that you are seeking.

First, define your long term objective aka purpose

As Simon Sinek defined with his golden circle concept, everything should start with WHY. This is what differentiates great from average. You cannot simply write down New Year’s resolutions without having a clear idea of your long term vision (purpose) which is beyond the one year horizon. 

It’s true that the world is moving fast, so sometimes it’s hard to set long-term objectives. Nevertheless, we need to have at least a rough idea of what we are aiming for in our life at least three years from now. If not, you are just wandering around and can be easily thrown to any side the wind blows that day.

If you are struggling with your purpose definition, please read my previous blog post which can serve as a guide on how to answer this million dollar question.

Second, define your measurable annual objectives aka New Year’s Resolutions

Once your purpose is clear, now you can start defining your annual objectives – what type of breakthroughs do you want to achieve next year that supports your long term vision?

New Year’s resolutions aren’t about the things you are anyway going to do. Aim high!

Annual objectives are not the things which you are anyway going to do. Try to think of something where you will need to stretch yourself. In this case focus on the quality and not quantity. Three objectives is the optimal number, but if you really want more, I would go for a maximum of five. Otherwise it will be hard to keep focus.

As the famous management guru Peter Drucker wrote “What gets measured, gets managed.” Therefore define measurable objectives, so that you don’t need to be subjective at the end of the year when it is time to evaluate whether you achieved it or not. It’s good to use SMART criteria.

Then, define your annual priorities – the HOW? 

This is the hardest, yet probably the most important step. Setting up objectives derived from your purpose is relatively easy, but knowing how to achieve it, is another ball game. This is usually where a lot of us fail. Not because our strategy was badly defined, but due to poor execution.

Clearly defining your annual priorities – the HOW behind the annual objectives – serves as a guidance of what needs to be executed during the year. This is your key in achieving your New Year’s Resolutions. But getting this key will require to engage yourself in a small problem solving session.

Look to your objectives and try to understand WHY you could not achieve them before. What was holding you back? Once you know these answers, you will automatically be lead to ideas for your priorities. Be careful not to note down too many of them, as it shouldn’t be a long action list. Focus on a couple of them per objective, especially the ones which create the biggest impact. Applying the Pareto principle might be very helpful here. 

Defining annual priorities will require you to do problem solving. Otherwise you cannot be sure if it helps to achieve your objectives.

A little, yet important tip; don’t mix up annual objectives with priorities. They are different! Annual objectives are about your aspirations, whereas annual priorities are the ways how you will achieve it. For example, if your objective is to build a social enterprise business which sells handcrafts from Kenya with a yearly revenue of 10K $, then the annual priorities would be:

  • Set-up an online marketplace which connects sellers from developing countries with customers in Germany.
  • Create a process to select the best vendors based on our customer needs. 

Last but not least, review your progress regularly

Measuring the success of your annual objectives will be straight forward after you have defined it using SMART criteria, but most likely you will do it only at the end of the year. Therefore, it’s good to define performance measures for your annual priorities, enabling you to track your progress throughout the year. You want to know how you are trending towards achieving your objectives.

Most important however is that you don’t forget about your plan. Review it regularly, reward yourself for each small success and celebrate big when you finish the most impactful milestones. To make your life easier in preparing the New Year’s Resolutions, I have developed a free template which you can easily customize to your needs. You can instantly download it by leaving your name and email address below.

I wish you the best of luck in setting meaningful New Year’s Resolutions and do let me know how it goes!

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