I think this time of year is the perfect time for reflection and for setting resolutions. Why? Besides the fact that a new year sets a hard date for restarting, it is also the time of year when the winter solstice has passed, and every day will continue to get longer and brighter (not applicable to our readers south of the equator -- sorry).

Many naysayers, however, feel that resolutions for the new year are cliche and a waste of time, mostly because of our inability to stick to any that are really meaningful.

The problem, however, is not with the execution of our resolutions but rather in the way we set them.

Most people set big, hairy, audacious goals (BHAGs), which are usually transformative and, in turn, incredible intimidating. Because they are so bold, these resolutions incite the very fears and insecurities that have kept us from accomplishing them in the first place, hampering our progress before we even make it out of January.

Without a doubt, setting big goals is an important part of individual development and continuous improvement, personally or professionally. Life-affirming goals that take us out of our comfort zone should be part of a broader personal action plan, which is a process that requires a few dedicated hours of consideration.

All big goals, however, are easier to tackle if they are broken down into smaller, incremental benchmarks, ones that can be achieved short term to create a sense of accomplishment and progress. 

Your resolutions should be these benchmarks.

To help you set resolutions that stick, consider this simple acronym as you get ready to tackle the new year -- T.I.M.

Timed

Your resolutions must have a due date. Why? Because without one, you never know when to stop and assess your progress. Set a firm due date for your resolution, then put a reminder in your iCalendar, post a sticky note on your wall calendar, or use a service like Sanebox to send yourself an email in the future asking, "So, did you do it?"

Incremental

Instead of one, big, new years resolution, apply the rule of three to break it down into three smaller, incremental and short term benchmarks.

For example, thinking about starting that MBA this year? Break it down into three smaller goals, such as:

  1. Take the GMAT
  2. Get three reference letters
  3. Pick the top three universities and complete the online applications

These three are much less intimidating and, once completed, will make achieving your bigger goal that much easier.

Measurable

All of your resolutions must be measurable in order to determine if you have actually completed the goal. Be specific and create resolutions that have clear end points.

For example, a goal of "getting fit" is not measurable. How will you know when you are "fit"?  Instead, for you, maybe being fit means being able to run a half marathon (one of my goals this year). Running 13.1 miles is easy to measure -- you have either done it or not. Moreover, after meeting three incremental benchmarks that ease you into it (5K, 10K and 15K), 13.1 miles will be much more achievable.

In my experience, the great thing about TIM goal setting is that I often find that once I've hit these smaller, incremental and short term goals, I am more motivated to set bigger and more audacious ones.

What do you think? What are some of your TIM resolutions for the coming year? Please share your thoughts with me on Twitter.