About half of us make New Year's resolutions, according to an article produced by Statistic Brain. And only about 8 percent of those who make a resolution stick to it.

In other words, most of us want to improve in 2015, and many of us have set aside specific goals that we want to accomplish. But unfortunately, most of us will be complete failures at allowing our vision of success to become a reality.

So what can we do about it? A little planning might help. These are five quick steps anyone can take in order to make sure those resolutions really take root in 2015 and translate into real and lasting change.

1. Set smart goals.

It's easy enough to set up a goal that's both ambitious and vague. For example, your goal might read a little like this: "In 2015, I want to procrastinate less and do more." In your mind, that's a goal that's associated with all sorts of mistakes you've made in the past, and if you can make this resolution work, you could overcome past problems and really shine in the new year.

But this is just the kind of goal that's really hard to live with on a daily basis. It's hard to know how to break this goal down, and it's hard to know whether you're achieving what you want to achieve.

A better goal is SMART. That acronym, per the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, refers to goals that are:

  • Specific. The task is defined very narrowly.
  • Measurable. You can assess whether or not it has been achieved.
  • Achievable. The goal is within your grasp, given the time and energy you have available.
  • Relevant. The problem you're facing can be solved with the goal you've developed.
  • Time-bound. You know just how often tasks related to the goal should be done and how long the goal will last.

A revised SMART goal for procrastination might read like this: "During 2015, I will spend no more than 30 minutes each work day on Facebook." Another good goal might sound like this: "I will answer all work-related email before 10 in the morning beginning now and ending December 31, 2015."

Both of these goals are narrowly defined, and they tackle a small action that contributes to the larger goal of procrastination. Setting goals like this could be an easy way to make sure that you actually achieve what you need to achieve in 2015.

2. Write them down.

Carrying around goals in your head seems efficient. However, it's easy enough for you to do a little mental bargaining with goals like that. A mental goal to exercise three times per week can quickly become a soft goal of exercising "often" or exercising "enough." Unless you put those goals in writing, it's easy enough to cheat.

Writing the goals down on paper, and posting those goals in a spot that you'll see on a regular basis is a quick and easy way to make sure that you stick to the resolutions you've made.

3. Share your enthusiasm.

In addition to writing your goals down on paper, consider sharing them on a social media site like Facebook or Twitter. A recent analysis suggests that there have been some 29 million posts on social media with the words "New Year" in them during the last week or so, meaning that your post might get a little lost in the shuffle. But, sharing this way can help you to make a public commitment to the goals you've set. And that publicity might make you stick to your resolutions, even when you don't want to do so.

In addition to sharing on social media, consider putting some of your goals into your yearly performance review. By holding yourself accountable to a boss or to your human resources department, you might be all the more likely to keep your plans in mind as the months roll on.

As always, be sure anything you share can't be used against you later. If your goal is private and personal and somewhat embarrassing, don't share it on social. But if your targets contain items you wouldn't be embarrassed to share with your granny, post away!

4. Get support from the outside.

Handling the demands of an ambitious goal, day in and day out, isn't always easy. Pulling from outside sources can help you stay motivated, even when your brain can come up with a million other things you'd rather be doing.

If your goals involve weight loss or fitness, you could enlist the help of a personal trainer. The Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that there are some 267,000 people just like this in the United States alone, and they could be great helpers for those who want to lose a little weight or gain a little muscle.

Business coaches are a bit like personal trainers, but rather than pushing clients to sweat it out in the gym, a business coach might help you to develop better presentation skills, sell more products or otherwise handle the sweaty tasks that help a business to succeed. Those could also be great cheerleaders as you tackle 2015.

But, trusted colleagues or loving family members might also be good resources for you as you contemplate change. Telling them what you'd like to achieve and asking for their assistance if you seem to be slipping could be a simple and low-cost way to get the outside help that might make all the difference.

5. Set milestones and celebrate them.

When you've set measurable goals, you'll know whether or not you're on track to achieve success. And that means you'll be in an excellent position to reward yourself for small victories.

For example, if you've been consistent in answering email for 30 days and you no longer feel that you need a timer in order to stay on task for that time period, celebrate with a special lunch or snazzy dinner. Or, if you've hit the gym for 45 minutes every day for 6 months and you've lost 10 pounds, spring for a new pair of exercise shoes or a fitness tracker.

These little rewards don't have to be expensive to be effective. The key is to reward your successes now, so you'll be all the more motivated to hit the next milestone when it comes.

Do you have tips that have worked exceptionally well as you work on your New Year's resolutions? Please share them in the comments section.

Published on: Jan 5, 2015
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